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Beyond Amenities, What’s Next for Workplace Design?

At a panel discussion titled “The New Basics,” designers, developers, and facilities experts tried to work out what will be essential to the office of the future.

 

From private chefs to meditation rooms, companies have pulled out all the stops when it comes to amenities in the workplace. Whether driven by the battle for talent or employee demands, tech and media organizations in particular continue to vie with one another to provide employee benefits. Cafes, phone booths, and lounges have become commonplace, with nap rooms and fitness centers following suit. But how much amenity is too much amenity? Is there any downside to this trend, and what should we consider to be the new basics of the office?

A group of workplace experts gathered at the Poppin showroom in San Francisco earlier this year to discuss these questions and point to a way forward in office design. Primo Orpilla, whose award-winning firm Studio O+A created some of the first amenity-rich offices in the tech sector, spoke to the origins of the trend. “We really just wanted to create a place where people would come together, collaborate, share ideas and maybe spend a little more time, and that time be more meaningful,” he said. “It was also a great way for the company to show that they cared.”

But now the pendulum might have swung too far, said Alex Spilger, vice president of development and director of sustainability at Cushman & Wakefield: “I see friends that work for these tech companies that say, ‘I want to leave my job but I’m afraid to give up the free massage and the free food,’ and I have to ask them, ‘Are you staying there for the right reasons?’”

Amenities cannot be expected to stand in for a sense of purpose among employees, and companies have to work at fostering that spirit of community. “The spaces have to have meaning to the company and to the employees,” said Verda Alexander, cofounder of Studio O+A. “The idea of superficial amenity spaces really needs to fall by the wayside.”

So what kinds of amenities would not be considered superficial? Sometimes, essential amenities are determined by the culture of the organization, said John Liu, facilities director at Rakuten. At his company, “AV is gargantuan everywhere because that allows [companies] to have video conferencing with every office, to be able to sync up without having employees travel as much.” Hoteling is another such amenity, which Liu finds he has to figure more and more into his headcount projections.

However, workers aren’t just concerned about short-term benefits for themselves or their employers. “People want to work for companies that care,” Spilger said, “so a commitment to sustainability is a core amenity.” The urban (or suburban) context, and the company’s commitments to the community outside also figure heavily in employees’ list of wants. “Those values are part of the new basics,” said Jason Bonnet, vice president of development at Brookfield Properties. “I can get a paycheck from any tech company here, but what are you really doing when I step outside as it relates to improving where I live?” At Brookfield’s new developments in San Francisco, such as 5M and Pier 70, office spaces are situated within a mixed-use context. The developers have built social impact into the plans, offering ground-level activations and donating spaces to non-profits.

Talking about the backlash against tech giants in Seattle and San Francisco, Alexander said she wished offices could integrate “more amenity spaces that are maybe on the ground floor, accessible to the public and that interact with the public. I would love to see more social responsibility, environmental responsibility, and any kind of amenity space that could directly engage the public.”

Spilger summed up the discussion by offering a demographic analysis of where workplace design needs to focus next. “A lot of amenities were driven by millennials—ping pong tables, foosball, free food, happy hours,” he said. “Those millennials are starting families. They no longer need the happy hour or the ping pong table; they want flexibility, autonomy, and purpose behind the work.”

Categories: Workplace Interiors

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ASID Press Release

ASID and DIFFA Announce Design Impacts Life Fund

Industry-Leading Organizations Partner as ASID Creates $375,000 Grant Fund

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is excited to announce a donation of $375,000 to DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, creating the new Design Impacts Life Fund. The Fund will offer grants to nonprofits that provide services, education, and treatment to those affected by HIV/AIDS, with the potential to expand its reach to support others in need. This donation represents one of the largest single gifts ever to DIFFA.

The gift comes from the ASID Benevolent Fund, which was started in 1974 by ASID members to provide funds to those in need in the design community during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. ASID paused fundraising for the Benevolent Fund when DIFFA was launched as a larger design industry focused organization. This donation closes the chapter on the ASID Benevolent Fund and opens opportunity for DIFFA to increase its organizational impact and reach. The ASID Design Impacts Life Fund will be leveraged to create the greatest possible impact on those living with HIV/AIDS and the DIFFA organization. Thanks to the national reach of both ASID and DIFFA, potential grantees may apply from all over the country.

“ASID is passionate about positively impacting lives beyond the practice of design,” states Randy Fiser, Hon. FASID, ASID CEO. “This profession is made up of diverse individuals whose shared goal is to make the world better for its inhabitants. Our new Design Impacts Life Fund speaks to our mission: to touch lives thanks to the power of design. We’re thrilled to give back to such a worthy cause and can’t wait to see how together with DIFFA and the entire design community, we can make a difference in people’s lives.”

In addition to its grant support, the Design Impacts Life Fund will leverage the combined power of ASID and DIFFA to spur the industry to action. Through their various programs and partners, the two organizations will continue to broaden the scope of the fund to inspire support from the design world and maximize its effect on all communities in need.

“With the generous donation from ASID—a huge thanks!—and DIFFA’s strong network of design professionals behind it, the Design Impacts Life Fund has so much potential to help HIV/AIDS-affected communities,” says Cindy Allen, Interior Design magazine’s Editor-in-Chief and DIFFA’s Chair of the Board of Trustees. “DIFFA remains as committed as ever to helping those in need and galvanizing our community to push the boundaries of what is possible.”

Adds Dawn Roberson, DIFFA Executive Director, “We are thrilled to start the Design Impacts Life Fund with this most generous donation from ASID! These funds, combined with the continued generosity of the design community, will contribute significantly to DIFFA’s granting for years to come. We could not possibly be more grateful to partner with ASID in such a meaningful way.”

In the U.S., 80 percent of the interior design community is female, and Hispanic and Latin women are among the most affected by HIV/AIDS. The CDC estimates that roughly 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV – and nearly one in eight of those are not aware that they are infected. Increasing levels of intravenous drug use, linked to an epidemic of opioid misuse, are threatening the gains made on reducing HIV among people who use drugs. HIV-related stigma remains a huge barrier to preventing HIV and is linked to the low number of people who receive HIV testing, as well as poor adherence to treatment, particularly among young people.

Both ASID and DIFFA have a rich history of helping others. ASID provides monetary support through the ASID Foundation, which advances the profession and communicates the ability of interior design to enhance the human experience through research, scholarships, and education. In addition to its fundraising and volunteer events, DIFFA has granted more than $44 million to support nonprofit organizations across the country supporting HIV/AIDS.

The Design Impacts Life Fund was officially announced at the annual NYCxDesign Awards on Monday, May 20, 2019 at New York’s Pier 17. Both the Society and DIFFA will continue promotion of the fund through their various annual programs.

About ASID

The American Society of Interior Designers believes that design transforms lives. ASID serves the full range of the interior design profession and practice through the Society’s programs, networks, and advocacy. We thrive on the strength of cross-functional and interdisciplinary relationships among designers of all specialties, including workplace, healthcare, retail and hospitality, education, institutional, and residential. We lead interior designers in shared conversations around topics that matter: from evidence-based and human-centric design to social responsibility, well-being, and sustainability. We showcase the impact of design on the human experience and the value interior designers provide.

ASID was founded over 40 years ago when two organizations became one, but its legacy dates back to the early 1930s. As we celebrate nearly 85 years of industry leadership, we are leading the future of interior design, continuing to integrate the advantages of local connections with national reach, of small firms with big, and of the places we live with the places we work, play, and heal. Learn more at asid.org.

About DIFFA

DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS raises awareness and grants funds to organizations that fight HIV/AIDS by providing treatment and direct care services for people living with or impacted by the disease, offering preventative education programs targeted to populations at risk of infection, or supporting public policy initiatives. DIFFA is one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the United States, mobilizing the immense resources and creativity of the design community. Since its founding in 1984, DIFFA has emerged from a grassroots organization into a national foundation based in New York City with chapters and community partners across the country that, working together, have provided more than $43 million to hundreds of HIV/AIDS organizations nationwide. www.diffa.org.

MEDIA CONTACT

Joseph G. Cephas
jcephas@asid.org

Continue reading ASID Press Release

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