What College Campuses are Teaching Office Designers

What College Campuses are Teaching Office Designers

Remember those carefree college days, hanging out in the stairwells, meeting on the quad, studying in the library, the cafeteria, the student lounge, wherever? Then you began your career and all that spatial freedom was suddenly gone, and you had to be in one place. At one desk. All day. Every day. Five days a week. It was a tough transition.

And now that newly-graduated millennials are driving the hiring market, campus-style spatial freedom is being incorporated into offices designed to attract the recent graduates. NCR’s new Atlanta headquarters is one example; it touts its “technology and tools to support the changing nature of how, when and where work is done.” Located adjacent to the Georgia Tech campus, NCR hopes to use the headquarters’ college-like environment to capture the brightest and best new graduates, with such familiar features as dining options, coffee bar, gym, informal spaces, and a large lecture hall.

Formaspace discusses how office designers and facilities managers can learn a few lessons from college campuses, including:

  1. Natural light and outdoor work areas – Large windows and park-like campuses are features of colleges that enhance mental health and performance; businesses too can benefit.
  2. “Work neighborhoods” – Colleges offer a range of options, from lounge chairs to lab workbenches to library carrels to coffeehouse tables; these can be emulated within corporate settings.
  3. Serendipity – College campuses provide countless opportunities to run into people who share common interests; offices with casual collaboration areas can profit from the synergy of serendipity.
  4. Quiet zones – College libraries are famous for their inviolable quiet; the notoriously loud open office plan should incorporate quiet spaces for focused tasks.

We would add a fifth lesson: Flexible space utilization. Colleges have perfected the concept of flex spaces that are a classroom one day, a lab the next day, and a meeting room the day after that. As businesses start to incorporate collegiate design into the workplace, the ability to experiment with space utilization is essential; what may have worked as a lounge now needs to be a quiet area, or vice versa.

Adaptive furniture and modular cabinetry make this kind of flexibility possibility. For example, adaptive-furnishings manufacturer Swiftspace offers desks that combine into semi-private “huddle spaces” or change into extended tables or workbenches.

Empowering staff to adapt the workspace as needed is another holdover from college days, and it’s one more feature that can attract sought-after millennial employees. No hiring manager wants to hear this quote, reported by design researchers speaking to a newly-hired graduate: “The thing that keeps me up at night is going to sit in my cubicle farm on Monday.”

Of course not every business workstyle can incorporate college campus features into the workplace. But for those in a competitive hiring market, a collegiate environment could be the perfect recruitment tool. Consult with your design professional about bringing some college spirit to your offices.


Photo © elnariz / Adobe Stock

I’d Live There – The New College Locker Room

I’d Live There – The New College Locker Room

At any given point in the academic year, it’s high season for one college sport or another. College recruiters know that great sports teams create a multiplier effect, attracting gifted students, prominent faculty, and noteworthy research. Building a great sports team starts with recruiting top athletes, and athletic departments are getting some recruitment help from a little-considered facility: the locker room.

Locker rooms are generally looked upon as smelly, unattractive, and damp, a necessary part of athletic endeavors but not a place associated with comfort or pleasant aesthetics. College recruiters understand that a dank, unattractive locker room isn’t in keeping with their college’s image. Locker rooms have become part of colleges’ branding efforts, helping them stand out in the fierce competition for athletic talent.

The new football locker room at the University of Texas is a jaw-dropping example, with the look of a high end hotel or exclusive athletic club. Coach Tom Herman is quoted in Business Insider as saying, “This shows we have the very best tools in the country. The lockers affect recruiting because the kids we’re recruiting are the same ones that some of the best schools in the nation are recruiting. A scholarship is a scholarship is a scholarship, no matter where you go. It’s about how you differentiate yourself.”

What about the colleges that don’t have University of Texas’ $7 million to drop on a locker room for the football team? Space optimization is the key, according to architect Jack Patton. Writing in “Athletic Business,” Patton discusses the tactic of space sharing that some colleges have put into practice. By pooling the financial resources of several different sports whose schedules don’t overlap, the schools can create a relatively plush locker room shared by various teams each during its own season.

Space sharing creates complexities of scheduling and storage systems. Facilities managers have to take into account the sizes, shapes, and quantities of equipment to be stored, and make accommodation for all. Flexiblity, such as the adjustable shelving in this high density mobile shelving system, is vital to optimizing the space; lacrosse gear, for example, takes up less room than football equipment, and more room than basketball gear. But a well-planned space sharing program can allow for surprisingly high-end locker rooms that support a college’s image and attract high-quality athletes.

Academic excellence is, of course, the foundation of every college and university, and it should be the deciding factor in any student-athlete’s choice of higher education. But when all other things are equal, a deluxe locker room might tip the scales.


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