Published on: 29 October 2019

Updated on: 29 March 2023

Read time: 6 minutes

The office environment is experiencing significant changes at the moment - in several ways.

Perhaps the most significant shift from the traditional paradigm is flexible working. As millennials strive to incorporate a work-life balance, business owners need to find solutions to accommodate a modern workforce.

A comprehensive report published by International Workplace Group reveals flexible working matters. According to 85% of the 15,000 respondents, flexible working has increased productivity.

Flexible working has also allowed companies to cut office costs and make better use of space. The flexible work schedule has also ushered an era of flexible office designs.

So-called agile offices are geared towards the ideals of a modern workforce. They accommodate flexible working hours, feature adaptable furniture, foster collaboration, make best use of technology and put more emphasis on the health and wellbeing of employees.

To understand what a modern working environment should look like, office managers and designers must first understand the mindset and motivations of millennials and Generation Z.

Office Designs That Express Workplace Culture

Deloitte۪s Global Human Capital Trends report indicates that 82% of company leaders believe culture can offer a potential competitive advantage. Todays agile office designs can influence company culture and help your team grow beyond culture۝ into nurturing personal bonds.

To accommodate the shift towards flexible working, the design of the office becomes more dynamic. Companies moving into a small office space, for example, have to plan a design around a diversity of employees from different departments.

This requires a variety of spaces that cater to various work methods and individual preferences. It should enable desk-sharing, feature adjustable furniture and create space that fosters communication, creativity and innovation.

There are various ways of doing this; a cafe-like seating environment, comfortable settees in a casual area, recreational spaces, and versatile meeting rooms that facilitate presentations and conversations.

Bear in mind that the more ways people can use a single space, the more often it will be used. It۪s therefore in your best interests to create several spaces that offer versatility to provide more options and avoid booking pile-ups.

Think about which tools people need to perform specific tasks, which technologies can you install to make workspaces more flexible and which currently under utilised spaces you can make more accessible.

Numerous studies reveal that the environment in influences how effectively the brain works. Cognitive function defines performance. It۪s therefore critical to design an environment that reflects your company culture and inspires individuals.

Open-plan layouts with integrated spaces for common use and private nooks, foster a connection between people, inspire individuals, promote creativity and enhance cognitive function.

Promote Health and Wellbeing

An increasing number of studies reveal the traditional open-plan office design stifles productivity and communication. What۪s more, open offices are damaging to physical and mental health.

Today, it۪s important for businesses to put more focus on promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace. Millennials demand it and consider whether to take a job if a company does not have a health and wellbeing program or facilities to match.

This poses a problem for UK businesses hoping to recruit the nation۪s top talent. It is reported that 8 out of 10 small and medium-sized businesses in the UK do not cater to the health and wellbeing of employees.

As a result, job-related stress and anxiety can damage the health of both employees and hinder the performance of a business. Liz Earle MBE says, failing to prioritise the health and wellbeing of employees threatens burnout۪ and poses a significant risk۪ for small businesses.

On the flip side, installing office features that promote health and wellbeing helps to boost productivity, morale and long-term success. Fewer days are lost due to sickness and performance levels improve.

According to some reports, 15% of millennials want an on-site gym in the workplace. Evidently, this is an extravagance many SME۪s cannot entertain. However, with agile office design, there are other ways to encourage movement around the office.

Encouraging employees to use stairs instead of the lift, sit/stand chairs, social areas for physical activities, a walkable garden, bicycle stalls and bridges all contribute to physical exercise.

Chair sensors break this information down to the minutest detail. Employees can monitor how long they have been sitting and when they might need a break.

You may even want to take a hint from Google and install sleep deprivation pods. Meditation rooms and yoga studios in the office are also becoming the latest workplace perk.

And don۪t forget the minute details. Even the colour you use and the artwork you hang can have a positive or negative effect on cognitive function. Cool pastel colours are ideal to help people relax in high-pressured environments whilst splashes of colour stimulate the senses.

Natural elements around the office also enhance wellbeing which ultimately improves performance. Adding features such as water, plants, wood and stone have been shown to improve mood whilst adding eye-catching aesthetics to the office.

Energy-Efficient Offices

Concern for the environment has prompted millennials to lean towards companies that adopt an eco-friendly policy. According to reports, 40% of younger workers have chosen to sacrifice a higher salary in favour of working for a company with a healthy environmental agenda.

Whilst today۪s high-performance green buildings۪ go a long way to improving energy efficiency, the interior design of an office space can have a significant impact on reducing energy consumption and your carbon footprint.

Contrary to some schools of thought, studies have also shown that implementing sustainable technologies aimed at reducing thermal and lighting costs do not threaten the health and wellbeing of employees. If anything, energy-efficient systems and design concepts can help improve performance.

Large windows, for example, harvest daylight and negates the need to use electricity to power the lights. Natural daylight also enhances mood, health and wellbeing.

Adjustable heating and water conservation systems also reduce the power consumption of a business. Improving air quality by installing indoor ventilating systems has been shown to enhance cognitive performance.

A report commissioned by the UK Green Building council confirms:

office workers in high-performing green-certified buildings have a 61% better cognitive function and some businesses report having saved over $6 per square foot in staffing costs.۝

However, not enough businesses are aware of the advantages of working in sustainable environments and there are a series of barriers that prevent better energy efficiency and health and wellbeing in existing buildings.

Researchers in Norway have shown that significant effort is needed to bring existing office buildings up to sufficient energy-efficient standards set by government guidelines.

In particular, significant improvements are needed in the construction or renovation details regarding insulation levels, airtightness, lighting and air-quality.

Building owners that rent commercial office space should consider installing energy-efficient systems and interior designs that promote sustainability. Although typically considered a bottom-line expense which is often postponed, it becomes clear that energy-efficiency yields a better return on investment when you take a closer look.

As global projects get underway to build high-performance sustainable buildings, green offices are being fitted with advanced technologies including a variety of solar panels on the roof and facades, geothermal energy, ethernet-powered LED lighting, systems that reuse collected rainwater and aquifer thermal energy systems that effectively heat and cool the building.

Sensor tracking and motion devices are a cost-effective solution that turns off lights and heating in areas of the office that are not being used.

Interior office designs that are planned to improve the functionality of your office space helps to save energy consumption, significantly reduce related costs and appease millennials and younger generations that are joining the workforce.

Virtual Meeting Spaces

Advancements in technology are driving a lot of changes in working practices today. Cloud technologies allows workers to access files from virtually anywhere, whilst collaboration software effortlessly foster communication and file sharing between professionals in different locations.

Generation Z is the first age group to have grown up in a connected world. The internet existed before they were conceived. They are technically sophisticated, expect wireless connectivity and conditioned to accept data collection as a way of life.

Practically every space in a connected city is a virtual meeting space. 4G and 5G broadband supports video-calling tools such as Skype, Gmail and Zoom. Instant chat services such as Slack and Telegram make it easy for work colleagues to stay in touch.

With more employees choosing to work remotely, organising meetings can be complicated. Designing office space that accommodates virtual conferences, presentations and collaboration make modern working practices possible.

It is estimated that half the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020. Consequently, more businesses are investing in smaller meeting spaces and huddle rooms that are optimised for virtual video calls rather than face-to-face meetings.

What۪s more, a survey conducted by research firm Frost & Sullivan reveals that C-suite executives prefer video calls over audio-only. Video boosts productivity accelerates decision-making and improves customer experience.

Changing working practices calls for a change in office environments. Designs that tender to the ideals and mindsets of the modern workforce is paramount to the future growth of companies.

Millennials will form roughly 50% of the workforce next year, and it won۪t be long before University-educated Generation Zers also enter the workplace.

Innovative office designs catch the eye and are something the younger generation of workers consider when deciding whether or not to accept a job.

For business owners and commercial building owners, planning for the future has to incorporate the work environment. If the modern workforce want flexible working, they need an office environment that enables them to be agile and perform to the best of their ability.

Read our in-depth blog about agile office design and flexible working.

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