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Focus zones are essential for IBM employees to absorb, develop and refine ideas. The requirements and size of Focus zones may be different based on the needs of the IBM workforce population. For example, research teams work differently than sales and marketing groups. The configurations here are designed to meet a variety of focus workstyles for IBM employees.

individual focus zones in open area

Signature moments

Working within an open workplace floor plan requires a variety of Focus zones in addition to a typical workstation. Our toolkit includes library tables, focus rooms, phone booths, quiet cars and libraries, plus enclosed offices for executives in Band A or higher. The proximity to natural light and dynamic brand elements keeps our Focus zones active and vibrant.

Finish palette

Focus zones should remain neutral in material palette and finishes, reserving color expression for brand identity elements and artwork. Warm wood, contrasted with concrete floors, creates hierarchy within the interior architecture. Carpet and felt ceiling systems mitigate sound pollution.

individual focus zone finish palette

Color strategy

While a spectrum of color is encouraged for Connect and Collaborate zones, we use a more restrained finish palette for our Focus zones. Accent colors can be used with environmental graphics and signage or with custom art installations.

IBM Cambridge
multiple individual focus zones

Brand expression

Environmental graphics and signage can be executed on feature walls within Focus areas. These surfaces should anchor the open floor plan with clear sight lines for maximized visibility. Our IBM patent wall, IBM Plex® collage or various supergraphics can be selected to best complement the surrounding architecture and design.

Site-specific art installations can also support a localized sense of culture. Artists should be chosen from the local region and selected in collaboration with the IBM Global Real Estate and IBM Brand Design teams. Learn more about brand expression.

IBM Irvine
signage with color bands
neutral finish palette signage options
on-brand hallway art installation
rebus pattern
pattern wall
wood wall with Plex® pattern


A variety of desking configurations may be used in Focus zones. The recommended size for sit-stand desks is 76.2 cm x 152.4 cm (30 in. x 60 in.) or a minimum of 60.96 cm x 121.92 cm (24 in. x 48 in.). Spine height shouldn’t exceed 106.68 cm (42 in.) above the finished floor. If nonadjustable desks must be used, IHS approval is required and separate, shared standing-height tables must be provided in accessible locations. Movable work desks invite configuration options, and may be placed in clusters of 4–8, depending on work needs. Workstations should be equipped with ergonomic task chairs. Mobile whiteboards should be in close proximity for working sessions.

Focus zone alternatives, such as the library or a quiet car, may use table lamps to evoke a sense of hospitality and intimacy. Bookshelves can provide a visual and acoustic barrier.

variety of task furniture at individual focus zone workpoints
desk chairs in a variety of colors
stand desk
adjustable height desk

Flooring and ceiling

A neutral carpet tile is recommended for Focus zones to help mitigate sound. When possible, open ceilings are recommended. Ductwork, sprinkler pipes and the underside of decks should be painted white or gray. Focus zones should use lensed linear pendant lighting in a combination of direct and ambient applications. Fixture layout should be based on the 2x Grid and be rhythmic in orientation. Variations in layout are permissible as long as foot-candle requirements are met at the work surface.

Table lamps should be incorporated at the work surface to cue a quiet atmosphere. Occupancy sensors may be used for lighting control as needed. Layout and design should be coordinated with the lighting consultant.

multiple focus zones in IBM workplace
close up of concrete
close up of carpet
view of concrete flooring in hallway with adjacent carpeted zones