We sat down with Mark Oliver, Mohawk Group’s VP of Workplace and Retail, to discuss top trends shaping today’s workplace, the effect of place on employee well-being, and what inspires him personally about workplace design.
Q: Let’s take a look at some great workplace installations of our flooring and talk about trends. What are the top trends you see shaping today’s workplace?
A: For a while office design was focused on ensuring all employees at each level received the same size cube or office. The thought was to create fairness at each level while also reflecting a sense of corporate hierarchy of increased space as you moved up through the organization. We shifted to a more communal approach with the open office and benching concept, where all associates were treated the same and sat at like-sized tables regardless of title or role. Kind of an “all-for-one” positioning.
This was generally loud, cold and distracting, however, and the intent of driving collaboration created more distraction. I am personally thrilled with where we are headed in today’s trends – with a renewed focus on employee comfort and wellness.
Understanding that employees are most effective when they are comfortable, designers are creating open, collaborative spaces but are mixing in multiple types of seating, amenities and working solutions. Today’s top workspaces enable the employee to select their preferred working environment and allow them to move locations throughout the day as they desire.
Q: We know that workplace design impacts productivity but recently we’ve seen conversation taking place about the effect workplace design has on employee well-being. How does Mohawk Group’s flooring contribute to better workplace environments?
A: The floor is one of the largest surfaces in the workspace and also the only one you have to touch. It can establish the mood of a space through pattern, color, texture, sound and how it feels underfoot. Many of us have seen spaces that have an old, polished hard surface floor. It can feel cold, sterile, uncomfortable, loud – not a place we’d want to spend much time. As office design shifts to employees’ well-being we can use design and different flooring options to create a comfortable environment.
This is really where Mohawk Group can take wellness to the next level. What if, in addition to making a space engaging and comfortable, we do so while being fully transparent in every raw material make-up ensuring there are zero Red List chemicals in it? What if we provided hard and soft flooring with the highest acoustic ratings in the industry? What if our designs included biomimicry and biophilic philosophies – bringing the benefits of organic design to the employee?
Our new flagship showroom in NYC puts all of this together and we are happy to say that it a LEED Gold space and will soon be awarded WELL certification. In addition to the stunning design, the showroom is focused on supporting the team’s overall wellness. We are genuinely living out our sustainability, wellness and transparency messages, which makes us well-positioned to help our clients do the same.
Q: As the workforce changes, design changes with it. How do you think workplace design is evolving to meet the needs of an increasingly multi-generational office?
A: I get this question a lot and I love it. First, the workplace has been, and will always be, multigenerational. What’s unique about today is how the younger generations are more prevalent in voicing their opinions and how they are impacting the office space in a very positive way. They are pushing for spaces that are more comfortable, more vibrant and more engaging. And thoughtful employers are adjusting.
The great thing about it is that everyone benefits. I’ve been in the workspaces of what might be considered very traditional companies and seen more tenured associates sitting on a couch working on their laptop. I’m fairly confident this is the result of the positive impact of the younger generations. Just because it is work, doesn’t mean the space has to feel like it.
Q: Noise is one of the issues often pointed to as being largely responsible for creating dissatisfaction in office environments. Let’s talk a little bit about how Mohawk Group is pioneering flooring solutions to solve the problem of workplace noise.
A: Ironically, the open office designed to drive collaboration, co-working and efficiency also created distraction and frustration in many cases. To your point, largely because of noise. The good news is that noise, or really sound, is manageable using many of today’s design philosophies and product solutions.
Recognizing that flooring plays a large part in sound control we have invested heavily in world class options. Our attached cushion for carpet has been tested and rated as the top performer in terms of sound transmission – in addition to being 95% post-consumer recycled. But we realize that workplace flooring is comprised of a lot more than just carpet, which is why we have also led the way in sound control in hard surface – on LVT with our loose lay Hot and Heavy collections and on enhanced resilient tile with our innovative new Molveno.
Add to that a few rugs from our Definity technology and now your floor doesn’t just look great, but it is a key player in ensuring your associates can thrive in their working environment.
Q: How does Mohawk Group help make flooring specification easier for end users and designers?
A: Specification is becoming a lot more complex as the trend of mixing multiple flooring types inside the same space continues. Additionally, Mohawk offers more different types of flooring platforms than anyone else in the industry, so we see it as our responsibility to aid the Designer and end user in all parts of the process.
We have launched an award-winning visual studio that creates multiple touch points for specification, design and even installation. We can create 2D and 3D renderings that show the visual of the installed carpet in their specific space and then convert that to installation diagrams ensuring the final project matches the complex design.
For larger and more complex jobs we are also using virtual reality to enable our partners to “walk” through their space and get a true sense of what their new space will look like. As part of this experience we have also developed an auditory tool that lets the individual wear headphones and they hear the difference in sound transmission of concrete, LVT, wood, carpet etc. so they can immerse themselves in their new environment before it is built.
Q: Work comprises such a large part of our lives – what inspires you personally about being in the workplace segment?
A: In my role I have the pleasure of traveling throughout the country to see amazing spaces being designed, developed and ultimately put to use. Each one is unique in that it comes with its own set of challenges. I truly enjoy diving into the details of both the Designer’s and the End User’s goals to help them find the perfect solution.
I’ve found that because of our unique segmentation expertise, often what starts out as a conversation around flooring quickly leads to strategies on things like organization, space utilization, lighting, change management– and even coffee selection! The opportunity to be just a small part in the evolution of the workplace motivates me every day.
Mark Oliver, Vice President of Workplace and Retail Segments
Using his expertise in identifying product portfolio gaps and finding creative solutions for growth, Mark works with various teams at Mohawk to better understand and react to shifting trends in workplace and retail. Since joining Mohawk in 2010, he has managed the carpet tile, woven and aviation businesses for the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, launching some of the latest innovations and solutions in those businesses.
Mark previously held positions in product development and product management at Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, Reebok and The Home Depot. Whether helping to introduce handbags, hardware or flooring, Mark has worked to bring innovative products to market that have shifted brands’ customer perception and become a foundation, and even a springboard, for growth.