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HOK’s Tom Polucci Discusses the Future of Workplaces and Challenges for Interior Designers

HOK Director of Interiors Tom Polucci, FIIDA, AIA, spoke to Floor Focus magazine about the state of the open office plan, how workplaces will remain relevant into the future and the biggest threats to today’s interior design community.

Excerpted from Floor Focus:

Which way is the trend moving within corporations in terms of working from home in a virtual office versus bringing the team together in an office?

Workplace has become more destination-focused and heavy on amenities such as fitness, food and gathering spaces for the folks who come to work. As for those who work remotely or on the road, they need somewhere to go that represents the brand and culture of the organization they are a part of.

With the ongoing movement toward open office design, what is the solution for workers who say they are distracted and prefer a traditional office?

It’s all about choice. Open plan work environments are best suited for when employees have options. For example, they can either work at a bench or move to an enclosed space for visual and audible privacy. They can also choose to move and work in areas that are less populated on other floors. Employees have to be empowered by their employer to move around with a culture that supports mobility.

What are the latest innovations that help make the open office environment work?

First off, the right planning of space should be focused on a variety of open and enclosed space types all within close proximity in the work environment. Secondly, connectivity and a robust Wi-Fi system is key to promoting ease of movement. And thirdly, booking systems for meeting spaces is valuable to ensure employees have access to those spaces and that these spaces have great AV technology that’s easy to connect with.

What are the biggest challenges facing the interior design community?

First is ensuring that professional registration is preserved. There are states that might try to end the registration. Our field is important; we bear the responsibility of the health, safety and wellness of the occupants of spaces we design. There should be licensure in all states so that responsibility is maintained. Next, there are disruptors in the design profession and the real estate industries, and we need to change with the times—find ways to be faster, more efficient and less cumbersome, while still focusing on the design and delivery of spaces that are safe and provide for the well-being of occupants. Finally, as an industry, we need to make sure the materials and furnishings used in spaces we design meet criteria of organizations that ensure the health safety and wellness of people.

What was your most challenging project?

The most current project is usually the most challenging. It’s about getting people, the team, the consultants and the client all moving in the same direction, supporting a common goal of designing the best solution possible.

What project are you best known for?

I’m really pleased with the work we’ve recently completed at 3WTC (3 World Trade Center) for WPP.

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