An office designed for the individual to drive organisational performance

Herman Miller, the 109 year-old global pioneer in the modern workplace, is uniquely defined by two things – world-class furniture design and a deep understanding of human performance.

Through its association with renowned design giants of the past, such as Nelson, Eames, Propst and Stumpf, to influential design figures of today, it has long excelled in the “human experience of work” with a passion for how, where and why work gets done.

Surveying work in the 21st century and the business world’s myopic search for a singular “office of the future,” Herman Miller recognised that variety brings life to the workplace.

Partnering with anthropologists, psychologists, ergonomists and industrial designers, the company identified something greater and more holistic than product – a methodology and philosophy designed to inspire and accelerate performance, aligning corporate “purpose” (mission) and “character” (culture) with the natural motivations of people to create greater prosperity for all. This is Herman Miller’s Living Office.

“By creating office environments rich in variety and choice, we can better support today’s more creative, knowledge-based work. This also enables people to see a connection between themselves, their work, and their organisation’s purpose and character,” says Greg Parsons, Herman Miller’s creative director, global work.

Herman Miller

“Done well, their physical space signals that smart people care about their success and people naturally respond. You’re fostering and nurturing a sense of autonomy, accomplishment and belonging. Our research shows these fundamental human desires are the essence of what motivates talented people to come to work and to remain committed to their employer.”

Indeed work is changing everywhere, driven by powerful economic, technological, demographic and societal changes.

Andrew Lock, president of Herman Miller’s international business, says: “We are helping customers navigate these complex considerations to achieve higher performing workplaces. The keystone to optimising facilities as a strategic corporate asset, in our view, is in providing their employees appropriate, effective choice and balance in how and where they work. Moreover, organisations are increasingly looking to create workspaces that deliver an experience which resonates with their unique mission and culture.”

Organisations are increasingly looking to create workspaces that deliver an experience which resonates with their unique mission and culture

Living Office embraces these global trends by offering tailored office solutions that cater to the diverse needs of a modern, idea-driven and problem-solving workforce as their tasks change through their day.

Herman Miller has codified a variety of settings to support different kinds of activities: focused individual work demanding minimal distraction; fortuitous encounters with colleagues in more public spaces; formal and informal meeting areas in proximity to higher density individual stations; as well as dedicated group and team areas provisioned for high performance. This comprehensive range of settings addresses every working scenario, in myriad options, affording employees choice and opportunity across the office landscape based on their tasks and preferences.

No two businesses are alike and Living Office anticipates that different companies will require a different settings mix to arrive at their ideal office landscape. A series of questions helps define the “character” of a company: does your organisation lean towards the physical or virtual; is its focus more local or global; is the culture more formal or casual; how will these attributes potentially change in the future?

This further refines which Living Office settings and in what proportion can best support the company’s aims. The end goal is not to eliminate private offices; indeed an evaluation could indicate private offices as an appropriate, primary setting for some organisations. Rather, a Living Office evaluation should result in a thoughtfully considered, bespoke and balanced landscape supporting both individual and collaborative activities, for all its users.

“Some companies are operating in an earlier era dominated by information,” says Mr Lock. “They’re working from a late-20th-century office perspective that focuses heavily on efficiencies within a framework of hierarchy, static process and procedure. In this new era driven by ideas, many have yet to fully consider their places, tools or management processes for success in 2014 and beyond.”

Living Office explores these issues with our customers, as we work together to develop a meaningful and measureable strategy to activate their real estate, engage their people and drive other objectives beyond the physical.”

The company emphasises this isn’t about buying more furniture. Living Office can reduce overheads by helping businesses identify and eliminate underutilised or non-essential work environments. “Living Office landscapes can reduce cost per square foot,” says Mr Parsons. “They might spend more on some elements, whether technology or a chair, but the net result is better usage of space, higher performance and reduced cost per person in real-estate spend.”

Living Office also serves talent attraction and retention. “Organisations committed to innovating and driving change know they cannot achieve their goals without addressing their employees’ needs in better ways than in the past,” says Lori Gee, Herman Miller’s vice president of applied insight. “Industry leaders know that sustained competitive advantage is built on the best and brightest people. Their workspace is essential to attracting talent and enabling people to work at their best.”

At its core, Living Office is both applied philosophy and an office design framework, allowing for variety and adaptability to suit a company’s changing needs. We invite leaders to think strategically about people, place and work, asking themselves, ‘Where do we want to be in five or ten years’ time?’” says Mr Lock. “Intuitively they know that how people, place and work are activated will have a huge bearing on their success. With Living Office, Herman Miller aims to help them fully realise that potential.”

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