Recent years have inspired a new wave of office design. We’ve seen cubicle farms go by the wayside in favor of open office space. Corner offices have shed their walls, meeting rooms adapted to be VR-friendly, and non-assigned seating became the norm in shared collaborative spaces.

So what’s the next step? We’ve discussed the Third Place, where corporate campuses are bringing in coffee shop-like atmospheres for employees to enhance their social interactions without the pressures that accompany the office or home.

But there’s a new trend beyond that taking shape, called Close to Home Design.
On average, we spend 35% of our waking hours in the office. Perhaps that’s why employers are listening to the wants and needs of their workforce and colleagues in terms of comfort. They’re also paying attention to what incoming graduates are asking for, with the influx of millennials seeking a level of comfort in their surroundings that’s different than previous generations. Whatever the reason, Close to Home Design is surging in offices across the world.

What is it? It’s the simple idea of making your office feel more like home, a place where employees are so comfortable, they have no trouble putting in longer hours or they feel less trapped by their surroundings. Employers are figuring out new and fun ways to entice people into their corporate families and keep their existing workers happy for the duration they spend at work.

For example, Jessica Alba wanted to design The Honest Company’s office with “things you can sit on and put your feet on.” The 83,000 sq ft office space includes a cozy kitchen filled with natural light and wood accents, a relaxing color palette connecting all rooms, hammocks, a shuffleboard court, and plenty of couches.

Close To Home Design can include conference rooms with a circle of comfortable couches and a flat screen TV instead of a long, lacquered table and executive chairs. This makes conversation feel more like that of friends having a get-together than doing business. Or it’s design with fireplaces strategically located throughout the space, not only supplementing heating during the cold months, but also adding a touch of atmosphere–with the smell and sound of a crackling fire–that actually makes people want to stay at work longer.

Instead of the institutional-like cafeteria, corporate campuses are bringing in restaurant-like eateries with more intimate lighting and more relaxing seating that encourages people to sit for those long water-cooler conversations where some of the best inspiration can be found. They’re even making room for bars. Many companies and departments host happy hours at a nearby bar for employees to let off steam and get to know their colleagues, but with Close To Home Design, the business is bringing the bar to them, right there on campus.

It’s about more than simply giving your employees a comfortable place to park themselves and converse with colleagues.
It’s about fostering an environment of hands-on involvement in projects and encouraging the sharing of new ideas. People are more likely to share their sparks of creativity–even if not fully formed and ready for presentation–with their colleagues in an environment where they feel relaxed and unhurried, and this in turn gives rise to collaborating on those ideas to see them from conception to reality together. The saying, “Two heads are better than one,” exists for a reason.

Some other features of Close To Home that have become more common are the inclusion of:

Beer coolers
Game rooms
Yoga rooms, generally in the vicinity of onsite exercise facilities
Food trucks
Living room-style conversation pits
Outdoor patio furniture reminiscent of picnics or pool parties
Quiet spaces designed like a home study rather than a closed office
The warm ambiance of lamps for lighting rather than row after row of fluorescent lights
The benefits of Close To Home Design? There are quite a few.
Creating comfort so intrinsic that people relax when they enter their workplace just as they do when they return home after a day’s work can be an incentive in many ways. Those who put in longer hours are more relaxed and happy. Creativity flows when conversation is less structured or business-oriented. When laughter rings through a room, it puts people at ease and work becomes less effort and more engaging. If your people know they can work in a place where kicking their feet up is not only allowed, it’s encouraged, they won’t have to go in to work everyday, they’ll want to.

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