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4 Dynamic Ways to Create an Open Design Reception Area

Hierarchical corporate culture has long influenced the layout and design of office spaces. From the company executives occupying large corner offices, to middle management and worker bees filling the middle spaces, and the receptionist serving as the gatekeeper at a desk in a large antechamber. In this once typical reception area design, one would find a smattering of relatively comfortable furniture for guests to wait until someone emerged from behind closed doors to escort them to their destination.

But these days, corporate culture is shifting. Startups and small businesses are abandoning the strict corporate culture of the past in favor something more open and more casual. And once again, brand culture is influencing how companies organize their physical spaces.

In fact, approximately 70 percent of office buildings in the U.S. use an open office floor plan, according to research by the International Facility Management Association. As a result, what used to be a reception area is being integrated into the rest of the workspace.

“Reception areas are a topic of debate in the commercial interiors world. We find business after business not using the traditional reception area like we used to. The traditional reception desk and receptionist just don’t work well for numerous businesses, mainly because of the open office concept,” remarks Lydia Scott, marketing manager at Connecting Elements.

For various businesses today, a traditional reception area isn’t the right fit for their work culture or simply the square footage available to them. In these cases, an innovative reception area could be the answer.

Here are some ideas to help you get started on your updated reception area.

1. Create a touchdown area for visitors within your open concept office

Open work spaces create the perfect environment for touchdown areas. These are simply furnished “in between” spaces where people—visitors and employees alike—can “touch down” for a few minutes, maybe while waiting for a meeting to start.

A key feature of touchdown areas is that they enable people to use their waiting time productively. Reliable and secure wi-fi connectivity is a big plus, along with a convenient means to recharge their devices while waiting.

A successful touchdown area will be a place where visitors feel comfortable pulling out their laptops or tablets to send off a few emails or do some last-minute prep before a meeting. The furniture in a touchdown/reception area might include:

  • Seating in the form of benches, stools or chairs
  • A table or handful of small tables (to set down electronics or a cup of coffee)
  • Wall-mounted mini-workstations (for people who want more privacy or prefer to stand)

2. Invite visitors into your living room with a lounge-style reception area

Companies looking to make clients and job candidates feel welcome and relaxed may prefer a living-room inspired reception area. This design is probably closest to traditional reception areas.

However, instead of a stodgy or stuffy corporate office feeling, these spaces really do feel like a place where friends, neighbors and colleagues would hang out over chips and drinks. Place couches and chairs close together for a friendly feeling. Lounge/reception furnishings typically include:

  • Sofas
  • Classic tables
  • Modular lounge chairs

3. Offer your guests refreshments from your pantry or coffee house reception area

Nothing says hospitality like refreshments—especially when they’re free. Take your reception area to the next level with snacks and drinks for clients and other visitors while waiting.

If you want to go a step further, create a coffee bar complete with a barista-receptionist who can make fancy lattes for guests as well as direct them to the right place. Businesses not interested in joining the food service game could bring in a food stand as a bonus for their customers.

A drab reception area could be redesigned into a relaxed coffee house-library hybrid with shelves of interesting reading material, outlets for people to charge their devices and places where people can sit and chat. The furniture needs will likely include:

  • Powered seating so guests can plug in
  • Table enclaves
  • Group seating for socializing

4. Create a sense of community with communal tables in reception and waiting areas

Businesses with a limited budget or space can build a sense of camaraderie among visitors and employees with a larger communal table rather than a multi-faceted reception area.

A project by Barcelona design agency Fuelfor explored how sitting at a table creates a mix of personal and community space. Individuals can sit down by themselves at one end of the table to write, read or just relax. Meanwhile, groups could sit together and socialize.

A communal table also provides a space where visitors can prepare before a meeting or debrief after a consultation. On busy or hectic days, employees can use the table as an informal workspace.

For some businesses, a divergence from traditional reception design might be a non-personal telephone and touchscreen directory interface in a small lobby. For other businesses, reception might be combined with a coffee bar for a relaxed vibe. And still others might take an entirely different approach.

One thing is certain: today’s companies are willing to experiment with unconventional reception area design to find a solution that really captures their brand identity and culture.

Ready to revamp your reception area design? Connecting Elements has the design team and resources you need. Call us at 877.779.3409, or use this form to send us an email.

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