Work Design Magazine Competition Success!

Back in June, two teams from the SERA workplace studio submitted for an international competition hosted by Work Design Magazine. We are proud to announce that both submissions made it to the finals — one receiving an honorable mention, and the other named WINNER!  

With the ongoing pandemic, the competition posed a less idealistic question than designers are often challenged to answer: what will the next work environment look like in a world where Coronavirus remains a short-term, lethal threat? As much as we would all love to get past this tumultuous time, the competition challenged the teams to propose more immediate solutions and consider contemporary obstacles, such as social distancing, with the optimistic glimmer that we will soon get past this. So, what does that mean for the workplace? How might the interventions of today carry on as beautiful and functional solutions tomorrow? Well, we have some internationally recognized proposals to provide some answers to those questions!

The Challenge

Helping to steer the focus of responses toward different scales of solutions, the competition was broken up into seven categories and spotlighted areas such as a new workstation concept or new change management process. With SERA’s expertise in workplace planning and design, a group of designers divided and conquered in two categories: a 3,000 sf workspace suite, and the first floor lobby/amenity/common area of an office building. Each submission had unique requirements and challenges, but with over 700 entries from around the world, the SERA teams received high praise for their submissions, including a win! 

Before we dive into the winning entry, let’s take a look at the honorable mention — a concept for the 3,000 sf Office Suite category. Among the hundreds of entries, to be selected as finalists in both categories goes to show that we’ve got our heads in the game to tackle our Coronavirus opponent not only with masks and socially-distanced muscle, but with strategy and creativity.

HONORABLE MENTION: Playing Games at Work

View our submission “Playing Games at Work”

Limited to a 3,000 sf office suite, the team was challenged to determine the program by studying the number of people that could work within the given limit as well as determine any collaborative or support functions. Locating the suite within a larger office was allowed, and it could either be open to other spaces or be self-contained in a business suite. For our entry, an existing building was utilized to establish the basis for the board-game concept that helped land us in the finals. Four key assumptions guided our thought process and informed our solutions: working from home is here to stay; the office is meant for high value interactions; office space must be flexible, adaptable, scalable and resilient; and solutions should be project-based, not product-based.

A Real-Time Solution

Rather than a defined design, this submission proposed a real-time design process modeled as a game that teams play as conditions change and opportunities arise. Think of the open office floor as a game board chock full of possibility as furniture and mobile enclosures are deployed intuitively within the logic of an invisible (augmented reality) grid to creatively address a given team’s scenario at hand. 

Adapting to Workstyles 

Preferred workstyles vary not only from person to person, but can also change for a person across the course of a day or for a team over the life of a project. Creating workspace that can flexibly respond to changing conditions requires furniture and enclosures that are mobile and rapidly adaptable, DIY-able, and ideally modular to accommodate easy interchangeability. The submission included a “choose your character” aspect to help designers understand how space might adapt to their specific workstyle needs.

Reimagining Flexibility

Scenarios were created allowing the players to immerse themselves in the fun, flexible, and responsive experience of an adaptive work environment. At the heart of most creative offices is the desire to produce innovative and enriching work in ways that nourishes their staff.  Those who can successfully adapt the environment in the right way, at the right time…win.

That’s Not All, Folks!

It’s time to dive into the winning entry! Restricted to the main entry floor, designers were tasked with determining the necessary services, amenities, and program requirements, with the additional challenge of addressing elevator access. As with our Playing Games submission, teams were allowed to use an existing building as a baseline. The challenge became all the more real as the team considered different scales of interventions for near-term timelines of re-entry. 

WINNER: The Workplace Wellness Compass

View our submission “The Workplace Wellness Compass”

Considering all of the pieces and parts that would need to come together to make any office re-entry safe, sustainable, inspiring, and rejuvenating, the team developed the Workplace Wellness Compass (WWC). The WWC is a collection of spaces, concepts, and technologies that can each be used on their own to reinforce a focused, positive transformation of health and wellbeing within a workforce or building population. Or, when combined and deeply integrated into the early design or retrofit of a building, they can fundamentally transform the user experience, establishing new rituals and patterns of activity that will make workers smarter, more resilient and happier. 

Space Examples

With the pandemic that broke the office building, the team acknowledged that a focus on physical health is no longer enough to consider in working towards a solution, and a safe return to the office environment will need to include provisions for a much more holistic approach to human health — physical, mental and spiritual. 

The Value Compass

The compass promotes individual and collective wellbeing in the three pillars of human nature: Mental Engagement, Physical Fitness and Spiritual Fulfillment. Each tool is assessed through the lens of six key values: Discovery, Purification, Ownership, Productivity, Fitness, and Fulfillment. 

The real power of the WWC will come from its early integration into a building’s design. But, as a kit of parts, it is adaptable enough to be used in many different scales of projects. For the purposes of the competition, the team focused on the Ground Level of a proposed West Coast mass timber office building. Though the Compass suggests circulation patterns and program elements that may at first seem foreign, these illustrated strategies support the ultimate goal of enacting positive, permanent changes in the behavior, attitudes and daily rituals of building occupants.

That’s Deep!

To learn more about our process and go for a deeper dive into our inspiration, influences, and thought processes, check out our Silver Linings workplace blog series!

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