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Where we choose to work is a big deal, office designers Yves Behar and Ryan Mullenix say

“Stress is a lack of control, in its simplest definition. We want to keep stress in these work environments down.”

Ryan Mullenix (l) and Yves Behar at Code Enterprise
Asa Mathat for Recode

By and large, workers no longer have to use the computers provided to them by their employers — but where they work has evolved less quickly.

NBBJ partner Ryan Mullenix and Fuseproject founder Yves Behar want to change that. Mullenix is working with companies like Amazon and Samsung to rethink corporate offices, while Behar is trying to launch co-working spaces, called Canopy, which will be located closer to where people live.

“Neighborhoods have a deep need and reason to have smaller work spaces,” Behar told Recode’s Kara Swisher and Johana Bhuiyan at Code Enterprise Tuesday in San Francisco. “In San Francisco, to drive from some of these neighborhoods, to go downtown and park your car, it takes half an hour.”

He pitched Canopy as a win-win for workers and local businesses. Workers, particularly those on small teams, could walk to the office rather than drive, and Canopy offices would be situated near restaurants and shops that currently sit neglected while the employed are all concentrated downtown.

Mullenix, meanwhile, said the ideal office can take many forms, depending on the person. He cited that people’s problems with their offices generally boil down to a “lack of comfort and choice.”

“Stress is a lack of control, in its simplest definition,” Mullenix said. “We want to keep stress in these work environments down.”

For their work with Amazon on a new Seattle campus, Mullenix and his team developed two- to four-story “biospheres,” covered in glass and full of plants to distinguish the spheres from every other boxy metal office building. Rather than letting structure drive behavior, he and Behar said, companies are increasingly letting “behavior drive structure.”

“Personally, I would like to see the conference room go away,” Behar said. “[It] seems like a giant sinkhole of time. So many companies are still operating on, seven hours out of eight, you are booked up in a meeting. I don’t see a lot of productivity come out of that.”

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