Reflecting on the WorkBetter Lab: A Creative, Accessible Take on the Future of the Office

At first glance, it isn’t obvious that the WorkBetter Lab was once a law office. An abundance of natural light, stylish furniture and lush plants greet visitors at the 5500 sq foot space, followed by room after room of creative workplace configurations. There are large screens for hybrid work, interesting décor in every corner, and not a stuffy cubicle in sight.

The Lab is a work of Porter’s imagination (in coordination with our valued One WorkPlace partners OpenSquare, Splice, Steelcase, and Microsoft Technology) when answering a question: What could workplaces look like in the future?

Some of the answer is about safety in the Covid era. Some of it is re-imagining the workplace to better support individuals and their styles of work, which in many spaces is a long overdue creative opportunity. It’s also about the reality of a workforce that has adapted to the comfort of their home offices since 2020 and may be reluctant to return, for a variety of understandable reasons.

Since the Lab opened in the summer of 2021, hundreds of our clients and colleagues have toured the space to gain inspiration for their own offices. It’s always exciting to see what elements of the Lab intrigue visitors and to watch them imagine their own path forward to a return to the office.

The project was a labor of love, and we’re excited to share some of the insights we used to design the space.

Where Beauty Meets Function

Nobody wants to go back to their office and pick up a coffee cup that sat on a desk since March 2020. An obvious – if not always easy – way to inspire employees to return is to design a beautiful space to work.

Our team chose furniture and décor that made the space feel welcoming and beautiful, even if each item secretly served a specific function. A perfect example of this is a custom-made planter located just near the entrance. What looks like a simple and lovely plant installation actually functions as a separator between a kitchenette and a lounging area, which forces social distancing without using sterile signage or barriers.

Elsewhere in the Garden Room, a wall of framed moss and other artwork looks like a lovely gallery wall, but it’s intentionally positioned as an attractive background for video calls.

One space that might have been designed as a conference room was instead turned into a kids’ room, decorated with a few smaller desks and kid-friendly artwork from sources like Minecraft. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but it’s a way to help working parents juggle their responsibilities at home that some of our clients hadn’t considered before.

Inspired by Work Mode

Ever heard of the different modes of work? Our partners at Steelcase define them as focus work, collaborative work, learning, socializing, and rejuvenating. Ideally, every office space would provide all five to their employees to promote productivity and wellbeing. We designed the Lab to offer creative imaginings of these different modes.

Take a look at the Sandbox and the Bungalow:

Both spaces were built for the collaborative mode of work, but different design decisions support different teams and their needs. The Sandbox features a large conference table with room for a number of high-top chairs, with separation from the hallway via a shelving unit, but no walls. This is a different type of collaborative environment than the Bungalow, which looks more like a traditional office but really supports a team of eight people because of the space layout, while providing more privacy than the Sandbox.

One mode of work, two different needs, two different looks. Throughout the Lab, we created different possibilities for the different work modes to inspire our visitors to think beyond the norm.

Inspired by Project Variety

Something we love about the Lab is there’s nothing particularly fancy about the architecture. It does boast a gorgeous view of downtown Seattle’s piers, but the space itself is fairly standard. It’s how most offices look. And it shows that any space can be designed to entice and accommodate its employees.

Some of our visitors want to reconfigure their whole office, and they’ve been inspired by the creative ways we designed each workspace to be thoughtful and flexible, while still attractive. Others were looking for a décor remodel, and they loved exploring how the space came to life with art, rugs, and more.

There are so many ways to reinvent a space – it doesn’t have to be all open concept and modern or nothing. The future of the workplace can look like a lot of different things. No matter what the project, it can be inspiring, delightful and custom-designed for a team.

Want to visit the Lab or talk with us about your dreams for your space? Send us a note. We’d love to chat.

© 2021 by Porter

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