CREATING A COOL OFFICE

Top tips from our head of creative design

cooloffice

1) MAKE A STATEMENT

When visitors, staff or contractors visit your office, they need to know that they have arrived at the coolest place on the planet!

Make sure you have a statement piece which they remember you by – it will be a storytelling piece. It may be in the reception entrance lobby or the open plan office….it needs to be visual and thought-provoking.

We designed a simple bridge from the reception to the main office for one of our clients, complete with an artificial river – it cost little, looks great and is an inspirational piece which is a great talking point. Check it out here

2) FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT

Just as car parks are the first thing most visitors will see of your organisation, the reception area is where they will get their first human contact and where they will form an opinion of your organisation, albeit subconsciously. Those first few seconds are vital to make a positive impression. Your reception area should convey your organisation’s image and express your ethos and aspirations simultaneously.

Your reception area also has to be practical of course, controlling access, enabling good flows of people and accepting deliveries, all while demonstrating your organisation’s efficiency. In sum, your reception area design has to be a combination of visual attraction and practical efficiency, satisfying both your own staff and visitors.

Please don’t forget that whilst you might spend a small fortune on the best design for the reception area it is so important that the receptionist greets visitors with a friendly face and a warm welcome. First impressions are vital!

One of our clients was very environmentally conscious and also had a strict budget. We found some railway sleepers, had them polished and stained and made them into a simple reception counter – the client still loves it!

3) ACCENTUATE THE BUILDING FEATURES

Celebrate the character, values or quirkiness of your office by showcasing what may be what you initially thought was an undesirable feature.

If the space is an old factory or once had an interesting former inhabitant you can research the history and incorporate a theme into your design.

We recently designed an office in a high tech building and persuaded the client to leave the polished silver floor packs instead of covering them with carpet tiles. It looks fantastic and saved the client £22,000!

4) REMEMBER THE PSYCHOLOGY OF COLOUR

Colour is known to have an effect on morale and influence the level of activity of people. The selection of colours is therefore a key decision.

Busy meeting rooms used for brainstorming sessions might be painted red, yellow or orange, which are all very energising colours. However, you should be aware that their over-use can lead to irrational and unpredictable behavior!

Quiet rooms for contemplation and problem solving can be finished in blue or purple, which are both colours associated with serenity and truth – but too much of these colours can have a very cold effect.

White and grey are often used in office environments as they are neutral, but the effect can be bland if they are over-used.

Green is a popular colour reflecting the physical creation and is often used to promote an image of the value of the environment.

Are black and white colours? This is a question which has long been disputed. Technically white is the absence of colour and black is achieved by the mixing of primary colours together. White is often used to reflect purity and a minimalist culture whilst black can be used to create a mood of solidity.

Blue is often used by banks and financial institutions and is often said to reflect security, trust and reliability.

Your design team should provide you with mood boards and samples of all the finishes that are proposed for your new interior. You should make sure that these are presented to you in the proportions that they will be seen in your new offices, otherwise a completely false impression might be given.

Do not forget that colour is a very emotive and subjective subject. Not everyone will agree with your colour choices.

5) CREATE THE GREAT OUTDOORS – INDOORS

Everybody looks out of the window and wonders why they need to be stuck in the office! Why not use materials, products and garden items to create a scheme that reminds staff of the great outdoors? 

We found some great grass effect carpet recently and formed a ‘turfed area’ complete with picnic benches and outdoor umbrellas. Fantastic – the staff loved it.

6) WHY BUILD WALLS?

Occasionally an enclosed office and meeting room is necessary for private interviews and confidential work. But in our experience building offices is expensive and often unnecessary. Each individual office usually involves changes to lighting, air conditioning, power and ceilings etc. It can also affect your dilapidations liability at the end of the lease.

We have started using fantastic acoustic pods which stop short of the ceiling. They are cost effective, simple to relocate without specialist partitioning fixers, electrics and HVAC experts. They look good too!

7) DON’T SKIMP ON THE OFFICE KITCHEN

In our experience the heart of the office is the kitchen or canteen. It’s the same at home, isn’t’ it?

You need to make the space with plenty of room for staff to prepare their lunch, chill out and relax. It is the place to kindle relationships and restore the equilibrium.

Key to these drinking and eating plans is the intention to get your staff into a mood where they will not only want to come to work, but enjoy it as well. In addition, any restaurant type space can be used for impromptu meetings and break-out sessions.

The growth of café culture means that today’s employees are far more discerning in their demands for a quality beverage experience.

Good coffee in the workplace is highly sought after by employees and coffee machines that deliver quality tastes that are closer to coffee shops are extremely popular.

Sitting down to eat together is a good way to break down barriers, discuss problems and share gossip. Doing it in a well-designed environment is even better.

It is a fact that staff that work without a proper break lose concentration, focus and tend to make mistakes. By insisting that staff have time away from their desks, phones and computer you will be doing them and your company a favour.

The latest integrated water taps which deliver boiling water for tea and coffee and filtered cold water for drinking are brilliant and a must. They save hours of wasted time waiting for the kettle to boil and space to store bottles of water for the ubiquitous office water cooler.

Don’t forget a table tennis table or table football game – your staff will love you if you can afford the space!

For more advice check out our consultancy page!

8) DON’T FORGET ACOUSTICS

When we carry out staff surveys the acoustics/noise in the office ranks in the top 5 most complained about aspects of the modern office. In most offices there are rows of open plan desks and you need to plan the space so that there are areas for staff to concentrate. Why not add hot offices or high back sofas to break up rows of desks? 

For all their advantages, most open-plan offices still suffer from the distraction of noise. Ambient noise levels have been rising along with the population densities of open-plan spaces to the extent that noise intrusion has begun to impact on privacy and productivity. Informed advice from noise experts is that to solve the problems, there are five systems which need to be addressed: furniture; ceilings; walls and windows; floors; and noise-masking systems.

9) HAVE A SPACE FOR TOWN HALL MEETING

It is always great to have a space that opens up to accommodate an all-staff company event or meeting.

The problem is that you don’t want to dedicate a large space for an occasional event, so why not design the breakout area so that it can be quickly cleared for this eventuality? Or have a series of meeting rooms adjacent to each other with flexible folding back walls?

Flexibility is key and thinking about these spaces at the design stage could save you later

10) CHOOSE A GREAT OFFICE CHAIR

The office chair, known variously in the industry as a ‘task chair’ or ‘work chair’, is something we often take for granted. Yet the market for this ubiquitous product is worth £2bn in the US alone, where it is manufactured by more than 100 manufacturing companies, all making sure the mechanical pads we perch on are as high tech as the digital ones we type on! Seriously minded ergonomists have been improving and reinventing the office chair with each generation since the 60s. As a result, often the chairs of today look more like fitness equipment than furniture, and comes with control panels, levers, instruction manuals and even special advisors so explain how to use them! 

The ultimate expression of the office chair is arguably the 1994 Aeron chair, which allows a seated person to recline and sink backwards from the ankles. The other main design uses the forces applied to the backrest to hoist the seat forwards and upwards, opening the angle between the torso and legs. This was introduced by the 1991 Picto chair, but has since evolved through several other designs.

Much like automotive design, the shape of office seating is determined by a small, elite group of manufacturers and specialists. Recently, however, others have argued the case for a new approach. As the workplace changes dramatically to allow more flexible and informal environments in which workers are no longer so shackled to their workstations, we might see some considerable new shifts in the market in the near future. Sitting pretty and sitting comfortably are not mutually exclusive — sitting there comfortably, prettily and still actually physically doing something is the Holy Grail.

11) LIGHTING IS KEY

Use lighting cleverly to brighten the space and create zones.

Why is it that many designers build offices so that ‘Managers’ get the natural light while blocking it out for the staff seated in the open plan area? 

I always try to accentuate natural light to make the space feel brighter and more welcoming. Use feature lights like neon signs and hanging lights in the breakout for a more domestic feel. Read more about why your office needs natural lighting.

12) DON’T FORGET THE CDM REGULATIONS

The responsibility to coordinate the CDM Regulations rests with the client – which means you. Indeed you must employ a CDM coordinator to take responsibility. Duty holders within the Regulations are the client (you), designers, CDM coordinator, principal contractor and contractors.

CDM Regulations 2007 apply to all construction projects and so there is no longer any exemption for small construction projects employing less than five operatives. You will need to make sure procedures are in place for all refurbishment works, new build, maintenance and repair works, regardless of the number of operatives involved. If the construction phase lasts over 30 days or 500 person-days, it will be notifiable to HSE on Form F10. These notifications enable HSE to arrange its inspection visits. Local authority environmental health practitioners may also enforce the regulations, for example if construction work areas are not segregated from any work area during internal alterations and redecoration works.

There is a significant benefit in engaging with a CDMC early in the project since the eventual coordinator’s work can be seriously compromised if they are unable to influence the early work of designers or to be in a position to advise on the competency of the chosen designers before an appointment is made.

We always discuss with you the necessary requirements of these Regulations and give expert advice from our fully-qualified health and safety coordinator to make sure your responsibilities under the Health & Safety Regulations are met.

13) WHY GO AGILE?

In recent years the advent of mobile technology has changed the way we worked for ever. Instead of being fixed to a PC on a desk, staff could now roam, and hence the word the ‘virtual office’ was coined.

In the increasingly mobile and globally distributed workforce with pressures being placed on FM’s to reduce costs, improve mobility and reduce carbon footprints many organisations are reviewing their property strategy. They no longer want to pay for vast swathes of floor space which support unused desks or large meeting rooms designed for 12 persons that on average are used by 2 or 3.

The ‘one size fits all’ standardisation is history. Today’s organisations need to scrutinise their work habits and provide efficient solutions for their user groups.

Most surveys reveal startling statistics; many companies find that their real estate is only occupied effectively for 20 – 30% of the time. Until they see the data they hardly realise how much their employees’ work habits have changed.

Agile Working recognises that different activities require different environments and that throughout a working day employees undertake tasks that require different levels of collaboration and concentration. Rather than achieve everything from their own individual workstation or desk, the agile workplace empowers individuals to choose their setting to suit their activity. Agile working empowers staff and saves space, ensuring that everyone in the office space works hard! Welcome to the Agile Office.

I aim to give specialist advice on this important workplace revolution and will probably recommend a workplace assessment to evaluate how efficiently you are using your office space. Research from the assessment will allow experienced designers to use the results to design a workspace which is flexible, cost effective and which allows the staff to achieve the best results for your organisation.

If it all seems a bit tricky, don’t panic! Just call me up and request a meeting. It will be a pleasure to see you and discuss how we help you to create a fantastic…cool office

Cyril Parsons

0118 975 9750

Cyril.parsons@officeprinciples.com

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