The Impact of Workplace Environments on Higher Education Campuses
Colleges and universities face escalating challenges to recruit and retain students, as well as meet the progressively sophisticated sensibilities of administrators, faculty, and staff. As the workplace of the future continues to change, we are experiencing a shift in priorities that shines more focus on the personal and workplace needs of collegiate faculty.
In previous decades, some of the best designed workplaces in the U.S. – Amazon, Adobe, and Apple to name a few – have mimicked traditional college campus design and layout features to make their college graduates feel comfortable and familiar. The reverse is now taking place with the integration of emerging workplace elements into collegiate design.
Simple design elements such as daylighting, cutting-edge flexible workspace modules, and new technologies have been incorporated into faculty and staff work spaces. Part of our role is to introduce clients to how these features can translate to their bottom line as well as their administrative and leadership goals.
For example, eliminating high cubicles promotes critical interaction and innovation between employees. Likewise, incorporating stimulating colors, fabrics and textures into furniture and fittings throughout the space foster teamwork and team pride. The benefits of natural lighting abound. The concept of biophilia provides multiple added benefits like a sense of overall wellbeing that directly translates into increased productivity.
The recently completed student center at Laramie County Community College, called The Pathfinder, incorporates modern workplace amenities and ample daylight. Natural materials, such as stone and wood, are used throughout the building, and windows surround the entire façade, connecting all spaces inside the building to nature. Technology can be found anywhere in the building, including breakout spaces, technology bars and lounge areas. The building is designed to allow students and faculty to naturally engage and interact, and staff have already commented that they feel the new physical environment improves their inter-departmental communication, work flow processes and student interface.
When designing a college campus, the first discussion is typically about the learning environment. Yet the often overlooked campus workplace environments can also reap positive benefits for all entities and should be equally considered during the design and programming process.