This Week's Herman Trend Alert

HR in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

April 11, 2000


264 days until January 1, 2001

Office appearances are changing. The old traditions of bosses in corner offices, junior bosses in offices with windows, and everybody else in the bull pen are disappearing. More changes are coming.

We're hearing about companies that put their boss' offices in the middle of the floor and give the space along the windows to the non-management employees. With single story buildings, skylights are installed to give natural light to everyone.

While many companies still have cubicle forests, an increasing number of workers are complaining about the segregation and structured environment. People don't like the hierarchical design, where the height of your cubicle wall acknowledges your rank in the organization. And the prairie-dog image of people popping their heads up to see what's happening takes the Dilbert cartoon environment to another level.

Cubicle walls are being replaced by picket fences, plantings, and furniture such as bookcases and couches. More and more companies are building conversation areas into office design, bringing in sofas, easy chairs, and floor cushions.

Meeting rooms are now constructed with windows-to provide light, openness, and less secretiveness. Some are designed without chairs; stand-up meetings seem to be shorter and more productive for some reason.

Color is used more-to distinguish one area from another or to set moods . . . or just to brighten the environment. Art is more prevalent, sometimes from permanent corporate collections and sometimes on loan (even display for sale) from local artists or schools. Office environmentalists are listening to noise... er, sound. Music or white noise helps reduce distractions and create a more comfortable atmosphere. Carpet helps deaden sound-on the floor and on walls, as well. In high-ceilinged rooms in refurbished older buildings, carpet can create a decorative effect while reducing echoes and too great a sense of expansiveness.

Plants are more prevalent in working areas, and we see this trend continuing. They are symbiotic to humans, in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and offer a pleasant, almost peaceful environmental appeal. Interior horticulture companies service these plants to help make the workplace practically a living organism.

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