Are you familiar with the recent phenomenon of companies creating dedicated social spaces to encourage their employees to interact with one another face-to-face at the office? We take a look at why leading-edge companies — from Google to Hyatt Hotels Corporation — are investing in social spaces, which are designed to build a cohesive workplace culture that encourages spontaneous dialog and helps foster creative collaboration between employees.

gartner office in arlington

Image by Gartner Headquarters in Arlington

It Takes a Neighborhood: The Rise of the ‘Third Place’ in Office Environments Where do you like to spend your time when you are not at work?

Perhaps you like to hang out and drink coffee at the nearby neighborhood coffeehouse, walk your dog at the park, join members of your faith to worship at your church, or meet your friends at the local pub.


In the view of American urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg, these are all examples of a “third place” that exists between our homes (”first place”) and where we work (”second place”). Since Oldenburg published his 1989 book “The Great Good Place: Cafés, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community,” many urban planners have adopted his language to describe the central role that these public spaces play in creating a positive community culture. Commercial interests have taken notice. In fact, Starbucks, as well as McDonald’s, are among the many businesses jockeying to become the de facto “third place” in communities across America.

gartner offices in arlington

Dedicated social spaces at CEB headquarters in Arlington, Virginia (now a division of the research company Gartner) provide ample space for employees to interact in a public environment that fosters a creative and diverse work culture.


Corporate office space planners have taken note as well. If these social spaces help build community outside of work, couldn’t they also be effective for enhancing the performance of culture in a corporate office environment? Intuitively, it makes sense. Where do you get your best ideas? At your desk at work or while sitting at the coffee shop?


What about collaboration? Is it better to set up a formal meeting with a colleague to ask a favor or would you prefer to just run into them casually at a restaurant or cafe? Many space planners are starting to think of designing offices to be more like a neighborhood, with different zones for different functions.


Most offices already have well-established focus spaces (for getting work done), collaboration spaces (for formal projects and meetings), and learning spaces (for training and education). By adding dedicated social spaces to the mix, you can help build new relationships between employees that can strengthen a company’s overall work culture.


One of the innovators in creating dedicated social spaces at work is Google. In this video (filmed by the Wall Street Journal) of Google’s original office space in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, you can see that even within the crowded floor layouts, Google’s office designers were able to carve out casual social spaces with whimsical themes that encourage face-to-face meetings where employees can freely exchange ideas.

Social spaces in Google’s original New York City Office at 111 Eighth Avenue location in the Chelsea Neighborhood.


(Since the video was recorded, Google’s need for office space has led them to purchase the nearby Chelsea Market, a former Nabisco factory that occupies an entire block, for an estimated $2.4 billion dollars.)


What’s Driving the Changes in Today’s Work Culture?

There may be a greater need for social spaces within the office than most executive managers realize.


As our economy has become more connected, thanks to Internet-based solutions that are steadily integrating nearly every work discipline into one cohesive “machine” — from marketing and sales to product design, to supply chain operations and customer service — it may be ironic, but today’s employees actually have a much greater need to interface face-to-face with other departments across the organization to get things done than ever before.


Three typical corporate departments illustrate the increased need for face-to-face communication in today’s connected offices:

● Finance Department: Today’s finance teams can track expenditures and make financial forecasts in real-time, but with greater data, comes greater responsibility — for coordinating with all other departments, which, in turn, means the need for more ad-hoc face-time for planning and making strategic decisions for the business.

● Information Technology: Thanks to the digital transformation of the enterprise, practically every job function in every department requires extensive coordination with the IT department. Not to mention that within IT departments themselves, the increasing adoption of open software components that need to work together requires even more human coordination. Remember: not all big decisions or ideas come from meetings. Social spaces can provide spontaneous connections that can help solve critical business problems — both big and small.

● Engineering, Research, and Product Design: These departments can no longer afford to work in an isolated information “silo” as they may have in the past. Fast-moving customer preferences and crowd-sourcing ideas are influencing today’s product development and engineering processes as much as real-time quality control feedback and supply-chain sourcing data. In response, many teams are turning to agile development processes to work more quickly, but the bottom line in space planning terms is that all these changes are driving the need for more face-to-face communication across the enterprise.


Many of these same arguments apply to other corporate departments as well, from sales and marketing to quality management, to product support, to supply chain management, distribution and logistics, to employee training and human resources. In all of these job functions, the challenge that employees face is how to perform their jobs in a more integrated, more cooperative, more measured, and more instantaneous fashion.


Given these pressures, it’s no wonder that workers feel the need for places to meet in person when the conference rooms are all booked up. In a world where more of us work in open offices, we need a place to meet and talk.


angela linkedin

Angela Shaw, Senior HR Manager

Here at Formaspace Office, our Human Resources Manager, Angela Shaw can relate. “At previous places where I’ve worked, there was never enough meeting space,” she explains. “Where do you go to have a conversation? Especially a confidential one. Sometimes people need to have a conversation that not everybody hears, or that they feel like everybody’s hearing. Social spaces are a good way to fix problems like that, so employees can feel comfortable having those quick, confidential face-to-face meetings without having to reserve one of the hard-to-come-by conference rooms in advance.”


And finally, it’s not just rank-and-file employees that benefit from having social spaces to meet with their colleagues to exchange ideas. Mid-level managers and senior executives, especially those who ascribe to the servant leadership model, find it very advantageous to meet with employees in a casual social environment, where they can hear directly about issues that might not yet have come to their attention, or to provide assurance and guidance to employees concerned about a particular issue or policy.


Hyatt Makes the Leap to Translate Hospitality Concepts for Their Own Work Environment

Like many companies, Hyatt Hotels Corporation was hesitant about investing in social spaces for their new Hyatt Global headquarters in Chicago. What would be the return on investment, they wondered.


According to Randy Howder, Managing Director of Gensler’s San Francisco office, the “ big ‘aha moment’ was, let’s not think of this simply as a place to work. Instead, let’s think of it as a test bed for how we conceive the guest experience.”

the hyatt

Image by Gensler


Call it what you will, it turns out this “justification” was enough to convince Hyatt Hotels Corporation President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian to come on board. In his view, their new Chicago headquarters, which is designed to mimic the experience of visiting a Hyatt hotel property, is the perfect way for Hyatt employees to experience the very type of social interactions they want to create for their hotel guests, especially business travelers.

This new Gensler-design headquarters also puts Hyatt in the catbird seat for helping set the direction for what has been one of the hottest trends in office design for the past couple of years — the resimertial look that combines the comforts of home with the casual ambiance of an elegant but relaxing hotel environment.


Checklist for Successful Social Space Implementations in the Office Are you ready to create your own social space within your office environment?


Here are 8 different aspects to consider when designing a “third place” within your office to encourage employee interaction.

1. Does it encourage creativity?

A social space can inspire new ways of thinking, and that’s the point. Create a public space that takes people out of their conventional way of thinking by inspiring them to be playful and interactive.

Igniting creativity to transform corporate culture


2. Is the design authentic?

As consumers, Millennial and Gen X are famously expert at sussing out what’s genuine and authentic and what’s contrived. Put your best feature forward. A social space with the best view in the office will naturally attract users, while a converted basement room with no light might repel visitors.


3. Is the social space transformative?

A well-conceived social space can be like a chameleon — transforming from one use to another — from a company-wide party venue to a relaxed play space. Talk to your Formaspace Office Design Consultant about our flexible furniture concepts, such as our #NETworking table which transforms from a ping pong table to a pair of side tables in seconds.

networking table

Walnut Conference Table


4. Can you bring the outdoors inside?

In our survey of Millennial workers, outdoor access and views scored among the top wish-list amenity items. Consider connecting your social spaces directly to outdoor areas (including providing outdoor wi-fi access) to bring the outdoors inside.


5. Will there be food?

We are social creatures who love to gather and eat together. Connect your social space with adjoining food and drink bars, or larger cafeterias, to draw employees together over food and drink on campus (rather than to offsite restaurants and cafes).


6. Does it encourage movement and wellness?

Sitting too long at your desk is not healthy. That’s why Formaspace Office creates a unique line of sit-to-stand desks that encourage movement throughout the day. Walking within the office to a social space also encourages healthy movement. Many thoughtfully-designed social spaces can also serve double-duty as areas for yoga classes and other exercise programs as well.

7. Does it connect to other zones within the office?

As we mentioned before, the well-designed office floor plan already has zones for Focus, Collaboration, and Learning. Careful placement of social zones can encourage employee use, but also prevent noise from disturbing those employees in other zones. See our report on reducing noise in open-plan offices for more ideas. PS: don’t forget wireless connectivity in the social spaces for those who want to escape their desk areas.


8. Would you want to work here?

Finally, ask yourself the question, “Would you want to work here?”


That’s a good way to judge if your social space can help as a recruiting and retention tool, a critical point to make in a business environment where competition for the best talent is fierce.


As Formaspace Office’s Angela Shaw reminds us, in this competitive environment “even the best places to work can struggle with getting talent or with retention issues. That’s why creating a work culture that encourages everyone to feel like they belong is so important. Work should not be sad, and angry, and boring. You should be able to come to work and actually enjoy yourself — because the reality is we spend a lot of time at work. I believe that creating social spaces at work can be an important part of the solution.”


Formaspace Office is Your Partner for Successful, Modern Work Environments

Formaspace Office is ready to help you create a better work culture. Our innovative, stylish office solutions will help your employees feel better at work and be more productive.


And don’t forget: If you can imagine it, we can build it.

Office cafe

We can build custom, bespoke office furniture that’s a reflection of your company’s own unique brand. Think of us as your secret weapon in the furniture industry: we are big enough to make custom designs in quantity for you here at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas, but attentive enough to give you the personal attention that you deserve.


Take the next step. Contact your friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultant today to learn how we can help make your next project more successful.


Organizations today are faced with a unique challenge: management needs to encompass the needs and skill sets of the most diverse labor workforce ever. Although workforces that comprise multiple generations is not new, the span of years represented has never been so wide.

reverse mentoring

Many workplaces today are represented by four generations. Two camps, the Millennials (born between 1980-1995) and Gen Xers (born 1965-1980), comprise the majority, in numbers, of most companies. But equally as vital to an organization’s culture is the up-and-coming Post-Millennials/Gen Zs (born 1995-2012) and soon-to-retire Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964).


Innovative organizations are looking to reverse mentoring, also called peer mentoring, co-mentoring, and multi-generational mentoring, as one way to bridge generational gaps.  Reverse mentoring, like standard mentoring, pairs of older team members with young ones. But here’s the twist: the younger team members drive the training. Junior employees are provided with the opportunity to showcase their technical skills and leadership abilities and receive career-boosting access to senior team members. Older employees obtain the opportunity to pick up new digital skills, hear fresh perspectives, and embrace new ideas.


Reverse mentoring is a two-way street. With multi-generational participation, professional development benefits are received by both the mentor (junior team member) and the mentee (veteran team member). Establishing a reverse mentoring program can help bridge generational gaps within your organization and reduce the impact of continually changing workplace demographics.


And demographic shifts in the workforce are inevitable.


Through 2017, the latest full year for available figures, the two largest workforce groups, Gen Xers and Millennials, accounted for almost the same size group of U.S. workers – 33% versus 35%, respectively. But, by 2025, Millennials will make up more than 75% of the workforce. Accelerating the professional development of Millennials will help fill leadership roles as the percentage of Gen Xers in the workplace declines and Baby Boomers retire.

millennials workforce demographics

Image by Pew Research Center


Reverse Mentoring Helps Bridge the Generational Gap

Since first promoted in the late 1990s by Jack Welch, then CEO of General Electric, reverse mentoring has been embraced by leading companies in many marketplace segments — technology, business, and financial services, healthcare, retail and manufacturing sectors, and the military.


Today, reverse mentoring programs often match Millennials and Gen Xers. This is because the Millennials tribe is unique. It is the first generation ever to possess skills and knowledge that previous generations didn’t. The Millennials, sometimes called “digital natives,” are known for first turning to text, instant messaging, and quickly embracing the latest tech tools and devices to interact with their peers.


“Millennials have always been counselors at home,” notes Debra Arbit, CEO of workplace consultant BridgeWorks. “And then they get to the workplace, and they’re never asked their opinion? It’s such an immediate way to disengage this generation.”


Reverse mentoring provides a way to utilize the abilities of these “digital natives.” They, in turn, are more likely to feel appreciated in their role and engaged with the company. It’s a win-win!

How to Engage Millennials and Generation Z Using Reverse Mentoring 


Reverse mentoring is a mutually benefitting arrangement.


Since tech tools often evolve faster than teaching materials can be updated, older employees can leverage the tech knowledge-base of their younger co-workers to stay current. Reverse mentoring can be especially helpful, too, for senior managers and C-suite executives short on the time to learn the latest technology skills.


Retain Top Talent by Leveraging Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring can also help address the elephant in the room.


According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 43% of Millennials say they expect to leave their job in the next two years and only 28% plan to stay beyond five years. The findings from this study tell just part of the story.


An industry-wide survey from Formaspace Office provides additional insights on this topic.


Respondents to the recent Formaspace Office Survey of Employee Satisfaction represent more than 25 different industry sectors. Several of the top concerns relating to improving job loyalty – management effectiveness, training opportunities, and company culture -‑ can be addressed through reverse mentoring. (Responses received to this survey are highly enlightening and we encourage you to learn more from the full Formaspace Office employee satisfaction survey.)


Studies show this historic turnover rate is troubling for many companies. Why wouldn’t it be?


According to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the costs to replace a salaried employee is the equivalent of six to nine months of wages. Considering that the time to fill a given position is 42 days on average, retaining good employees helps ensure the long-term stability of an organization.


It stands to reason that organizations that provide employees with opportunities to grow professionally are more likely to hang on to them.


Enter reverse mentoring.


Organizations that have launched reverse mentoring programs have seen a reduced turnover rate among various generational groups according to PwC’s Millennials at Work study. Younger employers feel more recognized and valued for their talents. Through reverse mentoring sessions, they provide perspectives about what it is like to sit in a management chair and hold a leadership role.


When interviewed by the Wharton School about how best to manage Millennials, Jason Wingard, then the Chief Learning Officer at Goldman Sachs, the multinational investment bank, offered this guidance:


“We help them understand how to motivate, communicate and lead others. We want them to help set a culture where people from diverse backgrounds can have fun and be effective. We teach them to evaluate people in the organization objectively, not just subjectively… We want the good work that they do to cascade down to others.”


Insurance Company Scores Double-Win with Reverse Mentoring

The benefits of reverse mentoring programs cited by top companies are multi-fold.


To address its concerns about recruiting and retaining valued employees, the Hartford Financial Services Group conducted its own survey of Millennials. Top actions the company could take to retain younger employees involved in training, developing, coaching, and mentoring. Management was also aware that consumers were increasingly looking for information about insurance, the primary product offered by the company, through the Internet.


Establishing a reverse mentoring program was a double-win for The Hartford. Younger employees played a greater role in advancing technological innovations at the company. Older employees learned how to better leverage digital and social media tools to reach new customers and enhance intra-team communications. Both camps soon realized the benefits of the multi-generational exchanges.


The reverse mentoring program began as a test pilot at The Hartford, with 12 Millennial mentees engaging in five to seven sessions with senior leadership. Embraced enthusiastically from the beginning, at program’s end, it was rated “extremely effective/effective” for Business by 80% and for Personal by 97% of the mentees.


The program was then rolled out to more than 50 mentees in seven states and, following this, became a national program at The Hartford. Participation in the program now is highly anticipated: 94% of those surveyed at the company said reverse mentoring will be valuable for them.


The Hartford tapped into its “technology kids” to mentor senior leadership.


Multinational Company Realizes Gains from Digital Reverse Mentoring

The reverse mentoring pilot program at AXA, the international financial services industry organization, was rolled out to achieve two objectives: better understanding of the digital behavior of its customers and better equipping of senior leadership in the use of digital and social media tools. At the end of the test program, enthusiastic participants encouraged an expansion of the program.


AXA, today, takes pride in its digital reverse mentoring program and points to the support shown throughout the company. By the end of the first year, more than 1,000 AXA employees from 26 countries volunteered to participate. After two years, the company counts more than 1,500 employees in 28 countries as program alumni. Internal surveys show that 97% of the mentors and mentees have voiced their approval of the program.


The experience of two AXA reverse mentoring program participants was featured in a recent SHRM article. The mentee, 23-year AXA veteran Dave Hattem, learned how to leverage social media, plus develop his skill sets with technology and various software programs. His mentor, Jérémie Berthon, had been with the company for just three years and said the experienced enhanced his institutional knowledge and visibility at the company.


Both described AXA’s program as beneficial and they have continued their collegial relationship even though the formal reverse mentoring program has concluded. (Learn more here about their AXA reverse mentoring program experience.)

AXA’s “digital natives” prepare for reverse mentoring sessions on digital topics that support business and cultural transformations at the company.


5 Steps to a Successful Reverse Mentoring Program

Implementing a successful reverse mentoring process is a multi-step process that focuses on two key pillars: being open to embracing new work strategies and cultural changes, plus accepting generational and cultural differences. A recent Formaspace Office article, 10 Tips for Successfully Managing Millennials in Your Organization, provides additional insights.


In the following section, we’ll outline five steps your organization can use for rolling out a successful reverse mentoring program.

  1. Get upper-level management on board with the reverse mentoring program.

    Secure support for your program from an executive sponsor. This should be someone at the top level of your organization, such as a vice president, who will champion the program and encourage other leaders to get involved. The program won’t be effective unless there is senior leadership support.

  2. Create a plan and formally implement it with meetings and on-going communication.

    Develop a reverse mentoring program based on solid business goals. Set realistic engagement objectives, such as meeting once or twice a month for six months. Clearly define the purpose, objectives, meeting, and communication check-in timetables to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to the program.

  3. Set clear expectations and share success stories.

    Mentees and mentors need to understand the importance of nurturing a personal connection. Time should be allowed for younger workers to discuss their career goals and talk about their concerns. Older workers should be allowed time to offer their business and industry insights. Equally important is sharing wins. Evangelizing reverse mentoring program success stories help promote best practices that could be implemented throughout the organization.

  4. Schedule periodic check-ins.

    After mentors and mentees have been matched up and one or two sessions held, a check-in should be scheduled by the program facilitator. This will help determine if the participant synergy is positive. It is OK if there are personality clashes. The match-up can be revisited and participants reassigned if necessary. A mid-point check-in ensures both parties benefit from the association and that progress is being achieved. A post-program review enables the sharing of what was and wasn’t learned, plus program feedback. This information can be included in a senior leadership team report.

  5. Leverage program learnings to jump-start innovation and the exploration of technology trends.

    Your organization’s reverse mentoring program provides an excellent opportunity for employees to acquire vital knowledge. Plus, employees will feel more connected to the organization and its values. The program can serve as a launching pad for generating innovation and demonstrating agility in response to technology challenges.


Formaspace Office Supports Reverse Mentoring Through Open Office Communications

At Formaspace Office, we support the concept of reverse mentoring. Our Millennial employees are encouraged to take on more responsibilities and to step into management roles. One way we implement this at Formaspace Office is within our newly founded Culture Committee. Our Senior HR Manager and Culture Committee Leader, Angela Shaw, had an interesting perspective: “Culture can certainly always be improved upon, even here at Formaspace Office. I believe culture is a living and breathing thing, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone feels valued and has a voice within the workplace.” Encouraging Millennials to step into management roles enhances diversity and culture, helps the company grow, and gives senior level executives a different perspective for strategic actions.


One way to keep communication fresh between different generations within your company is by utilizing an open office floor plan and office furniture that inspires collaboration. Our tips include incorporating pop-up offices and huddle rooms to encourage employee interactions. Another solution is the Formaspace Office custom gallery panels to improve workspace designs and provide a visual differentiation between departments or functions within the office.


Office aesthetics are important, especially to Millennials.  Respondents to the Formaspace Office Survey of Employee Satisfaction cited the design aesthetic of the office as the number three reason they find a company attractive when they are looking for a new job. With Formaspace Office eye-catching office furniture, your organization can convey its personality and create an attractive and appealing workspace environment.

silver gray wave gallery panel

Formaspace Office Custom Gallery Panel features 16 Ga Steel Frame and 11 Ga Steel Powder Coated Silver Gray with a custom laser cut pattern for a large tech giant in California.


Learn more about the benefits of open office environments for employees. Contact your friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultant today to discuss the options best suited for your workspace. For more Formaspace Office open office furniture designs, check out some of the work we’ve done for top companies in the United States.


If you’re looking for more resources to help your organization engage with one another in an open office workspace, look at the Formaspace Office Custom Turquoise Mobile Communication Board

powder coat mobile communication board

This product is 76” high, powder coated in Turquoise on casters with 16-gauge steel frame mitered corners.


Join Formaspace Office!

Contact your Formaspace Office Design Consultant today for custom furniture information or to modify our standard furniture products with the Virtual Furniture Designer, 3DConfigure tool.


All of our furniture products are proudly made here in the U.S. and backed by our 12-year warranty.


To learn more about us, please check out our Who is Formaspace Office video and be sure to visit our website for more information about us and how you can get involved.


With today’s high employment rates, companies are finding that attracting talent is one of their biggest challenges. Offering higher salaries than the competition may not be the only option for attracting talent. Instead, many leading companies are changing their office design and improving workplace engagement to attract and retain their top employees.

social office

Image by

Five Recruiting Strategies You Can Use to Attract Talent to Your Organization

Rapid technological change – from Internet-enabled apps to the smartphones we hold in our hands – has transformed the business landscape. Companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Uber have seized on these opportunities, while others, such as Toys “R” Us and Sears, have fallen by the wayside. But how should companies proceed to be successful in the next wave of change? In other words, given that new technologies based on artificial intelligence and machine learning are poised to transform the business landscape even further, what should companies be doing today to ensure that they have the right workforce moving into the future?


1. Understand Your Own Business Needs and Values First


“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

— Yogi Berra


The traditional HR approach of carefully matching an applicant’s skillset with today’s job requirements won’t solve these problems in the long run. Instead, the answer lies in understanding your core values as an organization.


What is your long-term strategy, and, from there, what steps can you take today to build up a team that will take you where you need to be?


Take note of that word team. According to Peter Cappelli at the Wharton School and Anna Tavis at New York University, teams are becoming a key part of the talent solution. In the past, “traditional HR focused on individuals—their goals, their performance, their needs. But now that so many companies are organizing their work project by project, their management and talent systems are becoming more team focused. Groups are creating, executing, and revising their goals and tasks with scrums—at the team level, in the moment, to adapt quickly to new information as it comes in… They are also taking it upon themselves to track their own progress, identify obstacles, assess their leadership, and generate insights about how to improve performance.”


2. Always Be Recruiting, From the Inside Out

Patty McCord, the Chief Talent Officer at Netflix during their first decade of rapid growth, believes that hiring functions shouldn’t be limited to the HR department alone; instead, everyone working at a company should be involved to some degree in the recruiting process, because you never know where or when a connection will lead to an important talent acquisition. “At Netflix, we had a saying: ‘Always be recruiting!’ Candidates came from everywhere—from professional conferences, from the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game, from conversations on airplanes.”


McCord also took the unusual step of building an in-house team of experienced recruiters. This not only paid for itself over time by eliminating agency fees, but it also allowed the recruiters to spend more time coaching hiring managers on best interview practices. In exchange, recruiters learned more about the company’s critical business functions, making them better equipped to identify suitable candidates.


Finally, according to McCord, the interview process should revolve around the candidate, not the other way around, “Candidates are evaluating you, just as you’re evaluating them. People forget that. Our goal was to have every person who came for an interview walk away wanting the job.” Hiring decisions were made quickly. “Speed and efficiency often meant we could land candidates who were interviewing with other great companies.”


3. Get the Most Benefit from Hiring Specialized Consultants

Given the low unemployment rate and the shortage of highly-skilled workers, many companies are finding it difficult to attract full-time employees in the fields where they are needed most. According to a report in Barron’s, “The Great Labor Crunch,” the problem will only get worse in the future as baby boomers continue to retire.


The hard reality is that many companies — 40% according to a McKinsey Global Institute study — can’t fill their open positions, particularly in analytical, engineering, and management roles.


Why is this happening? Many of today’s highly sought after candidates have many options open to them, from working for high-paying companies with billion dollar stock valuations to lucrative consulting opportunities. As a result, many companies are turning to what Forrester Research euphemistically calls an “on-demand” workforce. In a 2017 report, Forrester says that more than one in three firms use external consultant workers and that they are generally satisfied.


But John Boudreau, Professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, Mara Swan and Amy Doyle of ManpowerGroup, caution that companies may need to reorganize their HR departments (traditionally in charge of full time hires) and Procurement operations (often responsible for contract hires) to create an integrated talent strategy. If things are not coordinated, unexpected, suboptimal situations can arise, such as what happened at a fast-growing biopharmaceutical company, where “the organization initially believed its workforce was 90% employees and 10% contract workers, but the data revealed an actual mix of 73% and 27%.” How did this happen? The company was not aware of ‘hidden’ workers coming from ad hoc short-term contracts, temporary worker agencies, freelance platforms, etc.


4. Create Your Own Internal Business Accelerator

Many traditional companies seeking to attract high-tech talent are pursuing an unorthodox approach — they are creating their own internal business accelerator programs that exist within a new division or a separate but affiliated company.


Examples of companies pursuing this strategy include:

  • Bayer
  • Boston Consulting Group
  • Capital One Labs
  • Ford Smart Mobility
  • Walmart Labs


According to Michael Mankins, Partner at Bain & Company, “Accelerators tend to have different cultures than their parent companies — they have different language and jargon, management techniques, tools, and office spaces. And they can create a lot of value by generating new business.” He explains that “at Ford Motor Company, building world-class software engineering capabilities has become a strategic imperative. Car manufacturers are facing new competitive threats from the likes of Google, Uber, Tesla, and dozens of start-ups. And a new ecosystem of finance, insurance, energy, infotainment, and maintenance services has emerged based on the data-driven, app economy. In response, Ford established an entirely new business unit — Ford Smart Mobility — where most of the company’s software engineers reside.”


Formaspace Office Helps Drive Fintech Innovation at Capital One Labs

We can attest to the innovation that comes out of these business accelerators. One of our financial technology (or “fintech”) clients is Capitol One Labs, where leading software developers are creating the consumer finance products of tomorrow.



Capital One Labs wanted an engaging environment within their office — one that encouraged cross-departmental collaboration. Working with One Workplace, the Formaspace Office dealer, we were able to create a unique set of height-adjustable (sit-to-stand) desks. Today, several hundred of Capital One Labs’ employees work at Formaspace Office Weldmarx I desks, which are kitted out with natural finish hardwood ash worksurfaces built on top of strong, steel legs that give the office its unique industrial-chic look. Built-in USB ports make it easy to charge mobile devices, and the large casters enable workers to move the desks easily — from area to area — to collaborate on different team projects.


Team members at Capitol One Labs are very satisfied — an internal survey gave grade A marks for the “great atmosphere, great communication, and a good working environment” experience at the office.


5. Work Directly with Educational Institutions to Attract New Graduates

Another strategy whose time has come again is establishing greater links with local educational institutions.


Some companies, such as AT&T, have a long track record in providing financial support in education. For example, they recently provided $1 million to fund an online Master’s program and analytics at Georgia Tech. In the long run, AT&T benefits from hiring graduates with the skill sets they need.


In a similar approach, Google offers funding, volunteer hours, and other resources to the Khan Academy, which provides online courses. Not only do Google employees themselves often take advantage of these classes, but Google can also monetize the ad revenue from the videos as well as promote themselves as an attractive employer to a wide audience.


There are also more unconventional approaches to connecting with education partners and their students.


At the global financial institution Citadel, L.J. Brock (Chief People Officer) and Justin Pinchback (Head of Talent Strategy and Solutions) took inspiration from the way that Navy Seals, NASA, and the NFL use group tryouts to evaluate and recruit candidates.


Citadel was looking for candidates that had an innate ability to analyze data — even if they were not looking for a job in finance. To attract a wide audience of participants, Brock and Pinchback created a series of twenty ‘datathons’ at different universities across the US, Canada, and Ireland. To sweeten the pot, winners would share a $25,000 prize, with an opportunity to compete for $100,000 in the final round of competition.


According to Brock and Pinchback, “Firms seeking elite talent must realize that all the typical interviewing and recruiting processes are ripe for improvement. The right people don’t always come knocking on your door. We can learn from elite organizations that are filled with superstars. Attract them, ask them to audition, hire the people who thrive under that pressure, and build your own powerhouse team.”


Five More Ways Office Design Can Help You Attract and Retain Talent in Your Office

Did you know that your office design can have a profound effect on how candidates perceive your company?


Let’s look at five more ways you can attract and retain talent in your office:


1. First Impressions Make a Big Difference

When trying to recruit new employees, the appearance of your office can make all the difference.


Our surveys indicate that Millennials are especially interested in office aesthetics when making a decision where to work. This generation also is averse to working in closed off cubicles, instead, preferring to work in open office environments that remind them of college campus environments.


Collaborative project work is also a byword for Millennial workers. Savvy employers are taking the hint and introducing more communal work areas for project teams to gather on a regular basis or to collaborate spontaneously.


For example, consider offering Wi-Fi-equipped outdoor spaces that allow employees to get some fresh air as they work. Cafeterias and communal eating areas are another highly valued amenity that allows workers to gather, socialize, and share ideas with one another.


Finally, incorporate biophilic design elements, such as large indoor trees or living plant walls, that bring the outdoors to the inside working areas. These not only improve indoor air quality, but they also absorb sound and help workers feel less stressed.


2. Live Your Brand at the Office

What is the one characteristic shared among all of today’s leading companies?


The answer: each of them, from Airbus to Boeing, from Toyota to Ford, has established a powerful brand that inspires loyalty among their employees and customers alike.


Why wouldn’t it be any different at your office? In other words, your work environment is incredibly important for setting the tone for your employees, your customers, financial analysts who come to visit, and so forth.


That’s why many leading companies come to Formaspace Office because we can build unique, customized furniture solutions that support your company’s unique vision and market presence.

cystom weldmarx I

Formaspace Office desks with custom privacy panels were a big hit at this year’s NeoCon contract furniture show. These can be customized to support your company’s unique brand image and message.


We can work directly with your architects and designers to create bespoke designs, then manufacture them in quantity at our factory headquarters here in Austin, Texas. Talk to one of our friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultants today to learn more.


3. Employees Who Work and Play Together, Stay Together

Another useful insight from our survey of Millennial workers is their desire to both work and play at the office.


Employers have taken pong conference table

Many are now creating multipurpose game rooms in the office that can double up as conference rooms. In fact, at NeoCon 2018 in Chicago, Formaspace Office introduced the perfect product for this scenario: a ping-pong table that can convert back to a conference table in a matter of seconds, or split apart to make to separate, movable tables.


Encouraging physical activity at the office is an important part of promoting wellness within the office. To reduce back pain and increase circulation during the day, many companies are specifying Formaspace Office sit-to-stand desks. Their clever, unique design moves the entire worksurface, including storage units, up and down at the touch of a button, allowing your workers to change position throughout the day.


4. Keep it Quiet

While open office designs offer unparalleled flexibility and freedom for workers to move about during the day, unwanted noise can be a problem.


Fortunately, there are many ways to keep distracting ambient noise levels in the office under control.


Take a look at our report on how to improve the acoustics within your workplace. It includes tips for optimizing your floor plan to reduce unwanted noise to how to use acoustical ceiling elements, wallcoverings, and floor design details to minimize ambient noise.


Many jobs require serious concentration. Don’t overlook the needs of those who work best in quiet spaces.


Talk with your Formaspace Office design consultant about unique furniture solutions, including huddle rooms, reservable conference rooms, and study/library areas where your employees can concentrate on their work without the day-to-day distractions of office noise.


5. Encourage and Measure Employee Engagement

Our final tip for attracting and retaining talent is to encourage workplace engagement that keeps your employees involved.


How can you get started?


According to Adam Grant, Professor at Wharton School of Business, and Scott Judd and Eric O’Rourke at Facebook, empirical evidence points to the considerable value of conducting regular internal employee surveys.


Employee survey results can:


  1. Help predict employee behavior (and serve as an early warning of any issues).


  1. Give employees an important opportunity to feel that their concerns are being heard.


  1. Provide valuable insight into employee attitudes so the company can make effective responses.


  1. Serve as a subtle nudge to influence employee attitudes and behavior.


Here at Formaspace Office, we not only regularly conduct surveys (such as the Work-Life Awareness Survey we mentioned earlier), we have also established a company “culture committee” that has an employee representative from each department so that everyone has a voice. This group meets twice a month to find ways to celebrate employee achievements and to uncover new ideas for making Formaspace Office a more inviting place to work.


Formaspace Office Makes Your Workplace a Place Where People Want to Work and Play

If you can imagine it, we can build it, right here in our Austin, Texas factory headquarters.

Formaspace Office not only makes unique, authentic, differentiated furniture for your office environment, we are also a great place to work.


Talk to us and find out more.


Find out why companies such as Google, Twitter, Capitol One, and more choose Formaspace Office products for their signature office designs.


Your Formaspace Office Design Consultant is just a phone call away.


Choose Formaspace Office to build your next set of custom conference tables and desks, manufactured right here in the USA at our Austin, Texas factory headquarters. We can create fully custom (bespoke) furniture, such as our #NETworking Ping-Pong Conference Table. You can also extensively customize furniture orders from our standard catalog offerings, using our free, easy-to-use, online design tool found here on our website.

 conference table

Say Yes to Employee Engagement in the Office with our #NETworking Ping-Pong Conference Table

Are you looking for something to inspire a little friendly competition and employee engagement at the office? Then it’s time to check out our new #NETworking Ping-Pong Conference Table.

Our #Networking table was a big hit in the Formaspace Office booth at this year’s NeoCon contract furniture show in Chicago, where show attendees lined up to get a chance to play in an impromptu tournament.


“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration.”

— Thomas Edison, American Inventor


As Thomas Edison said, perspiration is the greater part of becoming a genius — and our guest table tennis players certainly felt invigorated and refreshed after playing a fast round of table tennis.


After the games are over and it’s time to get back to work, our #NETworking table is a real team player. In seconds, you can convert it back into one of several configurations:


  1. Flip down the metal ping pong net, and you have a 5’ x 9’ conference table.


  1. Or you can separate the big table into two smaller, mobile collaboration tables.


  1. Use your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone to set the height of the work surface — from seated table height to standing bar height.


conference tables real sefl

The A&D community is on the lookout for truly differentiated, authentic, and unique furnishings, such as Formaspace Office’s #NETworking Ping-Pong Conference Table. It comprises two 54” x 60” African Mahogany solid wood tops that the connect together in seconds to create a regulation-sized ping pong table, with matching solid wood paddles. Unique details include vintage-style industrial casters, distressed hex bolt detailing, and cordless electric lifts that can raise the table height to 56” using any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.


Think about how you could use a #NETworking table at your office. It’s more than just a ping pong table.


With one piece of incredibly flexible furniture, you can collaborate around a single, large, conference table; host a reception or pitch a presentation by breaking the table into two smaller, height-adjustable tables; or quickly convert your conference room into a fun game zone for your workers to play against each other in friendly table tennis tournaments.


Customer Spotlight: Real-Self in Seattle


We’d like to congratulate Real-Self, the cosmetic surgery experts web platform based in Seattle, who recently purchased two of our #NETworking tables. Real-Self was looking for a way to give back to their hardworking employees, and the #NETworking tables were the perfect solution. Real-Self’s functional workspaces can be converted into an exciting game zone in just seconds.


Formaspace Office customized the #NETworking table design finishes to match the design elements in the Real-Self office; we also incorporated their logo and name into the perforated net design. As a bonus thank you, we celebrated the furniture delivery with Texas-style Taco party for their 150 employees. Remember, it’s important to have fun at work!


Our Custom Shuffleboard Gaming Table Adds to the Fun in Employee Break Rooms

If you are thinking about creating a game zone within your office to encourage employee collaboration and engagement, we have the perfect complement to our #NETworking Ping-Pong Conference Table.


shuffleboard table

Custom Shuffleboard Gaming Table by Formaspace Office made its debut at NeoCon 2017 in Chicago.


Our Custom Shuffleboard Gaming Table is an eye-catching, signature, furniture design with many interesting details, making it a true conversation piece:


  • The gaming surface is a live-edge slab of pecan wood fitted with leather inserts surrounded by custom brass detailing.
  • The custom steel frame, powder coated in Textured Black, is inspired by one of Austin, Texas’ favorite landmarks, the Penny Backer Bridge.
  • The table includes a built-in custom abacus, modular phone and drink trays, and a battery-powered USB charging port.


Make a Powerful Statement with a High-Tech, Bespoke Trapezoidal Conference Table

Take a moment to consider all the important visitors — including your major customers, investors, analysts, and members of the press — who are ushered into meetings held inside your conference room.


Are you ready to make a good first impression?

Remember, as this Harvard Business Report article reminds us, “First impressions matter so much because they happen fast, and they are stubborn,” says Whitney Johnson, the author of Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work. ‘We make judgments [about other people] in a nanosecond.’ And once that impression is formed, it’s ‘very, very hard to change it.’”


Make a good first impression with our hand-crafted, Trapezoidal Conference Table. The luxurious solid walnut surface is an impressive ten feet in length. The trapezoidal design provides more comfortable viewing angles for meeting participants, who don’t have to lean forward to see presentations.

trapezoid conference table

Use your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone to raise the table to standing height or lower it back again to desk height. And all those messy, unsightly cables and adapters associated with today’s electronic gadgets are gracefully hidden underneath — allowing you to maintain a pristine, clean surface that shows off the fine walnut hardwood surface.


However, when you need access to audio video connections, electric plugs, and the like, simply press a button, and the hidden, motorized console rises up from the center of the table to reveal a complete set of power plugs, USB and HDMI access ports, and LED light controllers. There is also ample built-in storage for remote controls and the like.


This design offers many opportunities for customization. For example, the console end caps can showcase branding elements (logos, etc.). The perforated custom steel panels underneath the worksurface light up from behind, and they can also be customized with your logo or brand imagery.


Speak with your Formaspace Office Design consultant today about ways to customize this and any of our other products to meet your exact needs. Remember, if you can imagine it, we can build it, here at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.


The PGA Tour’s Design Firm Commissioned a Signature Industrial-Look Metal Table with a High Contrast White Corian Top

So far, we’ve shown you three pieces of bespoke furniture that were designed by our Formaspace Office in-house team of industrial designers.


We’re happy to offer design services to you to build custom furniture just for you.


But we’re equally happy to be your custom manufacturer as well. We can work with your architect or designer to build bespoke furniture products that meet your exact specifications.


We’d like to present an example of how this works in practice: Formaspace Office recently hand-crafted two identical bespoke tables for the PGA Tour, the famous professional golf tournament association based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.


We worked directly with the PGA Tour’s designer and furniture dealer, who created a very striking table design that features an industrial-look metal base with a high-contrast, all-white Corian top. Both of these signature tables are used in prominent public areas of the golf tournaments where merchandise is displayed or meals are served. They also double as collaboration tables for use in meetings.


PGA custom conference table

Using the designs provided by the designer and the dealer, Formaspace Office was able to craft the two table frame bases out of heavy-duty, fully-welded, 16-gauge solid steel; we then gave them a long-lasting, semi-gloss black finish. Finally, we custom fitted all-white Corian worksurfaces with a 1.5″ build up and an eased edge. Each of the finished tables measures 8 feet long by 4 feet deep.


Are you interested in bringing your furniture design ideas to life?  Let Formaspace Office be your competitive advantage. We can build your custom furniture — whether you want one or two units, or a large quantity order filled.


Create Your Own Custom Conference Tables and Desks Online. It’s Easy, Just Pick a Top Design, Pick a Base Design, and Pick a Finish

Of course, not every interior design project requires fully bespoke furniture designs.


Yet, even when we order furniture offerings from the standard “catalog,” we always want the opportunity to customize our furniture orders to some degree — by choosing our favorite combination of worksurface shapes, base designs, materials, surface finishes, and so forth.


Did you know you can make these custom furniture choices right here on the Formaspace Office website?


It’s easy and intuitive. In just a few seconds, you can create photorealistic renderings of your design choices, then modify them by changing colors and materials, or adding select accessories.


Check it out for yourself: Launch the Formaspace Office 3D Configure tool now.

formaspaceoffice 3d tool screenshot


How does it work? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3. Choose your furniture product and then customize it on screen.


And, starting in early October, we’ll make it even easier to design a conference table. You’ll be able to pick a top design first, then pick a base design, then select your materials and finish.


Want to see some real-world examples?


Let’s take a look at four recent furniture pieces we created for customers that you can configure online using our Formaspace Office 3D Configure tool.


Custom Furniture Example 1: Walnut Weldmarx Conference Table with Three “Eiffel” Metal Base Frames


florence walnut conference table

Here is our first example of the type of custom furniture you can create using our 3D Configure tool.


This rectangular conference table features a 192″ long Florence Walnut laminate top. It’s supported by three 46-inch “Eiffel” frame bases that are finished with a gloss-white powder coating.


The result is a striking, vintage-look design at a cost-effective price.


Custom Furniture Example 2: Walnut Weldmarx Conference Table with Two Metal “V” Frame Bases and Integrated Power


Wledmarx CV Conference Table - Florence Walnut Table

In our second example, the customer started with a 72″ x 36″ worksurface finished with a Florence Walnut laminate surface.


As the customer wished to use this as a desk in a private office, they customized the order to include a rear surface cutout in the back for housing two power outlets, two USB jacks, an RJ45 data jack, and a 108” power cord.


Next, the customer chose two metal “V” frame bases; this gives the design a refreshingly modern look that gives a nod to Mid-Century Modern design language.


Finally, the design as manufactured by Formaspace Office is compliant with BIFMA (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association) guidelines for product safety and environmental impact.


Custom Furniture Example 4: Bar Height Collaboration Table with 6 Leg Steel Base and Silestone Iron Bark Top


collaboration table

Our third example of custom furniture is being used in a social setting at a community center within a large condominium facility.


The long rectangular surface is crafted from Silestone in an Iron Bark finish. This easy-to-clean surface is ideal for serving hot or cold food and drinks.


The top surface is supported by 6 legs made of steel, finished in a textured black powder coating.


The bar height surface allows people to gather and talk with friends and neighbors, either standing next to the table or seated at bar stools. The table design also lends itself to use as serving buffet for potlucks and parties.


Custom Furniture Example 4: Bar Height Collaboration Table with Power Coated 5 Leg Pipe Base and Walnut Top


Bar Height Pipe Leg Table - Walnut conference tableOur fourth example illustrates how making subtle design choices can really change the character and functionality of your furniture.


This bar height collaboration table has a very different look than our previous example. It was ordered by a software company in Northern California that wanted to add more collaborative space for employee gatherings and impromptu meetings.


This customer chose a top surface that is made of walnut it’s  96″ long, 36″ wide and 1.5″ thick.


Underneath, the collaboration is supported by a steel pipe frame that gives it a cool vintage, industrial look. There is also crucial design detail in the middle that’s worth pointing out: the middle of the table is supported by a single pipe leg in the center (rather than a two-leg frame) — providing a more generous knee space when people are seated at bar stools around the table.


If You Can Imagine It, We Can Build It — at Our Austin, Texas Factory Headquarters

We hope these real-world furniture examples have inspired you to take a look at what Formaspace Office has to offer.


We look forward to working with you, your dealer, your architect, and your designer to build on your creative ideas — from ideation to installation.

standing conference table

Working together, we can create differentiated, authentic, unique, problem-solving furniture solutions — for your large and small conference rooms, private offices, co-working spaces, makerspaces, cafes, lounges, laboratories, industrial environments, K-12 schools and universities, and beyond.


Formaspace Office strives to make great work environments. Our team is committed to innovative design, healthy ergonomics, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility.


Take the next step.


To learn more, contact your Friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultant today. You’ll be glad you did.


We now have some of the first empirical research on how worker behavior changes as a result of working in open office environments. Research underwritten by Harvard Business School found that study participants actually spent 72% less time interacting face-to-face, while the use of electronic interactions (email, messaging, etc.) increased by 20% – 50% during the study period. This defies the conventional wisdom that workers transitioning into open offices would tend to have more face-to-face encounters than those working in closed office environments.

open office privacy


What’s going on?


Tom Polito- Polito Associates

Tom Polito, Polito Associates

Given that this study seems to contradict one of the main arguments in favor of implementing open office environments, e.g. that they can help increase collaboration between employees, we wanted to get more insight on how today’s open offices are working in practice.


To find out more, we had a lively discussion with two office design professionals that often take opposing points of view, Tom Polito and Fernando Xavier Romero.


Both Tom and Fernando are contract furniture reps for Formaspace Office; Tom’s company, Polito Associates, represents Formaspace Office across Southern California, while Fernando’s firm, Element Design Group, covers the Florida peninsula region.



How Should We Interpret Recent Research on Open Office Privacy Solutions?


In a recent behavioral experiment underwritten by Harvard Business School, researchers Ethan S. Bernstein and Stephen Turban found that employees working in open-plan offices at a Fortune 500 multinational company spent 73% less time in face-to-face interactions, while the number of electronic communications they sent increased dramatically (by more than 50% for email and by 67% for instant messages) compared to when they worked in a closed office environment.


We wanted to get Tom and Fernando’s reaction. Have they observed this kind of behavior with their clients working in open office layouts? Are open offices making workers feel alienated from one another? Is work performance suffering as a result?


Fernando- Elements Design Group

Fernando Xavier Romero. Elements Design Group

Fernando jumped in. “No, I don’t think the open office layout is causing alienation at all. If anything, it allows people to interact more.”


Tom notes there may be an underlying generational bias against moving into an open office. “I think what we’re finding is there’s a lot of hesitation, especially among the older Gen X and some of the Gen Y workers, who’ve become comfortable in their little cubicle where they feel they’ve got some privacy. So, when they start talking about going to an open plan concept, sometimes we get a little hesitation or push back from them just because it’s something different.”


Fernando agrees there is a generational difference. He explains that Millennials have a different take on working in an open office. “From my experience, Millennials tend to choose technology first before they start talking to people. I call them the instant gratification demographic. They want everything right away, and if they can’t get that instant gratification, they look elsewhere. They are very self-sufficient. They know technology. And they will choose to use email and instant messaging to get the information they need right now before starting to ‘collaborate’ with their co-workers.”


What can be done to make open offices successful for all workers?


Fernando believes it’s important to ask the employees themselves. “I think that the industry needs to encourage employers or company owners to ask their employees (including the Millennials) what motivates them. How can they get the most out of their office space? I can think of several companies, locally, who got a lot of input from their employees up front. In my opinion, it’s critical to get input to tailor the office design so their employees will be happier and more productive, whether it’s by incorporating a pop office or huddle rooms, adding privacy panels, etc.”


We asked Tom about his experience with open office layouts in the Southern California market.  “As a rep group that’s working with open space all the time, we find our job is to educate the furniture dealers that — if you’re going to propose a bench or sit-to-stand open office applications — you need to let your customer be aware that you’re going to have some noise issues if you don’t take steps to control the acoustics or do sound masking. If not, what happens later is they’re going to blame the architect. They’re going to blame the furniture dealer for not setting them up properly. So, it’s our role to help the dealer provide the right solution, the first time. To do this, we always recommend conducting a detailed on-site survey at the start of each project to identify ways to reduce unwanted noise and distractions.”


Design Tips for Open Office Planning:


  • Work with an experienced rep group that knows how to create successful open plan offices. (End users may not know what they actually need.)
  • Conduct a detailed on-site survey to identify ways to reduce unwanted noise and distractions. (We’ll discuss ways to accomplish this in the following sections.)
  • Survey employees to find out what their needs and expectations are for working in an open office environment.


Space Planning Tips to Improve Face-to-Face Collaboration in Open Offices


Let’s continue our discussion with Tom and Fernando as we ask them for their top space planning tips for encouraging face-to-face collaboration in open plan offices.


Tom and Fernando agree that if you want to encourage face-to-face collaboration among employees in an open office, you need to think about the right mix of people who would benefit from working together. Tom notes that “I’ve seen areas where you’ve got an accounting department set up next to a telemarketing department, and the chatter from the telemarketing people makes it very difficult for the accounting people to function in their jobs.” Fernando agrees. “Each of the different office ‘packs’ have their own culture and their own way of communicating.” He says it makes more sense, for example, to “put the accounting team and the finance team in the same area of the office; because these people really need to focus on their activities, number crunching, etc.”


Tom agrees. He believes that the most successful open office “tribes” are those employees who work together in a “team of say five or six people who share a particular objective, a shared job function that needs to be done. These are the ones who really benefit from collaboration to achieve their objectives. And I’ve seen end users, working together in teams, come up with very creative ideas — much quicker than if they were each working individually. On the other hand, if your job requires you to focus all day (like an engineer, for example), then you’ll need to have more privacy and the ability to remove yourself from distractions.”


We wanted to get some feedback on a new Formaspace Office Product that we debuted at NeoCon 2018 — our new laser-cut hackable gallery panels. How do you see using these product fitting within an open office?


“I was struck by how cool the gallery panels look aesthetically; they are very slick; a privacy solution that is much more visually interesting than a solid laminate panel,” says Tom. “I think they can be used to delineate the space between different departments within an open office.”


Design Tips for Open Office Space Planning:


  • Develop a coherent layout plan that helps enable collaboration by grouping people or departments together according to their needs for privacy, noise levels, face-to-face discussions.
  • The new hackable gallery panels from Formaspace Office, with their unique, laser cut metal inserts can help provide a visual demarcation between different departments or functions within the office. The intricate designs can also be customized to reflect your brand.

How to Control Unwanted Noise in Open Offices — From Sound Absorption Panels to Living Walls


Next up we’ll discuss noise control solutions for open offices.


“Noise in open offices is the big issue right now,” says Tom. “It can be a demotivator for employees. What tends to happen is employees get up and go to the office cafe because they can’t focus. So you’ve lost productivity –because that worker is not fully engaged in their job for the full day.”


“What we’re seeing in our market in Southern California is a lot of Biomed and Biotech companies going into warehouses, and they’re doing an open plan office. They have to do something with that sound because it just bounces around like you’re in an echo chamber.”


Tom notes that they saw a lot of acoustic control solutions at NeoCon 2018 designed for open offices, including wall panels and acoustical panels with integrated baffles that hang from the ceiling. These can be very effective.


Tom says he also gets lots of requests from end users for taller privacy panels attached to the back of open plan benching solutions; many want to move up from 24” tall privacy panels to 30” ones — even if they’re using dual monitors, which provide additional privacy.


Tom is also bullish on the idea of using taller gallery panels (ideally those that are between 60 and 66 inches tall) as space dividers, as they also improve sound control and increase privacy. But Tom admits these taller panels often run into problems with California’s strict seismic building codes. That’s a challenge, he says, and unfortunately, they often end up having to construct a standard wall to comply with the codes.


Over in Florida, Fernando does not face the seismic challenges they have in Southern California, and so he is a big fan of demountable walls. “That’s a big one for addressing privacy concerns. It’s also nice to look at aesthetically. You can set them up to create a cube in the center of the office or move them around to change the look. Everybody’s getting into using them.”


Fernando also agrees with Tom that acoustical panels are a major part of the solution. “They provide noise reduction, that’s very big. People want to have conversations, but they don’t want to feel like they have to whisper. With acoustical panels, people can have normal conversations without lowering their voices.”


We’ve written before how office workers feel calmer and less distracted when they can see natural surroundings through a window, or view extensive plantings within in the office — it’s part of a movement toward incorporating what are called biophilic design elements within the office. Extensive plantings can also help control noise within the office. We wanted to know what Tom and Fernando thought about this approach.


“Yes, I first began seeing this about four years ago in Mexico, the first of the living wall concepts,” says Fernando. “The story behind it is they wanted to have more green and a kind of natural feel in the office, almost like they were outside, without actually being outside. This trend has started to come to the U.S., especially in Florida. The living walls and the plants to make it feel more like home, and it encourages people to be more productive because they’re in a comfortable environment. I think it also helps with the carbon footprint of the office as well.”


Design Tips for Controlling Noise and Increasing Privacy in Open Plan Offices


  • Acoustic wall panels and ceiling grids with sound baffles can reduce unwanted sound in open plan offices.
  • Taller privacy panels (up to 30”) mounted at the back of desks and benches can help end users feel they have more privacy.
  • Tall divider panels or demountable walls can reduce sound (if they incorporate sound absorbing materials) and increase privacy. Be aware of seismic regulations that may limit the height of free-standing panels.
  • Living walls and extensive plantings with the office (biophilic design) can help control noise while helping end users feel more relaxed.
  • See other sound control ideas in our article on reducing noise in open offices.


Innovative Furniture Solutions for Creating Privacy in an Open Office


At NeoCon 2018, we saw a lot of companies introducing semiprivate office pods to create quiet spaces. We wanted to know if our open office experts see an increasing demand for these, as well as other solutions for creating quiet spaces in the office, such as huddle rooms.


You may recall Tom talked earlier about converting warehouses into open-plan offices, particularly in the Biomed and Biotech sector. “I think these privacy pods are perfect for that type of user because they are portable,“ he said. “If they decide to move, they can take it with them. I think that’s going to be a hot item over the next few years. What’s interesting is that we first saw this type of solution in Europe, where they’ve been using them for a number of years already.”


Fernando sees the value of using huddle rooms in open plan offices. “People working together in a ‘pack’ will reserve the huddle room when they need to focus on their work.” Tom agrees: “My interpretation of a huddle room is that it’s more of a privacy place. Something where you know, you can get a group together or just maybe one or two people, and just, you know, get into a quiet space where you can focus. Or have a space where a small group can meet without being distracted by all the chatter in the open area — without disturbing your fellow workers.”


Tom is also intrigued by a variation of huddle rooms that incorporate a full complement of technology for making presentations. “These came out a couple of years ago. I seem to recall the original one I saw was called the “Media Stick.” It’s basically a horseshoe-shaped lounge area set up with a table in the middle and a flat-screen monitor set. The users all come together, and they can plug in their technology and work collaboratively instead of borrowing a large conference room or one of the meeting rooms. It’s still out in the open, yet it gives you a sense of privacy without being totally cordoned off. We’re also beginning to see these now in schools, not just at companies. More recently, the larger setups are starting to incorporate a countertop shelf alongside the inside perimeter where people can pull up a bar stool seat. We’re seeing that quite a bit now.”


Design Tips for Creating Privacy in Open Plan Offices Using Innovating Furniture Solutions:


  • Freestanding Pod Solutions with built-in services can provide instant private spaces, even during construction phases. They can also be transported easily to other locations when your needs change.
  • Huddle rooms provide an area for team members to work together without disturbing other workers.
  • Huddle room spaces equipped with electronics allow for mini-presentations and other impromptu collaboration sessions without tying up a larger conference or meeting room.


We’d like to thank Formaspace Office Reps Tom Polito and Fernando Romero for their time and their insight.


Make the Right Move with Formaspace Office


Remember, at Formaspace Office, if you can imagine it, we can build it.


We build a full line of office furniture solutions, made just for you in our Austin, Texas factory headquarters.


Did you know you can design your own Formaspace Office furniture online, using our free Virtual Furniture Designer? Try it today. It works in your internet browser, no software installation required. Create photorealistic renderings of your favorite office desks, conference tables, storage elements, lounge tables, and communications boards.

WeldmarxCIII virtual furniture designer

Formaspace Office is also your custom manufacturing source. Bring any of your office furniture designs to us, and we will turn your designs into reality by handcrafting them in our Austin factory – to your exact specifications. We can also offer our industrial design services to you as well, to create one-of-a-kind, bespoke pieces of furniture.


Want to learn more? Just give one of our friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultants a call. They can help make your office design project a success.


south central texas heat wave

It’s been a hot year for the record books.


Many parts of the country have or are experiencing all-time high temperatures. The National Centers for Environmental Information, more commonly known as NOAA, reports that more than 1,000 high heat records have been broken this summer in cities and towns throughout the United States. Some of the previous high temperatures date back more than 110 years. Plus, since the Summer of 2018 is not yet two-thirds over, more record-breaking temperatures are possible.


So far, Death Valley, California leads the pack hitting 127 degrees Fahrenheit on the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer. Since then, more than 10 towns logged 115+-degree days in the first month of Summer 2018. Central Texas, an area experiencing a string of sizzling days has already doubled its number of triple-digit temperatures compared to last year.


The most triple-digit and record-breaking temperatures have occurred in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. But this year, areas not accustomed to such high temperatures are sweltering too – including Memphis, Tennessee (113), Long Beach, California (109), and Walsh, Colorado (107).


These hot and dry weather conditions have also contributed to a large number of fires this season that have forced many to evacuate their homes and buildings. Ninety mega-fires have burned more than one million acres in 14 western states this summer. California has been challenged with 20 mega-blazes in recent days, including those impacting lives and property in and around Redding and other parts of the northern part of the state. Heroic firefighters battling on the frontline have developed techniques to help them weather the firestorm.

firefighters how to protect from heat

Firefighters on the frontline perform heroic tasks to help protect our lives, property, and the environment. Learn more about what firefighters do to prepare for extreme heat conditions in this 6-minute video.


Staying hydrated is key

Staying healthy – and cool – in extreme temperatures requires knowledge, planning, and the right tools. Drinking plenty of water is of prime concern in hot conditions, of course, but being properly hydrated might impact us in more ways than we realize.


A study, from the Yale School of Medicine, found that when people become dehydrated, they achieved 12% more errors in a cognitive flexibility test, especially surrounding complicated tasks. But those same type of errors decreased and functions returned to normal when they rehydrated. Another study, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that extreme heat negatively impacted the memory and cognitive speed of college students.


Staying hydrated is vital, but the signs for determining your correct hydration level might not be obvious. Staying healthy in the heat starts with fluids, but how much do we really need to drink?


While it can vary somewhat by body size and type, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; in the heat of the summer, women should drink at least 91 ounces of water each day. For men, the suggested level is 125 ounces. Despite a commonly held belief, the NASCM determined in a recent study that coffee and caffeinated beverages, in moderate quantities, had no detrimental effects on hydration levels. So, feel welcome to enjoy your cup (or two) of Morning Joe – even on extremely hot days. But, then, perhaps you’d prefer an iced coffee?


Be on the lookout for the signs of heat stress

Despite our best intentions, each of us can get overheated — especially on a blistering hot day. In outdoor work and high-intensity situations, it’s wise to be aware of the clues that indicate you, a co-worker, or friend are suffering from overheating. If you learn to detect the clues regarding heat stress, you can be proactive and reduce or prevent the possibility of serious problems.


Let’s start with ourselves. Since there might be times when we sweat out more fluids than we take in, how can we tell if we are dehydrated?


The easiest way to confirm your own status is to check the color of your urine. Generally, the darker the color, the more likely you are to be dehydrated. Brown or dark orange color urine is cause for concern. Urine that looks like pale lemonade typically indicates that you are properly hydrated.


In terms of co-workers and friends, your observation of outward signs of heat-related distress is crucial.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a helpful chart for recognizing and addressing heat disorders.


An informative 2-1/2-minute video from the National Safety Council details the steps to take to help a co-worker or friend experiencing a heat-related problem.

Planning ahead is another way to minimize risks.


To help individuals and business schedule the best times for outside activities in extreme heat conditions, a mobile device app was developed and recently updated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and NIOSH. The Heat Safety Tool gauges, hour by hour, the heat index in your area. The heat index is a measure of how hot it “really” feels when relative humidity (the amount of moisture in the air) is taken into account along with the actual air temperature. The easy-to-use, free app also includes valuable heat safety tips and guidelines. The Heat Safety Tool can be downloaded from the Apple App Store (iPhones, iPads) and Google Play Store (Android devices).

apple iphone and andriod device weather app


Simple Outside of the Office Tips to Promote Healthy Work Productivity

Heat safety resources can help you address a heat stress-related emergency, but there are also steps you can take every day to minimize the impact of extreme weather.

  1. Plan out your day. – Schedule your most strenuous tasks for the morning hours, when you are fresh, and the heat won’t impact your efficiency as much. Schedule your routine chores in the afternoon when you might start to feel a bit drained by the heat. You can use the Heat Safety Tool app to preview and monitor the heat index throughout the day.
  2. Dress light and less formally. – Wherever possible, choose looser fitting items. Clothing that is 100% linen, cotton or viscose will feel cooler than polyester or synthetic materials. When outdoors, wear long, loose sleeves to reduce the possibility of sunburn. If your primary duties are mostly indoors and you need to keep to the company’s dress code, select a “light and loose” version to stay as cool as possible.
  3. Keep water nearby and sip often. — Experts say that if you feeling thirsty, you’ve probably somewhat dehydrated already. Be proactive! Women should drink a minimum of 2 1/2 liters of water throughout the day, and for men, at least 3 1/2 liters.
  4. Choose a fresh lunch for immediate refreshment. – A slice of watermelon, a cup of frozen fruit, a piece of cucumber, or a green salad can help replenish the fluids in your body and provide a healthy snack.
  5. Be more cautious when working outside. — If you work outside at moderate intensity for just one hour you can reach up to 2% dehydration. That doesn’t sound like it should be a huge problem. But, for the average-size person, 2% can equal sweating out about one liter of water. Plus, in severe work conditions, you could reach that level in about 30 minutes. Practice OSHA’s message on working safely in the heat: “Water. Rest. Shade.” This means that on hot days, take frequent breaks in a cool or shady area and drink water every 15 minutes.
  6. Establish good office habits. – As tempting as it is to burrow indoors in at your desk on hot days (or inclement weather in general), long-term health benefits are realized by using good posture, performing flexing and stretching exercises periodically, and practicing good office ergonomics.


Health Experts Report Numerous Ergonomic Benefits:

Whether you’re in the office or out maintaining a proper posture helps prevent neck and back pain. For the average office worker who spends from 6 to 8 hours each day at his or her desk, researchers emphasize the importance of altering positions throughout the workday to avoid unnecessary stress on the lower back and pelvis area. An adjustable, Sit-to-Stand desk can be your great ally because it enables you to work comfortably in a stress-free position either sitting down or standing up.

weldmarx I height adjustbale desk

Formaspace Office Weldmarx I Sit To Stand Desk

Formaspace Office did their own research, read about these easy, one-minute-each-hour stretches and bad posture habits in “How to Avoid Neck and Back Pain at the Office.” As well, flexibility exercises help reduce the presence of varicose veins and spider veins that are associated with cardiovascular problems, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), Peripheral Artery Design (PAD), and Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Adding short stretch breaks to your day-to-day routine relieves tension that builds up in your shoulders. This will leave you feeling refreshed, clear-headed, and will help you tackle the rest of your day. Read more about this in “Stopping This Habit at the Office is Good for Your Health.


Proper ergonomics is vital for workplace comfort and helps minimize strain on the body. The design of office furniture can play a key role in supporting workplace productivity. Practicing good office ergonomics can help prevent other types of common Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) that can develop in the office, such as Tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Discover how ergonomics in the workplace improves performance and employee well-being in “5 Benefits of Ergonomics in the Workplace” and “If Sitting is the New Smoking – Here are 7 Steps to a Healthier Workforce.”


If you ever experience severe symptoms of your body overheating, please take the necessary precautions to cool your body down and have someone call 911 Emergency Services on your behalf.

Formaspace Office Cares About Your Safety and Well-being

Look to Formaspace Office for your ergonomic office furniture solutions that help your work community stay healthy. Formaspace Office offers the popular WELDMARX I “Sit To Stand Desk” for all your ergonomic work environments. With the new Formaspace Office Virtual Furniture Designer, you can easily design your office furniture 100% online with accurate photorealistic renderings of any office desk in the WELDMARX line, as well as conference and lounge tables, storage pieces, and communication boards. All Formaspace Office products are backed by our 12-year, no-questions-asked guarantee. These high-quality office furniture products are proudly made in the USA at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.

formaspace office conference table

#NETWORKING 5-in-1 Ping Pong Conference Table

To learn more about ergonomic solutions, contact one of our friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultants today. Give us a call, we would love to hear from you!



Now that an increasing number of professionals at companies such as Apple, Amazon, Glassdoor, and Dell are working remotely from home or other unconventional locations, we wanted to know: will the remote work trend continue to grow in the future or has it already reached a plateau?

MRL virtual library

To find out more, we spoke with Jim Palmitier, President of MyResourceLibrary (or MRL for short), the ground-breaking virtual library for the contract furniture industry. We reached out to Jim because we had heard they were heavily invested in employees who work remotely, including Jim himself.

MRL virtual library

Jim Palmitier. President at My Resource Library

But first, we should take a moment to introduce MRL, whose company mission is to “facilitate efficiency in the contract market.” MRL provides tools for professionals working in the contract furniture market for streamlining the front-end ordering process, from design inspiration to providing a quote – and everything in-between. MRL’s Virtual Library platform allows users to find up-to-date information from all the major furniture makers, including Formaspace Office. Users can search MRL to find specific brands or find products in a specific category, such as office desks. They can also browse MRL’s “Fresh Ideas gallery” for settings-based inspiration. Users can then save their collections into custom “Project Binders,” which can be shared privately with their customers and partners.


With that introduction out of the way, it’s time to ask Jim Palmitier our first question.

Remote Work is an Ideal Strategy for Startup Companies

We had heard through the industry grapevine that some of MRL’s employees worked at remote locations, but we didn’t know any of the details. We wanted Jim to give us some specifics on MRL’s hiring practices and the company’s attitude toward remote work.


The answers surprised us.


According to Jim, while MRL maintains its official corporate office in Gilbert, Arizona (just outside of Phoenix), a full 60% of MRL’s employees work remotely, a figure that’s much higher than we expected. (Counted among MRL’s virtual employees is Jim himself, as we’ll discuss shortly.)


We wanted to know, “Why did MRL create a staffing structure with such a high percentage of employees who work remotely?”


Jim explained that one of the reasons that MRL has embraced remote working is that it’s enabled them to access talent from across the country. “We focus more on the individual and the skill set they can bring to us – and their match to our culture – more than we consider their location.”


Another consideration is the virtual nature of their product, which falls squarely in the Software as a Service (SaaS) category. Jim notes that while the company is heavily engaged with furniture and interior design products, MRL itself doesn’t carry physical inventory. Instead, MRL’s Virtual Library and all the supporting data resides in the cloud, where it can be accessed from anywhere, including by the company ’s programmers, as well as its production, sales, and customer service personnel. In other words, as a virtual company, MRL can have ‘virtual’ off-site employees as well.


Are there other advantages?


Cost is another consideration, says Jim. To date, MRL only has 24 employees, making it a small (but growing!) startup company. Allowing a large number of employees to work remotely helps MRL keep a smaller footprint at their “bricks and mortar” headquarters, which in turn, helps reduce MRL’s overhead costs significantly.

Working Remotely Can Help you Get Closer to the Customer

As we mentioned earlier, Jim Palmitier himself is one of MRL’s remote employees – an arrangement that some might find unusual, given that Jim is also president of the company.


We wanted to know if there were any advantages (or disadvantages) about working remotely that he could share with us.


Jim was quick to respond. Remote employees can help smaller companies provide better customer service, especially if they are located close to your key accounts.


“I grew up in West Michigan where, over the last 25 years, I’ve had a variety of positions that were either in the contract furniture industry or directly supported it. Prior to coming to MRL, I spent twelve years leading sales for a furniture dealership; then I was the VP of sales for a small manufacturer based in West Michigan. So I really have touched the contract industry in one way, shape, or form since graduating from college. In fact, my first job out of college was with our family-owned printing company, and I was doing type sets for price books for La-Z-Boy and Steelcase.”


“So I’ve seen the industry as a supplier, I’ve seen it as a furniture dealer, and I’ve seen it as a manufacturer. One of the values that I bring to the company is the fact that I’m based in West Michigan. I am no more than a 45-minute drive from any of the major manufacturers. If you think about Steelcase, Hayworth, Herman Miller, Knoll — they are all here in West Michigan.”


“By having members of our team spread out geographically, it provides us an easier opportunity to reach our customers. And we’re available from the time the Eastern Time zone gets to work to the time the Western zone goes home.”

The Need to Create a Collaborative Culture between Remote Employees

The former CEO of Yahoo Marissa Meyer once said: “people are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.”


We wanted Jim to react to this and get his opinion on the state of collaborative culture at MRL.


“Speaking from personal experience, I definitely agree with that statement,” says Jim. Of course, each individual is different, he goes on to say. “It really depends upon the employee and how they function best. For example, I’m more of a structured, systematic type of thinker, almost more like an accounting or a finance person. I do better at receiving information, considering it, thinking about it, and then discussing it. Yet there are other types of people, especially the younger employees, that thrive in a more purely collaborative environment.”


Managing and coordinating interactions between remote workers in different time zones is actually a much bigger issue than managing different personalities, according to Jim. ”When I joined MRL, one of the first things I started working on was how to solve the problem of interacting with one another without taking a lot of time out of each person’s workday. It’s not like you can walk down the hall and ask them a quick question.”


In response, MRL uses a variety of tools, from text messages and phone calls to collaboration-oriented software, such as OneNote, Microsoft Office 365, and Planner.


“Sometimes there is an advantage for everyone to be in the same spot, virtually speaking. If there is a large project or big enough issue that we’re trying to resolve, quite often, we’ll jump on a conference call with a handful of our employees and start reviewing something with everyone looking at it together. And when we want to make sure that people are engaged during a meeting, we’ll use Skype video conferencing so that everyone’s visible.”

Setting Boundaries for Yourself When Working Remotely

At this point, we realized that Jim Palmatier has only given us positive answers. We wanted to know about the disadvantages of allowing employees to work remotely from home.


“Speaking for myself,” Jim responded, “one of the concerns that I have is knowing when to stop working. All too often, we have the tendency to push through to get something done, when you should set time aside for yourself as well, to each lunch, for example. When I first started working at MRL, I wouldn’t step away from my desk until 8 o’clock at night, and that’s not healthy. Yes, it’s good to work hard and get stuff done, but you also need to make sure that you’re fresh and ready for the next day.”


“I know everyone says this, but it’s really true: we need to establish a proper work/life balance for our remote employees. In response, we’ve put together a policy for remote workers that includes recommendations on how to set up your home-based work environment and how to keep it separate from your home life.” It also includes specific recommendations, such as starting each day as if you were going into the office, taking lunch at proper mealtimes, and making time to “close yourself off” from distractions when you need to concentrate on work projects.


That’s good advice. We have something to add to Jim’s comments: remote workers also need to consider the health benefits of using safe, ergonomic furniture in the home office. Formaspace Office has a full line of sit-to-stand desks that not only offer convenience (at the touch of a button, the entire desk worksurface moves up and down as a unit) but also important health benefits that come from changing from a seated to standing position throughout the day.


Custom Weldmarx I NeoCon

Custom Weldmarx I sit-to-stand Desk


Establishing a Culture of Trust between Management and Remote Workers

While MRL has embraced the concept of employees working remotely, many other employers have not. We wanted to know why that is. Do other companies fear that remote workers won’t put in a full day’s work?


In response, Jim notes that “When people ask me ‘well, how do you know they’re getting their work done when working from home?’ my response is that every one of our team members has a job to do. You need to allow your employees the ability to grow, and sometimes that means you need to just let go of the vine and trust the fact that they’re going to get their job done.”


“As leaders, we do not micro-manage our team, we’re here to guide them and find ways to help them grow. We really don’t focus on the working from home aspect. Instead, we ask ourselves, are we leading and guiding our employees properly? Are we clear about our expectations? Is there a training deficiency affecting this employee? We ask a whole series of questions before immediately jumping to the conclusion that the reason an employee is struggling is due to working remotely.”


“Society and the culture today is so much different than 20 years ago. We’re not clock punchers anymore. For people who have a strong work ethic, work doesn’t have to be a 9 to 5 scenario for them to be successful. Everyone’s unique, and each of us can work in our own way, but it’s about getting the job done. You have to have a passion to be successful.”


On the other hand, Jim notes that not everyone is suited to working remotely. “When we’re talking to the individual job candidates, we do stress that working from home isn’t for everybody. I would consider the opportunity to work remotely to be a great employee benefit, a perk if they can be disciplined enough.”

The Spillover Effect that Remote Work is having on Corporate Office Design

As we saw at NeoCon 2018, the mashup of residential design influences and commercial office furniture design, collectively known as the “resimertial,” continues apace. We want to ask Jim what he thought about the current “resimertial” design trend as well as any other furniture design trends he’s spotted.


“If you look this resimercial trend, as they’re calling it, it looks to me like they are they’re trying to recreate the remote worker’s environment inside an office,” Jim notes. “They’re trying to build office environments that are more comfortable, just like home.”


That’s an excellent point. The resimertial trend could indeed have originated with remote workers.


Jim also sees a generational shift at work as well, which he feels may be quite significant in the long term. “If you look at our industry, at the independent representation, and you look at the dealer principals across the country, they’re a very senior group. There is a gap between that senior level individual in our industry and the much younger Millennials,” says Jim. He predicts the changes from this generational shift will ultimately be much more impactful than whether an individual company employs remote workers or not. The Millennials and Gen Z workers want to make their mark – by pushing for major design changes in the office environment, such as introducing campus-style, open offices.

Predictions for the Future: Will the Remote Work Trend Grow until it Becomes the Default Way of Working?

In closing, we had one final question to ask Jim: What’s the future of remote working? Is it a trend that will reach a certain penetration among employers and stop growing, or will most of us work remotely at some point in the future?


Jim Palmitier doesn’t think will happen any time soon, for a couple of reasons.


First, he doesn’t foresee a “one-size-fits-all” employment model that favors one way of working over the other. “I think the remote worker is more of a cultural thing for each individual company. For some organizations, working remotely is going to be a leading principle in their company’s work culture while, for other companies, it won’t be.”


Second, Jim notes that, at most companies, there may be an upper limit on how many jobs can be performed working remotely. “When you think about the remote worker and you look at the job titles the remote workers hold, many of them are more of your customer-facing individuals, more so than what I would call the internal type employees, such as production or support staff. We’re a little bit unique at MRL because our production staff is remote, which is possible because we have a virtual, cloud-based product. Not every company is the same.”


On that basis, Jim Palmitier doesn’t think that remote working will become a near-universal standard, at least not in the near future. If it were, we’d see major structural changes in the office furniture market due to the shift toward home offices. We haven’t seen that happen yet. Jim agrees: “I don’t think that the trend of remote employment will have an immediate negative impact on the industry.”


But in closing, we can make our own prediction: we think we’ll continue to see growth in resimertial-style furniture, as corporate offices continue to emulate the comforts of working from home.


We’d like to thank Jim Palmitier of MyResourceLibrary for the generous amount of time he spent with us, and we hope the conversation with Formaspace Office has been useful.

At Formaspace Office, If You Can Imagine It, We Can Build It.

Formaspace Office doesn’t just manufacture furniture for employees working in your corporate office, we can also create custom furniture designed for your employees working remotely at home.


So remember, whether you’re at the office or working from home, Formaspace Office has the right solution for you.


Check out our line of executive office furniture for inspiration.

Weldmarx Private Office

Or try our free Virtual Furniture Design, an interactive 3D design tool that allows you to build photorealistic 3D models of your Formaspace Office furniture online.


If you can imagine it, we can build it.


We offer a full line of standard, customized, and one-of-a-kind, fully bespoke office furniture – all made in America at our Austin, Texas factory headquarters.


That’s why customers, such as Apple, Busch, Capital One, Google, Parabola, Twitter, and Yeti choose Formaspace Office.


Why not contact one of our friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultants today for a free consultation. They can help you find the right custom solution to make your office work more efficient and enjoyable, whether you are in the office or working remotely from home!


Want to discover the latest contract furniture and office design trends at NeoCon 2018? Join our discussion as we recap the coolest and hottest trends on display at the Chicago Merchandise Mart as NeoCon celebrates its golden anniversary.NeoCon 2018 Exterior

Didn’t get a chance to attend NeoCon 50th anniversary exhibition in Chicago?


No worries. We’ve got you covered. Our Formaspace Office team not only met with hundreds of independent reps, dealers, architects, and interior designers at our booth on the seventh floor of the Chicago Merchandise Mart to discover what the ‘buzz’ was at the show, but we also took the opportunity to walk the entire exhibition to see firsthand which design trends — including new concepts, new colors, and new material applications — stood out from the crowd.


We also wanted to find out if the predictions made by our expert panel prior to NeoCon were on target. As we’ll see in a few moments, the answer was a qualified ‘yes’ — yet there were still quite a few surprises in store at NeoCon 2018 that we didn’t anticipate.


Let’s jump right into the commentary, starting with Frank Bucher, Formaspace Office’s Executive Vice President of Sales.



Executive Vice President of Sales, Formaspace Office

Frank Bucher

We had an opportunity catch up with Frank after he had toured the exhibitions at NeoCon 2018 to find out if our pre-show predictions were on the mark. “Yes,” he replied, “for the most part, yes. As predicted before the show, we saw a wide variety of campus style, open office furniture solutions, as well as partitions and other solutions addressing the need for privacy.”


One of the new concepts addressing this issue that caught Frank’s attention was the mobile office pods from Nook; these allow teams to collaborate in a semiprivate zone within a larger open office environment.

Prior to the show, our experts predicted that the resi-mercial office furniture trend would continue to grow. They also predicted we could expect to see office designs inspired by “French farmhouses” with pastoral imagery.


“I’d agree that, at NeoCon, the resi-mercial office design trend continued to build momentum. But what really surprised me at NeoCon 2018 was the strong resurgence of mid-century, modern design influences as well as the return of bold colors, neither of which I was expecting to see. Steelcase’s Mackinac series was a great example of this.”


Steelcase modern office

Steelcase Mackinac series, photo by 


Jodi Gaines Linkedin

Brand Manager, Formaspace Office 

Jodi Gaines

Jodi Gaines agrees with Frank Bucher that our pre-show predictions did not anticipate the strong influence of mid-century modern and Scandinavian design elements at NeoCon 2018.


“Other than a few products that were launched in previous years, farmhouse and industrial inspired designs were out of the picture — so that prediction did not come true. Resi-mercial designs, however, continued strong, as well as a surprising return of furniture inspired by mid-century modern and Scandinavian designs. Bold colors were also seen throughout the show, making for a much more playful and brighter environment than in previous years.”


“We also saw many new products around space division, privacy, sound attenuation — including many privacy ’phone booths’ and sound control solutions for open offices. I was really intrigued by the living walls that use actual live moss to control unwanted ambient sound in the office.”

Pixels moss wall

Scandinavian Spaces Pixel is a living wall sound absorption product make with living moss. A Best of NeoCon 2018 winner.


Corey Hutchins Linkedin

National Sales Manager, Formaspace Office

Corey Hutchins

Like Jodi Gaines, Corey Hutchins was also fascinated by the living wall solutions that Incorporated live moss. “It was probably the most intriguing solution for sound control that I saw at NeoCon, one of many products on display designed to reduce ambient noise within the increasingly popular campus-style, open office environments.”


“I was also surprised by all the in-office pod designs that companies were showcasing at NeoCon. They are an interesting solution in that they provide a private (or semi-private) place to work, AND they can cut down on the ambient noise that can be a problem when working in open offices. Time will tell if these will become commonplace in the office or not.”


What about next-generation on-line furniture ordering tools?


One of our pre-show predictions was that the furniture ordering process needs to move to the next level; in other words, ordering contract furniture needs to be a simple process, even when making custom material and color choices. Corey feels this prediction was right, based on the very positive feedback Formaspace Office received at the booth when demonstrating our new 3D Virtual Furniture Designer. It allows the user to create instant photo-realistic 3D renderings on demand directly from the Formaspace Office website. No more needing to call in for renderings, you can create as many variations as you need until you find the combination of colors, materials, and accessories that are right for you.


Other trends that caught Corey’s eye (aside for a remote controlled beer cooler!) were the continued popularity of incorporating hardwood materials in furniture designs as well as the extensive use of bright colors.


David Howerton LinkedIn

Business Development Executive, Formaspace Office

David Howerton, IIDA

Bold color throughout NeoCon 2018 was a trend that got the attention of Formaspace Office’s Business Development Executive, David Howerton, who’s based in the SF Bay area.


“I felt that bold, exciting colors were a major trend at NeoCon this year. Some of the outstanding examples included the Heathered Hues carpet fibers from the Mohawk Groupbright fabric colors from HBF Textiles, and dramatic color applications from KnollTextiles. Probably my favorite color trend was the electric lime green color — used in movable Glide glass panels from Clarus Glassboard and also found in the Pixel living moss wall (mentioned earlier) from Scandinavian Spaces.”


Robbie Sutkay linkedin

Intern, Formaspace Office

Robbie Sutkay

Robbie Sutkay comes to Formaspace Office from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, just north of Chicago in Evanston, so he’s very familiar with the Chicagoland area. Yet this was his very first visit to NeoCon.


What struck Robbie was the great positive energy surrounding the show, and the Formaspace Office booth in particular. What created the most excitement? “Visitors to our booth were enthralled by our shuffleboard. They just couldn’t take their eyes off it!” says Robbie. “People were intrigued by the Formaspace Office story as well — a home-grown American manufacturing company that can build large quantities of custom-designed products that really stand out from the crowd. As a grad student pursuing my MBA, I found the spontaneous, positive comments from the booth visitors very encouraging.”


formaspace office gallery panel

Custom Wave Pattern Gallery Panel


Brooke Turner LinkedIn

Marketing Associate, Formaspace Office

Brooke Turner

In the lead up to NeoCon, Brooke Turner was busy conducting market research as well as orchestrating our pre-show panel of experts who went out on a limb to predict which trends that would be on display at NeoCon 2018.


So how does Brooke feel about the panel’s predictions now?


“I have to congratulate our panel, I think they were pretty close to the mark. For example, as predicted, we saw lots of resi-mercial product offerings that bring the comforts of home to the office. A great example of this was the new Dado line of modular sofas created by Alfredo Häberli (distributed by Andreu World). For me, the Dado line epitomizes the marriage of residential and office design trends. The generous proportions of the upholstered cushions remind me of an overstuffed sofa you might find in the home, yet the thin, taut lines of the color-contrasting welting help give it the professional presence of a serious piece of office furniture.”


“While I would say Dado represents a great example of resi-mercial design, its low-stance proportions also speak to mid-century modern design sensibilities. In fact, I also agree that mid-century modern inspired designs were a huge trend at NeoCon 2018 — something that our panel did not anticipate!”


“I especially liked how designers were picking up on certain elements of mid-century modern — especially the thin, delicate wooden legs or wire base designs found in lighting, seating, and furniture applications. Keilhauer’s new Untucked line, which won the overall Best of NeoCon award, is a great example of this kind of mid-century modern revival, and I like how it also fits squarely within the ongoing resi-mercial office design trend as well.”


Benjamin Tovar LinkedIn

Industrial Design Engineer, Formaspace Office

Benjamin Tovar

Benjamin Tovar, an Industrial Design Engineer at Formaspace Office echoes Brooke’s observation that mid-century design was on the march again at NeoCon 2018.


The fact that quite a few manufacturers exhibited chairs constructed from bent plywood — reminiscent of famous furniture designs by Charles and Ray Eames — was exciting news for Benjamin Tovar. “I think my favorite thing at the show was all the plywood. It’s a material I use heavily in my personal fabrication projects. I love it!”


Among the standout mid-century modern designs using plywood materials was the Ginkgo Ply Lounge series created by Jehs+Laub (for Davis Furniture Industries). “I liked how their chair forms made a subtle nod to the shape of the ginkgo leaf,” said Tovar. “It’s very natural and refreshing. I also was interested in the Legacy bent plywood collection from Thonet as well as the Twirl line from Encore Seating. The Twirl chairs have a wrap-around cantilevered back that’s reminiscent of early nineteen thirties art deco chairs, but the plywood materials and color schemes are very mid-century modern.”


As an industrial designer, Tovar was also drawn to the vendors exhibiting custom hardware components at NeoCon 2018. “It almost felt like a Maker Faire with all the different hardware pieces on display. I was really intrigued by the offerings from vendors like Mockett, who displayed interesting, specialized furniture hardware at their booth.”


Brett Gray LinkedIn

Project Manager, Formaspace Office

Brett Gray

Brett Gray, Project Manager at Formaspace Office, took note of the different ways that manufacturers at NeoCon 2018 were addressing the privacy and sound control issues arising from today’s popular campus-style, open office working environments.


“Creating a sense of privacy in an open office space was one of the ideas that drove the development of our own Formaspace Office Hackable Gallery Panels that we introduced in our booth at NeoCon,” says Brett Gray.


“We felt there was a real need to segment off semi-private work zones within the larger open office context, which is why I think these Gallery Panels were so well received at the show,” said Brett Gray.


“Our Hackable Gallery Panels also lend themselves to unique customization opportunities that can really reinforce a company’s brand message. For example, if the company has a graphic branding element they want to incorporate into the panels, we can take the design information and perform a precise custom laser cut during the manufacturing process at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.”


Gray was also intrigued by other privacy solutions at NeoCon 2018. “Like Frank Bucher mentioned earlier, I was intrigued by the booth style solutions from Nook. There were also intriguing telephone booth solutions, such as the freestanding “glassEnclose” booths from Carvart, and the Speakspace collection from Unika Vaev — some of which literally look like futuristic phone booths.”


“There were a variety of other privacy/acoustic solutions as well. For me, the Hip Hop High Back by Arold (distributed by Groupe Lacasse) felt like a classic, elegant design. I was interested in some of the “wilder” privacy concepts at NeoCon as well. Examples that caught my attention were the Gazebo by Nienkämper, which brings what looks like an outdoor greenhouse into the office, as well as the many inventive privacy-oriented products exhibited by Buzzi Space, many of which have a pop-art vibe that would feel at home on the spaceship set of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.”


Aaron Stoneburner LinkedIn

Lead Design, Formaspace Office

Aaron Stoneburner

Aaron Stoneburner, a Lead Designer at Formaspace Office, was pleased with the many natural earth elements.


“We got a very strong positive reaction at the show from our live edge credenza,” says Aaron. “Overall, I was pleased to see so many ‘natural earth’ elements at the show, as I’m a big fan of using natural elements, from reclaimed wood to live edge, to the living walls with natural moss that were mentioned earlier.


“I think that the current popularity for natural wood materials is the underlying reason behind the resurgence of the mid-century modern language. They go so well together with one reinforcing the other. It also speaks to the sustainability aspect of our industry — using reclaimed wood, e.g. upcycling, is an earth-friendly way to make a strong, eco-friendly statement.”


“A design that I’d like to give a shout out to is the Looper Bench seating concept from Michael Graves Design (distributed by David Edward). These come in a series of two, five, or seven ‘loops’ to form seating for one to four people — or more if you gang them together. They have a strong geometric presence.”


“The Looper Bench reminds me of another riff on the office privacy solutions that Brett Gray mentioned earlier — I’m talking about the LimbusBarn & Fences collection from Glimakra of Sweden. Now I realize this product that was not on display at NeoCon 2018, but I hope we’ll see it later in the year at the upcoming ORGATEC show in Cologne Germany. Like Looper Benches, the LimbusBarn & Fences collection uses very simple wooden forms set in playful geometric designs to create privacy dividers and semi-enclosed collaboration workspaces.”


Jeff Turk LinkedIn

Chief Executive Officer, Formaspace Office

Jeff Turk

Our mantra at Formaspace Office is “If you can imagine it, we can build it.”


“What does that mean in practice? It means we can manufacture the widest possible spectrum of office furniture at our Austin, Texas factory headquarters – spanning the gamut from our standard office furniture lines to our semi-customized furniture options, to our fully bespoke, completely custom-made signature furniture projects.”


“It was imperative for our team to bring our best work to NeoCon’s golden anniversary, starting with custom Weldmarx XII made with a gorgeous live-edge top made of pecan wood.


To show off our custom manufacturing capabilities, we also created a second variation fitted with a set of open, high-back, live-edge shelves, also fashioned out of pecan wood.”


“We also wanted address the need for establishing privacy in open office concepts – a major trend we spotted at NeoCon 2018. This is where our Hackable Gallery Panels come in. Thanks to our custom manufacturing capabilities, architects and designers can create unique, custom branding elements within each panel – allowing you to incorporate client logos or other design elements that reinforce your client’s brand.”


“Health and wellness at the office continues to be a major concern. We brought our latest version of our Sit-to-Stand desks to NeoCon; these have the unique ability to raise your entire worksurface as a one unit, which is much less disruptive than solutions which only raise part of the desk. The custom Weldmarx Sit-to-Stand desk version we brought to the show incorporates the same type of metal design details in the privacy screen as seen in the Hackable Gallery Panels.”


“I was also pleased by the reaction of our customers, including Google and other Silicon Valley clients, whom we brought over to see the special projects we had on display at our Formaspace Office booth. Our custom shuffleboard game was a huge hit – I think this piece is just gorgeous — people wanted to place orders for this game table right away.”


formaspace office shuffleboard table

Formaspace Office Custom Shuffleboard Table


Keep Up with the latest Trends at Formaspace Office


We hope you’ve found our roundup of the hottest and coolest trends at NeoCon 2018 useful.


Stay in touch with Formaspace Office to keep up with the latest trends as we visit ORGATEC in Cologne, Germany this coming October 23 – 27, 2018.


If you can imagine it, we can build it.


Formaspace Office is your source for custom-made, trend-setting furniture built just for you in our Austin, Texas headquarters. Turn to our experts when you need furniture that expresses your client’s brand message.


formaspace office neocon 2018

Contact your friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultant today to learn why leading companies, such as Oculus, Toyota, Busch, Yeti, Apple, Google, Twitter, Capital One, and Parabola are Formaspace Office customers.


There’s a revolution taking place in today’s corporate cafeterias. Leading companies, such as Apple, Google, Twitter, and Wells Fargo, are transforming the once forgotten corporate cafeteria into gourmet show places offering healthy, chef-prepared meals that rival upscale commercial restaurants. Why are these companies investing in these types of amenities? We take a look at the reasons behind this growing trend and how it could affect your cafeteria


How Did Office Cafeterias Go Gourmet?

If we could go back 30 years to ask the question: “What’s your favorite office cafeteria or restaurant?” we probably would have gotten quite a few blank stares in response. Such was the state of affairs for the much-maligned office cafeteria in those days.


Someone might’ve suggested the United States Senate dining room at the Capitol in Washington, DC — where politicians, lobbyists, and reporters rubbed shoulders (wearing formal jackets and dresses of course, per the dress code). But, despite the high-power guests and Federalist decor, the menu selections were as uninspiring as the signature Senate Bean Soup, which has been on offer each day for more than a hundred years.


The situation today is altogether different. As we’ll see below, hardly a month goes by without a major announcement of a new corporate cafeteria opening up that rivals anything in the local restaurant scene.


But like most revolutions, this transformation didn’t happen overnight. To get where we are today took a journey of more than two decades, starting with a new cafe concept in the San Francisco Bay area.


If you’re thinking about Alice Waters and her groundbreaking Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, you’re not far off. Waters has single-handedly helped develop the modern American palette and our appetite for eating locally grown food.


But there is another figure who helped transform the lackluster world of corporate and institutional cafeterias into the modern gourmand era, the restaurant entrepreneur Fedele Bauccio.

Larry Ellison, the co-founder of the software database giant Oracle, gave Bauccio his first big break in the corporate catering world of Silicon Valley, selecting his company to create a paninonteca, or Italian sandwich shop. Soon Bauccio’s company, Bon Appetit Management Company, opened a series of different cafe offerings at Oracle, each featuring a different cuisine.


Over time, Bon Appetit’s concept of providing high-quality, locally-sourced food took root all across Silicon Valley. The company now operates more than 500 corporate cafeterias at leading tech companies, including Adobe, eBay, Google, LinkedIn, and Yahoo. At Google’s Mountain View headquarters alone, Bon Appetit operates more than 30 different cafes.


The Top 5 Reasons You Should Introduce Healthy Food Options in Your Office

Is the trend toward upgrading corporate cafeterias on your radar?


We look at five reasons you might want to make the switch to offering healthier food options in the office.


1. Cafeterias That Support Your Brand Message Are Becoming an Essential Talent Recruiting Tool

Given the ongoing shortage of tech talent, leading tech and finance companies are making an investment in cafe amenities to build up their brand as a cool place to work.


Twitter office cafeteria

Twitter hospitality tables for their cafeteria/ lounge space

The resulting transformation of the once mundane corporate cafeteria into a “must try” food destination hasn’t gone unnoticed in the culinary, restaurant, and foodservice industry, as this deep dive article by Bon Appetit (the magazine, not Fedele Bauccio’s company!) explains:


“Where boomers were swayed by sturdy 401-k plans and reliable retirement packages, today’s labor force—particularly those interested in tech-y and internet jobs—are wooed by snacks, sustainability, and farm-to-cubicle ethics. And these companies are happy to keep them at the office longer, both in the span of a day and the span of a career.”


In other words, Millennials and Gen Z employees prefer to start their careers at companies that cater (pardon the pun) to their needs and desires, which skew toward workplaces with college campus-inspired open office environments, sustainable business practices, and healthy food choices.


Among these aspirations, it’s the latter one, healthy food choices, that often winds up as the most talked about amenity shared among their peers on social media. Indeed, Instagrammable food pics send a signal to their friends and followers (who, in turn, represent a significant pool of potential job recruits) that company X, Y or Z “is a cool place to work, just look at the food! #delicious.”


Here are three recent corporate “cafe openings” in just the past few months that have caught our attention:



The database company that gave Bauccio his big break recently opened a new 560,000 square foot college-style campus in Austin, TX that features a cafeteria with eight different menu stations, from barbeque to Indian/Asian food.


Wells Fargo

Financial giant Wells Fargo recently opened up newly renovated cafeteria for its 5,000 employees in St. Louis that replaced the dark food service area built in the 1980s. It’s now a showcase amenity that features highly on recruiter visits with prospective new hires.


Koch Industries

In Wichita, KS, the new Café Koch serves more than 3,500 employees at the Koch Industries headquarters, which offers a range of West-coast inspired menu items, including their highly popular home-made street tacos offered on Fridays.


2. Skip Sad Desk Lunches. Use Mealtimes to Converse and Collaborate with Colleagues at Work

In a world where we are trying to kick-start worker productivity by encouraging spontaneous collaborations, corporate cafeterias offer a unique opportunity to connect with your co-workers while you savor your meal (and digest properly, which is crucial for good health!).


By investing in a central eating location, companies can avoid the food diaspora that occurs at lunchtime. At lunchtime, a certain percentage of employees head for the exits to partake in a longish lunch at some local establishment, while another group hovers worryingly around the kitchen mess, waiting for their moment to get a chance to heat up their salty microwave meal before they muddle through another “sad desk lunch.”


What a missed opportunity.


If you are concerned about lack of communication and missed opportunities for collaboration among your employees, then you should consider an investment in a new or upgraded cafeteria.


It can also help improve productivity by reducing those “long lunches” off campus. A recent study by Towers Watson indicates that having food available at work can save employees between 30 and 60 minutes at lunchtime.


Not sure how to go about it? Talk to one of our friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultants who will share their experience of creating cafeteria furniture for leading companies, such as Busch and Twitter.


Busch lounge cafeteria

Busch break room furniture of their lounge cafeteria


3. Good Nutrition is a Cornerstone of Good Employee Health

Companies have a reason to be concerned about their employee’s health, particularly due to the alarming increase in incidences of obesity and diabetes that are affecting American workers.


Increasing the activity of your workers at the office is part of the solution.


Getting up and moving around during the day is important; in fact, the negative health aspects of sitting for hours at a time has given rise to the phrase “Sitting is the New Smoking.” That’s why we recommend taking a look at our line of Sit-to-Stand desks, workstations, and conference tables. These innovative furniture designs allow you to change your seating position during the day, from sitting in a chair to standing, in order to improve your cardiovascular health. Taking breaks and walking throughout the day is also part of the solution, including taking a walk to the cafeteria.

Wledmarx I Height Adjustable Desk

Weldmarx I Sit To Stand Desk


Having a cafeteria on site is another way to help your employees live a healthier lifestyle.


Onsite cafeterias will encourage your employees to eat regular meals throughout the day. Research shows many Americans skip meals entirely during the workday. Serving proper portions of healthy food on a regular time schedule can help prevent/control obesity and diabetes.


You can also help “nudge” employees to avoid excessive calories by offering smaller plate sizes (which make us feel fuller with the same caloric intake) as well as changing the menu and recipe choices. (More about that in the next section.)


Consider reinforcing healthy eating choices in the cafeteria with other wellness programs, such as an onsite gym or workout facility.


For many employees, using a fitness app, such as MyFitnessPal, LoseIt or FitBit, can help reinforce calorie control and encourage a healthy, active lifestyle.

networking ping pong table


4. Rethink Food Offerings to Provide Healthier, More Sustainable Options

Companies like Google are taking the concept of calorie control a step further.


For example, the recipe for hamburgers offered at their cafeterias has slowly shifted to include more plant-based ingredients, such as mushrooms.


And healthier vegan choices are promoted more prominently on menus to encourage eating less meat. (Research shows that menu design can nudge us toward healthier choices.)


It’s all part of Google’s overall plan to reduce the company’s impact on the planet by reducing consumption of livestock, dairy, and egg production that contributes to global carbon emissions.


What can you do at your company?


From birthday cakes to pizza parties, the office makes it difficult for individuals to control calories and make good nutrition choices. One place to start is by replacing sugary and high-caloric snacks with healthy alternatives. Phase out cakes and “treats” with healthy alternatives that have less sugar and more nutrient content. Eliminate pastries and other “treats” provided during long office meetings with healthy alternatives based on fruit and vegetables.


What about snacking throughout the day?


Snacking is not inherently bad. In fact, some nutritionists recommend we eat many smaller mini-meals throughout the day rather than two or three big meals. But we need to eliminate the temptation of sugary late afternoon snacks. Swap out the vending machine and replace it with healthy snack choices.


What if you don’t have a cafeteria at your office?


If you don’t have an office cafeteria, you can organize healthy potlucks where people bring healthy food options from home. For example, a salad club encourages each participating person to bring a special salad topping or side dish.


5. Teach Gardening, Food Preparation, and Cooking Skills for a Healthier Lifestyle at the Office and in the Community

Companies like Adobe and Google are now going beyond just providing healthy food in the cafeteria — they are using their kitchens as teaching tools to educate their employees about the food we eat.


Employees can participate in cooking classes taught by corporate chefs in specially designed kitchens that mimic the type of residential kitchen the employees have at home. These classes go beyond just recipes, they include learning about where food comes from (especially locally-sourced produce), how to be an educated food shopper, and, of course, how to cook healthy recipes at home.


In addition to helping their own employees eat healthier meals, many companies are starting to get involved in helping their surrounding communities as well by promoting company gardens, rooftop gardens, and community garden partnerships.


This is an important effort, because many of today’s workers are very disconnected from food sources, instead, relying on pre-packaged, highly processed foods.


Companies can help by partnering with a local community garden (or hosting one on your property if space allows), participating in farmer “shares” programs, or arranging buying trips to local farmer markets.


For example, in the Boston area, Netscout Systems has created a garden where employees work in partnership with local community members to grow food. The produce grown in the garden is served in the corporate cafeterias, sent home to feed families, or donated to local food banks.


Boston Medical Center has a similar program, except in this case, their 7,000 square foot garden sits atop the roof of one of their main buildings. It’s not a small operation, this garden is expected to produce 15,000 pounds of food for the hospital’s food services food pantry and meals served to patients.


Blue Cross Blue Shield in Massachusetts has two 3,500 square foot gardens (one in Hingham and one in Quincy). According to an employee survey, 85% of those working in the gardens reported an improved mood as well as interest in starting a garden of their own at home.


Programs such as these encourage your employees to become healthy food advocates in the communities where they live. You can reinforce this message by offering healthy food from your company garden to visitors and partner companies attending meetings at your facilities.


Create a Healthier Lifestyle at Work with Formaspace Office Furniture

Are you inspired to create a healthier place for your employees to work?

formaspace team 2018

So are we.


If you can imagine it, we can build it — at our Austin, Texas headquarters.


To learn more about our cafeteria and employee lounge solutions, contact one of our friendly Formaspace Office Design Consultants today.


You’ll find out why leading companies, including Apple, Busch, Capital One, Google, Oculus, Parabola, SpaceX, Toyota, and Twitter, choose Formaspace Office for their office, cafeteria, and lounge furniture.


During a time when the nature of work is changing rapidly, it’s more important than ever to keep on top of the latest office workplace trends. That’s why we’re pleased to announce the results of Formaspace Office’s first annual industry-wide survey of employee satisfaction at work, which takes a look at worker attitudes toward maintaining a good work/life balance, ways to increase office productivity, as well as how to attract new hires while motivating and retaining your existing employees.

formaspace team 2018

The idea for an annual industry-wide survey of employee satisfaction at work came to us thanks to a conversation we had with a customer who was visiting our Formaspace Office booth at the 2017 NeoCon contract furniture exhibition in Chicago last year. Given the rapidly changing nature of today’s office work, which has been fueled by the revolution in mobile communication devices and flexible office layouts, we felt it would be useful to track the evolving attitudes of office workers across the spectrum of different industries and different generations.

We reached out to a select group of Formaspace customers and industry colleagues to invite them participates in the survey, which was conducted online over a 30-day period in February and March. We were pleased to get participation from a very wide spectrum of industries; over 25 different industry sectors are represented, with job functions spanning more than a dozen different office departments. (For details on which industries and department functions were represented, see the appendix at the end of this article.)

We’d like to extend a big thank you to all of you who participated. We’d also like to announce that we have one lucky winner, T. Powers, representing the late millennial generation, who will be receiving a $100 Amazon gift card as part of our lucky draw for survey participants.


t powers - contest winner


Now let’s jump into the results of our First Annual Industry-Wide Work-Like Awareness Survey by Formaspace.


1. Making a Good First Impression: What do Job Applicants Look for in a New Company

Attracting new talent is a major challenge for many companies today, especially in high demand sectors, such as programming and other tech fields which require STEM skills. Ongoing Baby Boomer retirements are only making the problem worse.

So we wanted to know which benefits or amenities resonated with our survey respondents when they were asked to identify elements that would attract their attention when searching for a new position.

Flexible hours at work was the top response.

Natural lighting and the design aesthetic of the office were the second and third ranked responses. The survey also indicated that collaborative spaces, huddle rooms, and ergonomically-designed workspaces were rated as important by many. Amenities, such as on-site gyms, laundry services, as well as free lunches or snacks ranked highly as well.

What workplace elements make a company for attractive when you are searching for a new job?


*   Generational Insight: Offering Flexible Hours was the top response across all generations of respondents.


2. Where Do Workers Prefer to Work? At the Office or at Home? In Collaborative Spaces or Private Offices?

After many years of companies moving toward allowing their employees to work from remote locations, there are signs that this trend is either slowing down or, in some cases, reversing, as evidenced by policy changes by large employers, such as IBM.

We wanted to find out what our respondents thought about this issue.

As you can see in the Generational Insight note below the chart, a majority of Millennials prefer to work in the office rather than off-site.

Do you prefer to work in the office or at a remote location, such as at home?



*   Generational Insight: 58% of Millennials said they preferred to work on-site, while 53% of Gen Xers responded that they want to work remotely. This supports our other observations that Millennials want to work together in teams rather than be independent.

Here at Formaspace Office, many of our customers in the high-tech startup arena have commissioned us to build furniture installations for open office layouts that feature a combination of individual desks, group worktables, conferencing areas, communal break rooms, and cafeterias, as well as impromptu lounge seating areas.

We wanted to learn about the workspace preferences among our industry-wide respondents.

Which type of office layout is your ideal workspace?


*   Survey Insight: Nearly 50% of all respondents wanted to work in an assigned desk space with additional options to work flexibly within the office.


3. Which Workplace Elements do Workers Believe Will Make Them More Productive in the Office? What about Support for Electronic Devices and Providing Dedicated Team Work Areas?

To learn more about attitudes toward productivity in the office, we asked our survey participants to identify all of the workplace elements they felt would make them more productive at their job.

The responses were generally similar to those from the question we asked about elements you would look for if you were applying for a position at a new company.

Among the differences, having an ergonomic workspace setup is ranked higher (65% vs. 48%) here, e.g. when people are asked about their current office productivity needs, versus the question about what would be attractive about working at a new company. (This is possibly due to people being more aware of what their day-to-day issues are at their current workplace.)

Which workplace elements would make you more productive in the office?


*   Generational Insight: There was no meaningful difference between generations in response to the question on flexible hours; it was the top response among all generations.


How important is it for your daily work routine to be able to switch easily between mobile devices, personal computers, and collaboration area display monitors?

We wanted to know more about the value to workers of investing in mobile device technology that allows you to switch seamlessly between different devices throughout the day. As shown in the generational insight note below, Millennials are most likely to find this to be important.


*   Generational Insight: As a group, the Millennial generation expressed the greatest preference for having easily accessible mobile electronics in the office. This is not surprising considering they are Digital Natives.


How important is it to have a dedicated area in the office for your team/project group to meet and work together?

Architects, space planners, and designers need to know how important it is to allocate floor space for project teams to collaborate. According to our survey, most respondents found these collaborative work areas important to very important.


4. Does Attending Multiple Meetings During the Day Impact Productivity?

Anecdotal evidence had led us to believe that the issue of having multiple meetings in a day was a contentious one, with many feeling that having too many meetings crimps on productivity, while others feel that open communication leads to productivity gains.

In our survey, the responses were fairly evenly distributed with a greater number of people indicating they felt that having multiple meetings mildly negative to negative impact on their daily productivity.

Do multiple meetings throughout the day make you less productive in the office?


5. What Are the Main Issues Aggravating Workers and/or Causing Low Employee Morale?

Since this survey is confidential, participants were fairly open in expressing which issues are on their minds.

Low compensation was the top issue, followed by slow promotion processes and limited career growth opportunities.

Interestingly, for us, as manufacturers of ergonomic furniture, we take a great interest that the lack of ergonomic office furniture and other office design issues was the third-ranked issue facing our survey participants.

What issues are causing trouble for you at work?


6. How Do Employees View Working After Office Hours Versus the Need to Maintain a Life/Work Balance?

We wanted to know how employees felt about achieving a balance between life outside of work and their career.

More than two-thirds of our respondents said that a good work/life balance was important to them.

Attitude toward achieving a good work/life balance


*   Survey Insight: the vast majority of respondents (67%) express a desire to maintain a work/life balance

However, we wanted to test this assumption by asking a follow-up question concerning the attitude toward answering work emails outside of office hours. The result was the same: over two-thirds of the respondents felt that responding to email after office hours was okay.

We’ll want to explore this further with additional questions in a future survey to understand more about this.

Attitude toward answering work email after office hours


*   Survey Insight: Despite the majority of respondents wanting to maintain a life/work balance, the same percentage (67%) felt comfortable with answering emails after work hours.


7. What are the Ideal Characteristics and Qualities of a Manager from the Employee Point of View?

An employee’s relationship with their manager can make or break their relationship with the company they work for.

When describing the ideal characteristics and qualities of a manager, Trustworthiness, Availability and Responsiveness, and the Ability to give Credit and Recognize Employees Successes were the top three responses in our survey.

What qualities do you seek in a manager?


8. Are Fun Activities, such as Games, Held during the Office Workday an Important Perk for Employees?

High visibility startups in Silicon Valley helped kick the trend off toward having fun activities and games during work hours.

We wanted to find out from our survey participants how important this was to them at their office.

The results were mixed with most responses clustered around what could be termed mildly important.

How important is it to have fun activities in the office during work hours?


What is your view of having “perks,” such as games, in the office?

We asked a follow-up question about having perks, such as games in the office.

Nearly half of the respondents had no opinion. But among those who did, the verdict was fairly evenly split, with a slight majority maintaining that games in the office were distracting.


9. Worker Views on their Individual Career Goals and Motivating Factors for Employee Retention, such as Career Advancement and Compensation Issues

Other research has shown that employees will change jobs more often than in the past, so we wanted to know a little bit more about what motivates workers, starting with learning about their individual career goals.

Interestingly, the top response was to work with good colleagues and avoid stress in their lives. This was a very surprising result.

How would you describe your career goal?


Next, we asked respondents to indicate all of the elements that they felt would influence their job loyalty.

The insights here are useful for HR departments looking to implement job retention programs.

The relationship with their manager or management team was the top result, followed by benefits packages and annual pay raises.

Which elements impact your job loyalty?


*   Survey Insight: More than 70% of all respondents said that annual pay raises and good benefits packages affect job loyalty. This was only exceeded by the impact of effective management and relationship they have with their manager.

As we mentioned above, other research sources indicate that people are moving between jobs more often throughout their career than previously. We wanted to see if this was reflected in the notion of loyalty.

It’s our impression that the top response, e.g. you can be considered a loyal employee with as little as 12 months of service, combined with the last response that 7% of this people felt that loyalty is not dependent on length of service at all, constitutes a major shift in our attitudes toward employee loyalty.

In your view, what length of service constitutes workplace loyalty?


*   Survey Insight: The majority of respondents (34%) felt that working for an employer for at least one year was a sufficient indication of loyalty. 3-5 years was the second largest response, at 24%.


Work with Formaspace for Effective Office Productivity Solutions

Here at Formaspace, we’re dedicated to finding ways to make your office more attractive, functional, and efficient.

We’re ready to share our expertise as a leading manufacturer of customizable and fully bespoke office furniture solutions — all built to order at our factory headquarters here in Austin, Texas.

You know the names of some of our famous customers, including Capital One, Twitter, and Google.

Talk to one of our friendly Formaspace Design Consultants today to learn how we can help you update or build an office environment that will help attract, motivate, and inspire your employees.

Appendix A: How the Formaspace Industry-Wide Survey of Employee Satisfaction at Work Was Conducted

The following chart of participants’ individual departmental roles shows there was a fairly broad spectrum of survey respondents.


The following table of industry sectors represented indicates there was a fairly broad spectrum of survey respondents.

What is the Industry Sector of Your Employer? Percentage
Manufacturing 19%
Wholesale or Retail 11%
Software 8%
College, University, and Adult Education 5%
Construction 5%
Finance and Insurance 5%
Health Care and Social Assistance 5%
Information Services and Data Processing 5%
Marketing, Communication, Public Relations 4%
Commercial Contract Furniture and Office Products 3%
Scientific or Technical Products or Services 3%
Architecture & Design 2%
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 2%
Computer and Electronics Manufacturing 2%
Government and Public Administration 2%
Sales 2%
Hospitality, Hotel and Food Services 2%
Recruiting and Human Resources 2%
Telecommunications and Utilities 2%
Transportation and Warehousing 2%
Aesthetic and Beauty Industry 1%
Military 1%
Mining 1%
Publishing or Broadcasting 1%
Real Estate, Rental, and Leasing 1%
Small-medium businesses 1%