Q&A: A.J. Paron-Wildes on “Design Empathy” and the Workplace

Q&a: a. J. Paron-wildes on "design empathy" and the workplace
© Allsteel Inc.

For the past 20 years, A.J. Paron-Wildes’s focus has been on dispelling the notion of “one size fits all” when it comes to office design. “A person may be able to tune out the background noise so they can focus but their neighbor sitting next to them cannot,” says Paron-Wildes, a regional architectural design manager for Allsteel. “I’ve been using the term ‘design empathy’…to educate others on how our spaces need to accommodate a variety of sensory experiences.”

This is especially true today since the once distinct lines between home, work, and our social lives continue to blur as the modern-day office evolves.

As a judge for The Workplace of the Future 2.0 Design Competition, Paron-Wildes knows a thing or two about helping clients create spaces that strike a healthy balance between what the company wants and what the employee needs. I spoke with Paron-Wildes about her work with Allsteel, how technology changes the way we interact with our workspaces, and the newest trends in office design.

Susan Szenasy: What about the office typology, do you think, makes it such fertile ground for research and invention?

AJ Paron-Wildes: When you put a bunch of people together in a confined space, there are always interesting things happening! Psychology of people and of space has been a strong factor since the beginning of office environments. How people work, how they communicate, what motivates them can all be so different. We are constantly looking how to make things better for our clients: more agile, more efficient, more effective, and more aligned with the organization’s goals. These goals tend to be moving targets because they can change, and sometimes drastically so, in companies. Technology is another factor that is in constant change. Just when you create a space that is working beautifully, technology can change how we work and the new space quickly can become inefficient.

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