In the wake of the pivot to remote work, architects and designers are rethinking office spaces.
New design strategies that aim to create a welcoming office environment are helping to make better workplaces — workplaces that boost employee productivity and attentiveness while decreasing turnover.
The concept of “resimerical” design, an office design strategy that blends commercial and residential features, is likely to become especially important for businesses reinventing the office in 2022.
What Is Resimercial Design?
“Resimercial” is a portmanteau of “residential” and “commercial.” A designer that takes a resimercial approach will integrate residential design elements into commercial spaces, like offices and co-working spaces.
The intent of the approach is to make these areas seem homier, more comfortable, and more welcoming without sacrificing professionalism.
Often, this means taking advantage of residential-inspired features that replace more conventional or standardized commercial furnishings.
In some cases, this may be as simple as swapping chairs in a kitchen for barstools or using furniture with natural materials and soft fabrics.
Image Source: 2010 Office Furniture
In other cases, resimercial design may mean completely transforming an office space by changing the floor layout, lighting, and windows to make the space more welcoming and more casual without making it impractical for office work.
There are even a handful of brands that have emerged to embrace resimercial design as a core identity. Mateo Goods, a manufacturer of "desks and accessories designed for the new landscape of commercial practice," leverages vibrant, modern colors and quality materials to evoke a sense of hominess.
Mateo's sit-to-stand desks bring colors and textures that feel more like a home office than a corporate office – a feeling that has scientific backing for its impact on motivation, creativity, and workplace happiness.
Key Characteristics of Resimercial Design
Most resimercial design strategies leverage a few of the same design characteristics in order to make the office more welcoming. Common features include the use of natural materials, like wood, and devices like user-controlled light fixtures.
Many spaces use these devices to provide employees with additional control over the space, allowing them to change things like the brightness of lights in a certain area to meet their personal preferences.
Resimercial spaces often blend open floor plans with alcoves and private meeting rooms that allow workers to collaborate or split off from the team as needed. These combination floor plans provide the benefits of both open floor plans and more conventional designs.
Image Source: Work Design Magazine
They also help businesses to avoid some of the weaknesses that can come with purely open or conventional floor plans — like a lack of private spaces or spaces for collaboration.
Many resimercial office spaces are also designed with careful attention to natural light. It’s not unusual for these spaces to feature large windows that let in as much light as possible.
Image Source: Hitec Offices
These lighting techniques reduce the need for artificial light — helping to lower energy consumption and make the office more sustainable — while also helping the area to feel more open and more natural.
Designers may borrow design and decor features that are common in residential sunrooms — which are good residential analogs for commercial spaces due to the number of ways that they’re used.
For example, a designer may use large windows, plants, bookshelves, and furniture made of natural materials to make a space feel both more open and more welcoming.
Soft fabrics and furniture like couches, lounge chairs, island tables, and barstools may also help to create more comfortable and casual office environments.
Image Source: Pinterest
In some cases, designers may include unique or unconventional murals, decorations, and art that lends some playfulness or friendliness to the space.
The resimercial office space of consumer products company Newell Brands, for example, features a mural of a young woman that appears to be painted, at a distance, but it is actually made from tens of thousands of Prismacolor colored pencils.
Benefits of Resimercial Design
In practice, resimercial design helps to make spending time in the workplace more enjoyable — an important benefit as workers increasingly have the option to work from familiar and comfortable spaces, like home offices or local coffee shops.
If employees are more comfortable in the workplace, they’re likely to be more productive, more creative, and more likely to enjoy spending time in the office. Resimercial spaces tend to prioritize certain office characteristics to achieve these outcomes.
Natural light, for example, has also been demonstrated to help make employees more productive and less stressed.
Image Source: McWaters
The partially open floor designs that appear in many resimercial spaces offer some additional benefits. These layouts provide a mixture of collaboration spaces that can be very public and spaces that offer privacy, soundproofing, and distance from the rest of the office.
There is also evidence that resimercial design can help boost employee retention. Right now, as employers face one of the tightest labor markets in history, a working environment that encourages employees to stick around can be an invaluable asset.
Combined with other strategies that prioritize employee comfort, resimercial design can help businesses reinvent the office as workers return to in-person work.
Why Resimercial Design May Become the Norm for Post-Pandemic Offices
Most office workers are returning to the office with new ideas about what a working environment can look like — and how different environments may impact their productivity and comfort.
Many of these office workers have had the opportunity to work from home, at least briefly, at some point over the past year and a half. These workers have firsthand experience with working from a home office, where they probably had full control over decor, lighting, and furniture.
Transitioning back to a working environment where they have no control over these elements — and where lighting or furniture may be lower-quality or less comfortable — may encourage them to avoid returning to the office altogether.
Businesses that want to bring employees back into the office are competing directly with businesses that offer remote work opportunities. As a result, their office design is competing with workers’ home offices.
For employers, resimercial design’s most significant advantage will be what it does differently — offering a design philosophy that puts a great deal of thought into employee comfort in the workplace.
Because research suggests that comfortable employees are more productive and more likely to stick with their employers, businesses that invest in resimercial-style working spaces may secure a competitive advantage, as well.
Image Source: VerHalen Inc.
Resimercial Design and the Future of the Office
The future of the office is likely to look a lot different. Because workers often have the option to work from home, businesses are now competing with home offices when designing their workplaces.
Resimercial design, which emphasizes residential elements and employee comfort, is likely to have a major impact on how businesses design their offices going forward. Design elements like the use of natural materials, semi-open floor layouts, and large windows that let in natural light may become more common as a result.
Rose Morrison is a construction and design blogger and the managing editor for Renovated. To read more posts by Rose, check out her blog.