People and place matter in workplace design today

Ryan Menke is senior vice president of sales and marketing at OFS Brands. The company has over 75 years of furniture-making experience, specializing in corporate environments and interior design. Ryan spoke to Jane McConnell the OFS approach to design. This case study was first published in “The Organization in the Digital Age” in December 2016.

Jane: What are the top trends in workplace design today?

Ryan: People and place matter. If you look back over the last ten years or so we have gone through many cycles, some influenced by nuanced industry trends, but others by more profound events like the great recession and mobile computing. After the recession, cost containment and risk mitigation became key drivers in workplace design. This coupled with a relatively new and not-yet-understood mobility movement led to increased planning densities and more people pushed out of their offices to their homes or elsewhere. What we have found is this led to less engaged employees and decreased productivity.

We are encouraged to see a shift back to a more human-centered approach that places people first. Moving away from a one-size-fits-none planning approach to one that provides the right environments for people to be most effective is starting to be understood and take hold. The movement toward WELL-certified facilities is a holistic approach to well-being in the workplace and a direct reflection of thinking of the holistic human experience inside the facility. We are so passionate about what WELL believes in that we became the first WELL-registered facility in the state of Indiana (

Jane: How do you see the relationship between design in physical space and design in virtual space?

Ryan: Not only do these new types of planning typologies have to address these physical challenges, but the digital ones as well. We see a significant increase in the use of virtual meeting technologies that have the opportunity to close the gap in distance between remote users. While we will never replace the effectiveness of face-to-face communication, these new leaps in conferencing and virtual reality are getting closer and closer to a tangible experience. The other significant technological advance effecting facility design is the Internet of Things and hackable buildings. The ability to effectively measure usage, occupancy and the subsequent tailoring of space to the business and individual will have a profound impact on design.

Positive impact on people’s lives and the work they do.

All of these changes, properly filtered through a lens focusing on human-centered design and outcomes that put people first, will have a profoundly positive impact on people’s lives and the work that they do.

Jane: How do you see the next 5-10 years evolving in workplace design?

Ryan: The way we work is obviously changing dramatically. Machine learning and business intelligence no longer require us to retain information for linear types of work. This type of work resembled more of the industrial age than today’s environment. We are quickly passing right through a knowledge economy to a creative one. The creative economy fundamentally changes the way we interact and work with one another. We now have to plan for teams that couple and de-couple around projects. The spaces have to literally breathe; inhaling and exhaling based on the work and resources required.

Workplace design focus will unlock human and machine potential.