By Nicole Norfleet

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Companies and building owners have invested millions this year to re­design and renovate their offices to better suit their organizations and appeal to workers.

Modern kitchens, collaboration areas made for informal meetings, and adaptable office furniture with standing desks have all become the new standard for office renovations.

Architects and designers say new design trends have emerged, with some clients investing in more privacy for their open offices, heavily branded design that reflects their company ethos, and more adaptable layouts.

Branded environments

Many clients want their workspace to reflect their company, a way to reinforce company culture.

“They are really coming up with unique ways to define themselves,” said Natasha Fonville, brand manager of Minneapolis-based Atmosphere Commercial Interiors.

At the new downtown Minneapolis offices of Sleep Number, the company’s emblem is throughout the space on the wall and ceiling with Sleep Number settings on tables.

No receptionists

Some companies have decided to do away with front-desk receptionists, sometimes using technology to direct guests to where they need to go or having a more informal entry area.

Betsy Vohs, founder and chief executive of design firm Studio BV in Minneapolis, said 75 percent of her clients don’t really need a receptionist to answer calls or greet guests. “Having them at the front desk isn’t the best use of their time and energy,” Vohs said.

At the new Hopkins offices her firm has helped to design for Digi International, the company skipped the front-desk receptionist and use the space for an entry lounge with a coffee bar and a digital kiosk.

More agile space

Adaptable space has become a priority as many companies have reduced the square footage dedicated to individual employees. With workers more nomadic, many new offices are currently designed to allow for rearrangement of the furniture layout and changes to walls and partitions.

“I think it’s just a sign of our times that workplaces are being so agile and really adapting to how people work best, and that’s always evolving,” Fonville said.

Audio privacy

As offices have become more open, one side effect has been that sound carries, making audio privacy a concern. Many new offices have private call rooms. Companies have requested other sound-dampening materials, Vohs said.

The renovated offices of Gardner Builders in Minneapolis, which Studio BV helped design, features cubbies wrapped in acoustic foam.

Move over, millennials

Much has been said about how current offices have been designed with millennial employees in mind, but designers have already begun to shift gears to interpret how the younger Gen Z might use their spaces.

After millennials, defined as being born between 1981 and 1996, Gen Z is the newest defined generation. Gen Z is believed to be more realistic, social change-oriented, tech-integrated and interested in on-demand learning, said Rich Bonnin, a design principal at HGA in Minneapolis.

“These aren’t the decision-makers now, but they will be,” he said, at a recent broker event at the St. Paul Curling Club organized by real estate company Newmark Knight Frank.

Engaging employees

Companies are surveying their employees to make informed design decisions.

For the new headquarters for Prime Therapeutics in Eagan, Minnesota, external consultants studied the company’s previous offices to determine how much square footage per person was being used and the operational costs of the space.

They interviewed employees and observed to how they worked. Data showed that desks were sitting empty about 60 percent of the week, with people opting for shared spaces, said Kim Gibson, the company’s senior director for real estate workplace.

The data helped Prime Therapeutics and architecture firm HGA create different spaces to accommodate workers, such as one-on-one spaces and private “oasis rooms.”

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