Open floor plans the way of the future

August 27, 2014
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In an effort to encourage mobility and collaboration and save money, walls are coming down in offices and work spaces are becoming more open.

A U.S. probation office in Chicago is the first in a pilot project of the Integrated Workplace initiative – a federal judiciary program to re-imagine and downsize the traditional office layout. The initiative seeks to cut office space, which in turn cuts rent bills, by using mobile technology.

Instead of having an assigned desk, people are able to use their smartphones, tablets or laptops to work anywhere in an IWI office. This open design will also promote more staff interaction.

The U.S. Courts says after the project is finished in 2015, the Chicago office redesign will reduce office space by 55 percent and save a projected $1.4 million in rent each year.

This same open-concept office is touted as the “law firm of the future,” according to architectural firm Gensler. It created a 5,000-square-foot exhibit as part of the Association of Legal Administrator’s annual conference and expo this past May.

Gensler’s website on the project, www.redesign-law.com, says in the future, legal work will be done differently so the office of the future needs to address these changes. The company believes law firms will need to be faster, more agile, transparent and client focused, and better managed.

“The law office of the future will be smaller, flexible, more collaborative, and technology enabled. It will look more like a business consulting firm than a law firm,” the site says.

The firm touts six key points for the law firm of the future:
-    Less is more – saving space while increasing efficiency;
-    Choice & balance – give employees a choice of where to work within the office;
-    Future proof – making your office today easily adaptable to future work styles;
-    Ubiquitous technology – portable technology is key;
-    Connect the dots – encourage face-to face and virtual engagement;
-    One size does not fit all – make sure to create a strategy that is best for your firm.

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP principal Sue Kerns in February 2013 also discussed how the company believes the next generation of law firms will look. ZGF’s future law firm also includes collaboration space (and nice, upscale lounges instead of break rooms. Goodbye, plastic chairs and horrible florescent lighting while eating lunch.)

Has your firm or office already gone to the law firm concept of the future? Does this design really work for a profession in which confidentiality is important? If your office is more open, have you seen greater savings in rent and more productivity among staff? 

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