27 September 2019

Leading firms understand that people-centred office designs attract today۪s top talent. Creativity and innovation in office designs catch the eye. They also improve performance, help to build a company culture and retain employees. Moreover, today۪s young professionals expect to work in environments that motivate and inspire. A survey by recruitment agency, Undercover Recruiter indicates that millennials consider the office environment or interview setting, as a determining factor to accepting or turning down a job offer. There is no doubt the office environment has to make a good impression. The modern workforce spends 40 to 50 hours a week at work and younger generations prioritise a work-life balance. Employees, therefore, want employers that cater to their needs and ideals. Office designs that are geared towards mental and physical wellbeing, flexible workspaces that accommodate different personality types and sustainable buildings that protect the environment are high in modern-day thinking. So, what does an acceptable office design look like? There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. No blueprint. We are in the midst of a design revolution - a very exciting time for interior office designers and firms brave enough to break away from old paradigms and create concepts of the future. Some might question the revolution is getting crazy. Maybe wacky is a better description. Take Redbull۪s London HQ offices for example. Employees have the option to navigate floors via slides rather than take the stairs. There۪s also Walmarts rooftop mini-golf course in Brazil, TBWA۪s basketball courts in Dubai, a fitness studio at GSN Games in Bangalore and the mad circus۪ design in the offices of Angel Solutions in Liverpool. Whilst fun activities may be appealing to young creatives, wacky ideas are not the solution for every business. However, there is a general framework for interior office designers to work with. The modern workplace should reflect your company culture and values, but should also be built around the needs of your employees. Promote wellbeing in your office design It is generally accepted that sitting at a desk for hours is not good for the mental or physical health of your employees. Whilst ergonomic furniture does go some way to supporting the musculoskeletal structure, ergonomics is not a be-all-and-end-all solution. Wellbeing is a lifestyle behaviour. Studies have shown that when people are presented with an option to live a healthier lifestyle they are more inclined to follow through with it. Office designs that encourage movement, and company cultures that promote healthy eating and active lifestyles all lend credence to modern mindsets. For example, you can install stairs instead of a lift, bicycle stalls, showers and changing rooms that encourage employees to run or cycle to work. Even small things such as offering healthy snacks and meals help to make a difference. Numerous studies reveal that employee wellbeing has a direct impact on the success of a company. A 2017 study by Soma Analytics shows that FTSE100 companies that prioritised employee wellbeing were 10% more productive than their rivals. It۪s no coincidence that 93% of workers in the tech industry confirm they are prepared to stay loyal to employers that create healthy workspaces. That doesn۪t mean you have to install sports courts and life-size board games, however. Priorities for workplace wellbeing among employees are air-quality, comfortable lighting, water quality and temperature control. Only 16% of respondents said they cared about fitness facilities, below having a connection to nature and comfortable acoustics. Poor air quality in the workplace has been found to contribute to sick leave and opening the windows lets in pollutants from outside. Employers should be thinking about installing air-conditioners that detoxify and reuse air. Inadequate lighting causes eye strain, headaches, blurred vision and can impair cognitive ability. Large windows that allow natural light to penetrate the office is conducive to good health and individual desk lights enhance visibility once daylight has faded. Adding biophilic elements such as plants, water, stones, wood and other natural materials brings the outdoors indoors. Studies show that office designs that include nature are linked with enhanced health and improved performances. Installing communal areas where employees can take a break also enhance productivity. People need regular breaks to help clear the mind and re-focus their attention. Create flexible workspace Attitudes to how companies use workspace are changing. Since the 1990۪s, there has been a shift from a hierarchical structure to building a sense of community. The concept of flexible workspaces and non-dedicated desks۝ takes the company community۪ philosophy into a new phase. The flexible office design - together with smart-building technologies - dictate where people will work in relation to their schedule and the availability of desks. Younger workforces intend to create a culture of connecting with colleagues from other departments, sharing ideas and growing as a company. Agile office designs support these ideals by encouraging employees to work from a variety of workstations. Dedicated desks and even departments are redundant in the office revolution. Even CEO۪s and other board members do not have their own desks. That۪s not to say, employees that prefer a fixed desk should not be allowed to sit in the same place every day. For some people, familiarity with their surroundings is more conducive to their productivity. In general, people need different environments at different times of the day. Quiet rooms are ideal for deep-thinking and report writing. Collaborative areas are needed for brainstorming and communal areas enable staff to chill out and make informal connections. Today۪s workspaces are shaped in ways that are most conducive to what employees are using them for. Office designs require balance, even when floor space is limited. Some new design concepts that are appearing in modern offices are touchpoint tech hubs, open bench workstations, lounge areas, individual niches, enclosed offices and open networking areas. Some firms are already scaling up flexible office designs by moving into smart buildings - intelligent offices that rely on advanced technologies to perform a series of functions that support modern ideals and needs. Smart workspaces Businesses are already leaning towards the next-gen workspace. As more Baby Boomers retire and make way for the Gen Z workforce, offices will transform into smart۝ environments that attract young, hip and creative minds. Gen Z is the first fully digitalised generation. They know what it is like to be constantly connected and have a vested interest in a sustainable future. Connected buildings are designed to reduce energy bills, and increase engagement, productivity and wellbeing. The first smart offices have already been built. Prime examples include Deloitte۪s sustainable office building The Edge۪ in Amsterdam and Cisco۪s intelligent HQ at the RBC WaterPark Place in Toronto, Canada. Smart offices not only appeal to modern ideals, they completely redesign the way we experience working life. Employees use apps that enable them to locate colleagues, find spare desks, request IT assistance, change the temperature, adapt the lighting and order food and drink. Various management systems are measured and controlled via digital sensors. Data in relation to unused lifts, heating, lighting and ventilation is gathered by a central computer to optimise the energy efficiency and people-centric performance of the building. Connected buildings also grow accustomed to the preferences and work rituals of employees through machine learning. Smart buildings can find employees a parking space when they arrive to work, know when and how you like your coffee and understand how you produce your best work on certain tasks. The app then finds you an appropriate workspace or meeting room. Younger generations are more likely to adapt to smart buildings than older generations. They will almost certainly be more impressed by the technology aspects. Gen Z and millennials appreciate the convenience factor and organisational benefits digital tools offer. Offices Influenced by the Scandinavian Design۝ Movement No other part of the world has influenced modern design concepts quite like Scandinavia. The north European region has been so influential it inspired an entire movement after a trade show in North America around the mid-1950s. The movement began as a response to expensive furniture that alienated the majority of homeowners. The idea was to craft modern and engaging household objects that were affordable to everyone. Eye-catching design was the key feature. But more than that, Scandinavian design intends to demonstrate a simple and functional way of living. Significant features are minimalist designs which promote form and function. The core concepts of Scandinavian design reduce clutter, enhance productivity and promote work-life balance. There is a certain psychological nuance to every detail. Colours, for example, are neutral and understated. Cool shades such as white, cream, grey and pale blue create a calming environment which helps people feel relaxed in high-pressure environments. When your employees are less stressed, they produce better results because the brain operates more efficiently. However, employers also need employees to be creative, engaged and full of energy. If they are relaxed all the time, motivation levels will drop, and productivity will suffer. Scandinavian designs in an office setting troubleshoot these issues by adding splashes of vivid colours. This may be in the form of inspirational artwork, settees and armchairs or decorative elements such as cushions and flowers. Carpets, however, are non-existent. Scandinavians prefer wooden flooring which plays into the idea of biophilic designs. Given the importance of natural daylight, today۪s office designs typically feature large windows and even floor to ceiling glazing. The predominance of neutral shades and pastels work well with light by absorbing the glare. Form and functionality relate to efficiency. In the northern climes of Scandinavia, inhabitants are more focused on survival so need designs that perform a purpose. Office designs can take a no-frills approach but still look great and enable your staff to conduct their duties effectively. Data-informed office designs The emergence of Big Data۪ has found a place among interior designers. Data science plays a key role in the strategic process of office designs and can help designers resolve workplace dilemmas employees experience in a typical office environment. Before Microsoft started building its new offices in The Netherlands, the company analysed movements around the existing office. This enabled architects to determine how much space the Dutch office needed. For the renovated Outlook building, designers were able to reduce the amount of space required by 25% meaning that unused office space could be occupied by other businesses. A study performed by Deloitte revealed the average company only utilises 60% of the space in the office. Unused space is an asset that is wasted and could be a significant expense that is totally unnecessary. Future building architecture and interior office designs will draw on data analytics. Insights will produce new perspectives and solutions that enable CEO۪s and office managers to make informed decisions. Gathering data in the workplace requires co-operation from your employees. Whilst the use of sensors, monitors and artificial intelligence may initially be met with suspicion, employees soon realise they are part of a larger process to improve the workplace and are more willing to collaborate. Understanding how employees spend their time enables you to identify where time is wasted unnecessarily because of certain activities employees need to perform. This data can be used to design an office that is more efficient and yields to the needs of your employees. Businesses that need to improve productivity, employee satisfaction and promote wellbeing may need to change the layout and amenities in your office. Companies that provide a working environment in which your employees can excel enjoy higher rates of success. And successful businesses retain the best employees.

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