The workplace is a very different place now than it was a few years ago. Not only in the profound effect that technology has had directly on the way that businesses are run – remote working, file sharing, virtual meeting rooms for example – but also in the demographic of a modern office. We now have a work force than spans four generations, and the influence of women in both running a company and consuming has never been higher.
So what does this all mean for workplace design? As we understand more about the psychology of creativeness and productivity, a workplace design consultancy can now focus on nurturing the productivity of a company’s employees whilst embracing the opportunities that technological advances present.
In a Leesman survey where over 70,000 were questioned, only 54% people felt that their workplace environment enabled them to work productively. That’s a lot of unproductive people and a lot of unproductive businesses! So what does it take to make a workplace more conducive to productivity?
The demographic changes within a modern office mean that designers need to think in an entirely different way. Whereas previously offices have been designed for 18-60 year old males, this is no longer acceptable. Workplaces now need to be designed bearing in mind the growing number of over 60’s, as well as the fact that now just as many women go out to work as men.
Features such as designated car parking and height adjustable tables are simple, yet effective in making a workspace more suited to both women and the more senior workforce, whilst not prejudicing the ease and comfort of the more traditional office demographic.
Another change that we are seeing is the rise of the introvert. Whereas previously offices were geared around the extrovert, attitudes are now changing towards the needs and wants of the more reserved workers. Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’ highlights the differences in the ways that different personalities like to work, and now workplace designers are looking to include areas where the more introverted workforce can excel.
Due to the continuing diversity of the modern office, a workplace design consultancy now has to focus on creating a space which is conducive to promoting productivity across the whole spectrum of the current workforce.
More than ever before we are seeing an emphasis on employee wellness. Companies are seeing the benefits of making sure that employees are fit and healthy both in the body and mind. Research in Scandinavia has linked the office environment with the number of sick days taken by employees showing that it is not only the physical aspects of a work environment which need to be looked after.
While we have always seen before the office interior design based on creating the minimum movement possible, workplace design consultancies are now taking into account the benefits of movement for both the body and mind. This is carried out by combining Agile Working and Biophilic Design to provide a work environment that promotes movement, as well as comfort and well-being.
Designers now have to focus on the psychological wellbeing of employees as well. We don’t all work in the same way. Some people like silence, some the hustle and bustle of a busy office, some like music and others work better in a group of people. And some prefer different environments depending on the work that they are doing. The goal of a workplace designer is to be able to satisfy all of these different needs, to ensure that all of the employees can find themselves in a place where their productivity will be at a maximum.
The continuously shifting workforce demands for a diverse workplace that will meet their individual requirements. Businesses will have to rethink everything from building structure, furniture and interior design, in order to attract and keep quality talent. Turning to inclusive design will not only unite the different generations, race and ages at work, but keep them connected to their workplace as well.
The ever-changing world of technology also plays an important role in workplace design. As remote working is on the increase – according to Leesman, 29% people now work from home at least one day a week. Workplace designers now need to think about two things: creating an environment to rival home in terms of where employees want to be; and promoting the company ‘community’ when they are in the office (a sense of being an important part of the company, building relationships between employees etc.).
The modern workplace also should take into account technological issues such as the devices which are being used by employees, the provision of screens in meeting rooms, the rise in machine-to-machine use, virtual meetings across multiple locations etc. The idea of ‘hot desking’ is a popular one especially in companies where not all employees are in the office at all times. And some companies have come up with unique ways of still giving their workforce the feeling of a personalised space. The Truth – a communications agency, for example, allow their employees to display their artwork on the office walls, and sell them.
Another trend that we are seeing thanks to technology is the inclusiveness of customers in the design aspect of a product. Whether it is Walkers’ design your flavour crisps or the NikeID project where customers can individually choose their trainer colour, businesses are changing the way that they develop their products, and this should also be taken into account in the office interior design.
Whilst all of this technology is essential for the smooth running and development of a business, there is something to be said for the more traditional methods of working. Sometimes a pen and paper is much more effective than a laptop, and this should also be considered when looking at a workplace design.
The world is changing at an ever-accelerating pace both in technology and in terms of the understanding of people. There are a number of factors to create a productive workforce today, and the workplace design plays a major role in achieving this.