This post was written by Michelle Riley, Coalesse liaison to the A&D community, who works at the Coalesse showroom in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, Illinois.

My brother recently visited me at work. As competitive as siblings can be, I must admit that it felt good to show him around the space I spend most days, Coalesse’s flagship showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. 

His office full of policy wonks has dipped their toes into open plan work stations and introduced new colors into their scheme; they’ve even outfitted a conference room with lounge chairs! But at Coalesse, we are All-In. We’ve done the research, developed the insights and created the portfolio that lets us build spaces that make people say, “I want to live here.”

Trust me when I tell you, my brother definitely does not want to live where he works.

We are in the midst of the most transformative, dynamic, and exciting period of workplace design, ever.

We are just beginning to fully appreciate how profoundly and quickly technology has changed our lives and the ways in which we work. It has fundamentally changed how we spend our time, what we make and consume, and how we process data and assign value to the work that we do.

So much is changing, so quickly, that it’s been a challenge to contextualize – in real time – everything we’ve experienced since the smart phone became an extension of ourselves.

 
Massaud Conference Chairs bring comfort to the meeting room in Coalesse's Chicago space.

The Office is Dead
When wireless internet and cellular connections first gave us the benefits of in-office technology anywhere, we celebrated the assumption that we could work wherever we wanted. We no longer needed that boring old office because we could do our work on the fly at more glamourous places like the mall and the coffee shop. Described as the work-from-anywhere phenomenon by Fortune, this transition gave employees the schedule flexibility they had been vying for. However, we quickly found that while we were certainly able to keep an eye on our email inboxes, no one was actually working while at the grocery store.   

Internet access allows us to stay connected, but it does not, on its own, provide us the opportunity to do substantive work. Which is a shame, because we like the mall and the coffee shop.

Back to the Office!
When “INNOVATION” became the new currency, we all rushed back to the office to sit together and collaborate. Yahoo! CEO Marisa Mayer led this charge by revoking employees’ ability to work from home. Mayer’s proclamation was seen as bold, smart and insightful by Forbes, which commented on the move and acknowledged that access and proximity to coworkers are vital to generating new ideas and achieving innovation. 

Great Spaces Inspire Great Work
But ideas need time and space to evolve, and people need to work both with others and alone to advance concepts toward innovation. The pressure of trying to do generative work under constant scrutiny is exhausting and no one collaborates in an environment where others are focused and concentrating. Turns out, sometimes, absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Today, we are taking what we’ve learned – that great spaces inspire great work – and transforming the office into the place you want to be. Not just because the technology you need to do your job is there, or because it provides a place for you to bounce ideas off of your coworkers, generate game-changing ideas and build community – but because it is the place you want to be. 

The office must become the best place to work; the place you choose out of your many options. It needs to speak to your humanity and your desire to belong. It has to recognize your need for comfort, both physical and emotional, your desire for stimulation, and become a source of authentic inspiration. 

I am so lucky that my office gives me the options I need to suit my ever-changing moods… and make my brother jealous.


The café in the Coalesse Chicago showroom is a welcome spot for a cup of coffee or casual meeting between colleagues.