The future of office design 

 Architect Michi Setter (photo credit: EITAN TAL)
Architect Michi Setter
(photo credit: EITAN TAL)

The architect behind Facebook’s and Google’s offices in Israel discusses the future of workplace design in the post-COVID era

The office space, now more than ever, must be inviting and alluring, Michael “Michi” Setter, founder and owner of Setter Architects recently told The Jerusalem Post.

Setter Architects, established in 1984, is one the leading interior design firms in Israel, specializing in designing corporate offices.

The firm designs office spaces for some of the largest and most influential companies in Israel and the world, including Facebook and Google as well as office spaces for the automotive industry, hi-tech, biotechnology, finance, and public sectors.

Setter recently sat down with The Post to discuss trends in office design and how the coronavirus pandemic influenced the look and feel of the modern workplace.

“The coronavirus pandemic had an accelerated effect with regards to planning and designing office spaces in certain sectors, while others remained largely unchanged,” he said.

According to Setter, the corona influenced his firm in two ways – “within our company and in our work with other companies.”

Within his company, he said that his team was forced to move to a remote work model - something that he views as less than ideal as he strongly believes in the desire for human interaction and collaboration.

This belief is also the driving force behind many of his office designs.

“With regards to our clients, we saw numerous approaches to the pandemic,” he said.

The first, he said, are clients that began working in a hybrid model - that is a mix of working from the office a few days a week and working from home. As such, he said, clients realized they did not need so much space and sought to minimize offices by 20%-30% without having to downsize their workforce.

“In this case we were asked to redesign from personal offices to open spaces, so people can come to work 2-3 times a week without having a dedicated desk,” he said.

Under this design concept, the office transformed to include 60%-70% of open space, with shared desks, and a personal locker for each employee.

A second trend, Setter said, was the continued growth, in terms of office space, of the large international companies.

“The companies were growing and planning new offices before the pandemic - in large numbers - and they plan on continuing to grow regardless of the pandemic,” he said. “There aren’t necessarily workers in the office, but they are already looking forward to the future.”

Another type of client, he said, were the companies headquartered in Tel Aviv who sought to build satellite offices in surrounding cities and suburbs.

“These companies realized, some even before the pandemic, that many employees do not need to come to the headquarters but can work near their homes. This is ideal with regards to corona, but also when thinking about traffic and environment issues,” he said.

As such, Setter said that each of these trends created interesting opportunities and approaches for the modern workplace.

“There was always a discussion about working from home in the future, and we didn’t truly experience this until the pandemic fell upon us,” he said. “We saw that some companies fell in love with this model, while other companies preferred the more traditional method.”

“The trend goes both ways,” he added.

Regardless of which side the company takes in the work-from-home debate, Setter said there is one trend that is uniform across the board.

“Companies today are making an effort to make the office as comfortable and as appealing for the employees as possible so that they would like to either come back to the office or stay in the office,” he said.

He said the office nowadays must offer a “higher level” than people would experience at home - introducing common areas, cafeterias, state-of-the-art gyms, yoga or Pilates rooms and other such indulgences.

According to Setter, this type of design was common in multinational and hi-tech companies even before the pandemic.

“As far as we were concerned, the change wasn’t so drastic because we had worked with companies like Facebook and Google, who incorporated a large scale of collaboration spaces and public spaces - all before the pandemic,” he said.

What the pandemic did change, he said, was bringing this modern design concept to other more traditional sectors.

“We are used to investing in social areas, but what the pandemic did was to accelerate this trend and to bring it to companies that weren’t used to working in this manner,” he said.

“Take for example insurance companies, where everyone used to sit and work alone in private rooms,” he said. “We designed a new office for a major insurance company that transitioned them from private rooms into a hybrid model with open space.”

Setter said initially it was a “very challenging” transition for the company and the employees. “There was some tension, but at the end of the day the office was more fun and more social, and it was a huge success.”

Setter said he believes the future of office design will incorporate the hybrid model.

“Most people want to engage and meet with other people. This is also in the organizations’ interests, because great ideas form from these meetings and collaborations,” he said.

“Companies need to think about the natural flow of the workplace - ultimately a good office design has to welcome the employees, make them want to stay, talk and collaborate, and most importantly enjoy and have fun,” he added.             

This article is taken from The Jerusalem Post Annual Executive Magazine 2021-2022. To read the entire magazine, click here.

This article was written in cooperation with Michi Setter