Tech Trends of 2016: One-Size-Doesn't-Fit-All
Brian Stromquist, Kelly Dubisar and Emily Hall in Consulting, San Francisco, San Jose, Tech Trends

Image © Gensler

Editor’s note: this blog is part of a series on 2016 tech trends.


In the age of readily available big data, it’s as easy as ever to conduct comprehensive studies using what was once insurmountable amounts of information. In the realm of the tech workplace, this translates to collecting and analyzing data about user behavior, user sentiment, and space utilization. As studies gain traction, data is allowing us to quantify that within any given tech workplace, use patterns vary notably between departments—and design is responding.

Engineers are often tethered to computers and thrive in collaborative work environments. Marketers tend to need quieter breakout spaces. Sales teams are often on the go. Big data has given companies the opportunity to observe not only how varied use patterns actually are, but quantify how much a tailored space can improve efficiency—both in productivity levels and cost savings, according to the Harvard Business Review article, “Design Offices to Be More Like Neighborhoods.”

The compounded effect of departmental Neighborhood operations is increased efficiency— and increased morale. Image © Gensler

As a result, tech companies are implementing the Neighborhood Model of workplace organization. Instead of a uniformly deployed workstation system, the Neighborhood is tailored to specific user groups and their respective ways of working. An engineering neighborhood might have a greater number of fixed workstations and centrally located breakout areas for louder, collaborative work; a marketing neighborhood could rely more on free address workstations and peripheral break-out areas for quiet, focused work. Playing off the kit of parts in a typical workplace, the fixtures and furniture of the Neighborhood represent both the unique identity of the people who work there and the type of environment they need to perform their work efficiently.

As a way of accommodating the ebb and flow of employees when alternative work environments are provided, Neighborhoods tend to favor free address workstations. This way, stations can be continuously occupied instead of lying dormant when users are away. The added bonus? Mobile workstations tend to reduce clutter. Not only are employees no longer able to amass clutter on their desks but, because they’re moving desks day-to-day, there’s also a newfound accountability for the cleanliness of the entire Neighborhood. The compounded effect of these Neighborhood operations is increased efficiency—and increased morale.

Brian is passionate about exploring the intersection of design, technology, and future ways of working. A Project Manager in Gensler’s San Francisco office, Brian teams with clients to conceptualize their projects and solve complex problems. Contact him at
Kelly is an award-winning designer. A Design Director in Gensler’s San Francisco office, she regularly works with leading technology firms to thoughtfully translate their goals into effective workplace solutions, weaving modern architectural tech with exquisite design. Contact her at
Emily is a Designer in Gensler’s Oakland office. Committed to sustainable design solutions she brings various environmentally-conscious alternatives to every project. Contact her at
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