At some companies, you’re more likely to see a unicorn prancing through the office than the CEO casually chatting with an employee. This wizard-behind-the curtain executive mentality is losing traction, as many organizations continue to see the value in open office plans.
The concept of an open office—where executives live and work among the masses—may seem cutting edge, but according to Herman Miller Workplace Strategist Margaret Serrato, the idea is nothing new.
“If you look at images from offices from the 1880s, all the way up through probably 1940, you’ll see that everybody worked out at big tables,” Serrato says. “Some owners would have their own office, but,” Serrato added, “more often they’d simply have a roll-top desk to lock up the payroll at night.”
Why the continued interest in open-office plans? Research shows that locating executives near employees increases daily communication and speeds up the decision making process. The need for formal, time-consuming meetings decreases, and brilliant ideas hatch during cookie breaks, coffee pot chats, and lunchtime conversations. While most offices fall somewhere in the middle on the private-to-open spectrum, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the more open the office, the more collaborative and innovative employees and executives become.
For many technology, social media, and Internet companies, open office plans are integral to strategy. You won’t find their C-suite executives enshrined in inaccessible corner offices, blinds closed and doors locked. Executives are in the trenches, working at multi-person benches alongside everyone else, or even going completely mobile, working from a different location around the office each day. The resulting workplaces breed collaboration, invention, creativity, and fun.
Simply designed to communicate a message, posters are all too frequently the tools of advertisers. But under the direction of a keen eye and talented hands, posters have the power to spark action, elicit emotion, and join the ranks of art.
Transparency, executive visibility, and timely communication during major organizational changes can help employees understand high-level strategy and embrace change. The Campbell’s Soup Company exemplified these ideas during a recent headquarters renovation, and the results were as delicious as their soup.
A strong desire to provide an invigorating, supportive workplace for employees lead Campbell’s to create a LEED-NC Silver Employee Center packed with people-pleasing features, including a credit union, fitness center, company store, café, training center, and pilot workplace that would act as a test lab to inform future space planning.
Campbell’s, with help from Herman Miller, kept employees informed during the renovation process through information sessions, executive-lead panel discussions, and a café fair for employees to learn about the services provided in the new employee center. The result? The new employees center is a hit, and Campbell’s employees now embrace and even champion change instead of resisting it.
George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher, is a traveling exhibit exploring many facets of Nelson’s peculiar brand of genius, from furniture designs to urban planning to essays and criticism.
As Herman Miller Design Director from 1946-1972, Nelson believed a problem should never been viewed in isolation from the context in which it exists—the most important being people. He observed this to be “an approach that is more likely to create trends than follow them.” Nelson was right, and his philosophy drew the Eameses, Isamu Noguchi, and Alexander Girard to Herman Miller.
The exhibit runs until October at the Cranbrook Museum of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and marks one of just five stops in the U.S. for the extensive collection of artifacts and Nelson furniture.
Happy birthday Charles Eames! Born June 17, 1907, Charles would have been 105 years old this year. In celebration, we thought it would be fun to look back at Charles and his “monkey mind” by sharing a few paragraphs from an August 1959 Vogue magazine article. Vogue, being a fashion magazine, paid particular attention to Charles’ style.
“In spite of the whir of his mind and his life, Eames has a great inner quiet. A thin, tanned man, with brown gay eyes, deep laugh ruts, and a sudden stutter, he is a fascinating man. And clothes fascinate him, too. He likes to wear yellow-beiges, yellowish-greens, shirts of wonderful subtleties, roughly textured jackets, often with silver Navaho buttons which his wife, Ray, sews on a with special curved needle. These buttons are a partial clue to both the Eameses. They see the beauty in small oddities that others may miss. They are intensely practical. They work as partners, both designers, both filmmakers, both at ease in their life.”
“Charles, however, has a monkey mind that leaps about, exploring. He has great capacity to see, to think out problems as though no one had ever pondered them before…. Added to those qualities are his sense of structure and, finally, his wide keyboard, beyond the eighty-eight notes, of enthusiasms.”
Our bodies have a way of letting us know when they’re feeling uncomfortable. Stiff shoulders, sore neck, back pain, and eyestrain are all messages telling us that we’re are not working right.
Technology can be the culprit, forcing us into unhealthy postures. Laptops are wonderful; we’re untethered and free to work from anywhere. But that laptop screen is likely too low for everyday use. Before you know it, your neck is craning and your shoulders are hunched; you’ve become what Cynthia Roe Purvis, Ergonomics R&D Director at HP, calls the “Turtle.” You might even be sitting like a turtle right now and not even know it.
The key to comfort is listening to our bodies. Don’t stay in one posture for too long: sit, stand, and stretch, move around throughout the day. Combined with an ergonomic support tool like a Lapjack to lift your laptop’s screen to the proper height and an external keyboard, and in no time you’ll be feeling better. Your body will thank you for it.
Trained as an architect, but immensely multi-talented, Alexander Girard joined Herman Miller in 1952, serving as Director of Design for the Textile Division until 1973.
From his outpost in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Girard designed textiles, collections of wallpaper, decorative prints and wall hangings, an expansive group of furniture, and both decorative and useful objects. His passion for international folk art (or “toys” as he called them) led him around the globe, amassing a collection of roughly 106,000 pieces. Recognized for the diversity of his skills, Girard brought a unique vision to everything that he did.
Experience Girard’s way of seeing in Uncommon Vision, an ongoing exhibit of Girard’s textiles, graphics, furniture and interiors, along with personal artifacts. On display in our Chicago Showroom, located on the third floor of the Merchandise Mart, everyone is welcome to stop by and take a look.
Every year around this time in June, Herman Miller joins others in Chicago for NeoCon, a contract furniture tradeshow. Much like the major auto shows, this is when brands debut their new designs. This year we have some new treats on display. Explore the slideshow to learn more.
See what else we’re up to at NeoCon 2012, click here.
If your job were a game, would it be like Angry Birds? Or Whack-A-Mole? See how your answer compares with everyone else’s by taking the Community Pulse—thought-provoking questions on work, life, and that fuzzy area in-between.
You can answer just one question, or all of them. It’s up to you. After you answer each question, a real-time infographic will show you what the larger community is saying.
Join in the conversation by taking the Community Pulse, click here.