Concurrents: The Inevitability of Change

Maria VanDeman

Yesterday you worked at home in your pajamas, and today you’re dressed and in the office.  Yesterday you interacted with black boxes on Zoom calls, and today you’re scribbling on whiteboards next to colleagues.  Yesterday your CEO applauded productivity at home, and today your badge swipes and mandatory office days are being scrutinized.  Things change so quickly, and if the last five years have taught us anything –  change is the only constant.  As our expectations, workplace environments, and the design industry inevitably change, it’s undeniable that flexibility and adaptability will be critical in our workplace and in everything we do.     The workplace has seen an evolution of hierarchical spaces, employee-centric design, open plan design, collaborative “coffee shop” spaces, WFH, hybrid and more.  Along with today’s focus on human-centric design, and people being the amenity of the office, comes the reality that the office of the future is a dynamic, ever-evolving space that must adapt with its inhabitants.  As an interior designer and furniture nerd, I’m excited to see this opportunity for furniture to help creatively solve these functional challenges. Cue the entry of more flexible furniture solutions that free us from the rigidity of permanent structures: Adaptive Architecture. 

At the core of adaptive architecture is the recognition of the diverse needs of people within a workspace. By allowing people to choose environments that best suit their tasks and personal preferences, this approach gives people the power to activate their spaces and allows for well-being and productivity. Flexible solutions are critical, especially with uncertainty in macroeconomic trends like borrowing costs and vacancies affecting commercial real estate, and in cities like Miami facing double or even triple permitting times.  From whatever the needs may be on ribbon-cutting day, to whatever pandemic, recession, or zombie apocalypse lies around the corner (fingers crossed for none of these!), adaptive architecture is there to save the day. 

Wesley Edmonds, Director of Adaptive Architecture at OFS and key advisor on flexible solutions including the recently acquired company ROOM, stated “I knew that adaptive architecture was the future of the workplace when I began to work out of a local coworking space near my home in Atlanta, GA (shout out to Switchyards!).  I could walk in and pick a different place to sit and work every time I visited based on my needs for that hour or day, and could be around people without needing to be with those people – the idea of working alone, together.  In the corporate landscape, lease terms are getting shorter, companies are taking less square footage, and hybrid work is the rule, not the exception. The coworking concept within office design is growing around the globe because it maximizes the utilization of square footage without sacrificing culture, amenities, or flexibility for its users. After working like that, how could anyone go back to a fixed space without personality or options?  Flexibility is the future.”  

Imagine walking into an office space that changes before your eyes to conquer the task at hand. One moment it’s a collaborative hub buzzing with team synergy, and the next it transforms into a serene sanctuary for deep work.  With dividers on wheels, pivoting desks, and modular meeting booths, the workspace becomes a living, fluid entity that encourages creativity and collaboration while easily evolving over time as our needs change. Over the last few years we’ve seen the influx of mobile ancillary furniture pieces and anticipate a similar flexibility revolution to enhance the private office space and eventually the entire floor plate. The importance of workstations will remain, however, culture and collaboration are formed in ancillary and adaptive spaces. Large-scale multi-purpose furniture that can be rearranged to define spaces while catering to a myriad of activities will ensure that every square inch of the office is used to its full potential.   

By focusing on architectural elements that can shift in response to organizational and personal needs, adaptive architecture empowers employees and teams to thrive amidst change. This paradigm fosters a culture of innovation and flexibility where the workspace is continuously evolving to meet the ever-changing landscape of work. The future of design demands that we think beyond the conventional, crafting workspaces that are as dynamic and diverse as the people who inhabit them.  Yesterday we adapted to change, today we are designing for the inevitability of change. The future is adaptive— now, let’s build it! 

Maria VanDeman, NCIDQ, IIDA, is an accomplished workplace advisor at OFS, interior designer, published children’s book author and advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.  With a passion for helping people and designing for human needs, Maria strives to make a positive impact on the world through her work and mentorship.  Connect with Maria on LinkedIn: