The New Office Experience (Part One)

There is a growing shift in the way workplaces are being designed around the globe. This emerging design revolution is the result of effective self-promotion by interior designers and architects on social media and beyond, coupled with organisations wishing to make a statement about their values and brand image through visual means. You only need to look at Amazon’s amazing jungle spheres as an obvious example of this.

But how can office managers create an office space that meets the requirements of the architect, the founder of a company and its employees – all of which are likely to have different ideas of what the workspace should look like?

The right space for work

As work roles evolve, people are expected to carry out their jobs in a wide variety of styles, and so there is a need to provide appropriate spaces for each different aspect of work. Some tasks require silence and concentration, and others need conversation without distracting nearby colleagues. Traditional work spaces make that difficult, so an increasing trend is to have zones or dedicated break-out areas around the building where people can work most effectively.  

In many respects, offices are becoming more and more like schools and universities in the way that space is organised, and gone are the days of multiple rooms, each the same as the next with blank walls and beige desks. Best practice in academic architecture means creating spaces fit for the tasks in hand, with a mixture of dynamic and quiet spaces all designed with performance in mind. Making full use of the technology also appeals to the next generation entering the workforce and helps to ensure offices become a familiar and comfortable place to work.  

One size does not fit all

Many space planners are tasked with squeezing as many people into a space as possible. As office rents in many top cities reach record levels, there is a financial imperative to make that space works as hard as possible. This often leads to space efficient layouts that may help with rental costs but can ultimately result in a space that is less than productive for its workers, as the work space becomes suboptimal for everyone and is probably detrimental to organisational performance overall.

Remember, approximately 90% of an organisation’s costs are people, and less than 10% relate to premises costs. Consequently, a small change in human performance has a bigger impact on the bottom line, than a huge shift in building performance. It is becoming increasingly important to look closely at your company office and, with a design partner if needed, work out how best you can utilise the space to its maximum capacity, without compromising on the quality offered to your staff.

‘Hacking the office’

One thing that infuriates facilities managers and space planners alike is office space not being used in the way it was intended. They scratch their heads wondering why the carefully designed spaces are not used as they imagined. This could be down to the contrary nature of people, or (and most likely) it could be down to other issues, for example, where the best WiFi signal can be found, or a conference room with a view. Even the most splendid office building can fail to meet expectations if facilities managers don’t learn to observe and adapt to user behaviour rather than imposing policies on how the space is to be used.

In Part Two of this blog, we will discuss how the role of domestication of the workplace and theory of biophilia are contributing to the new office experience.

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