The last decade has seen some big changes in the way we work. With business rent and rates on the increase, companies have become very conscious of the need to maximise the efficiency of their office space and, with an increase in remote working and flexible hours, not every desk is used all the time.
Gone are the traditional cellular offices, replaced by open-plan multi-functional workspaces and an increase in flexible working. Internal meetings have generally become less formal, increasing the need for breakout/social areas and reducing the use of boardroom space.
Studies have shown that employee productivity can be significantly increased by creation of positive working environments with flexible layouts that encourage people to collaborate and communicate. Equally importantly, the design and layout of your offices say a great deal about your attitude to business and tells existing and potential clients what you’re all about, by stamping your personality and ethos on the business environment.
So how do you go about creating your “office style”? Here’s some ideas based on the latest trends.
Keeping it Natural
This is all about going back to nature. The main colours are neutral – brown, beige and cream – with complimenting wood furniture, natural materials and laminate/wooden flooring. Although you have to be careful to pick the right shade and tone, green walls can give a feeling of getting back to nature, with grained or leaf type patterns helping to complete the overall look.
This is design in its simplest form; clean lines, soft seating, uncluttered surfaces, lots of natural light, soft artificial lighting. Inclusion of live planting is also being more widely used, not just for its visual impact, but for its contribution to the atmosphere as plants provide a natural Solution to cleaner indoor air
Essentially a combination of an oversized notice board and company newsletter, many businesses are now creating focus walls in their open office space or reception areas. Filled with all sorts of company news, etc, it can be used to effectively communicate not only with employees but also clients. Containing written, pictorial and even video content, it can be a great way to engage and let everyone know what the business is all about. It’s important to keep refreshing it though; no-one wants to see the same old information week in, week out. Keep it fresh and keep it current and make it attractive and engaging to get maximum benefit.
This is probably the most widespread trend within office environments at the moment, where employees do not have a designated desk and merely choose any available space to work from as and when they are in the office. Fuelled by the increasingly mobile workforce, it can be a brilliant tool for encouraging communication and collaboration and can prevent any employees feeling isolated or “out of the loop”. This has also been prompted by an increase in the cost of office space and the rising trend for remote working, meaning that it is unlikely that 100% of the workforce will be in the office at any one time and it therefore prevents space being specifically allocated and left redundant when not in use. It does take a shift in mind-set for many, however, particularly those used to having their own designated space, and so a period of adjustment should be factored in.
Let there be light
Studies have shown that, as we are not by nature nocturnal, we are far more productive when we are exposed to daylight. Therefore the more natural light you can get into your offices, the better and office refurbishments are increasingly including larger windows and skylights.
Obviously, it’s not always possible to alter the structure of your existing building to accommodate more windows, but if you’re looking for new offices, it’s definitely something you should consider when there are a number of premises to choose from. Not only will employees be happier but also, in these days of rising electricity prices, the less you have to spend on artificial lighting, the better.
To maximise the benefits of available light, ensure the most frequently used desks are placed so they get the maximum benefit of any available natural light. You should also position larger items – such as cupboards and screens – to ensure they are not obscuring windows.
Hard surfaces amplify noise, and with the increase in open plan working, this can create issues.
Therefore including a large proportion of soft furnishings is becoming increasingly popular in office design. Including different textures and fabrics can also help to improve the overall working environment and create useful differentiation for areas of different use. Screens can be covered in a variety of fabrics, and are useful for delineating areas of different use. Breakout areas now contain comfortable chairs and more “relaxed” seating, but take care to ensure the fabrics are stain resistant and easy to clean to ensure hygiene standards are maintained.
Many designers also believe that the standard break-out/social areas in offices are now virtually redundant, with employees preferring more comfortable surroundings, not just for breaks from work, but also for more informal meetings. Hence there has been a rise in the inclusion of armchairs, sofas and even beanbags available for staff to use.
Business are becoming increasingly green-aware, with more investment being made in ensuring everyone does their bit for the environment. People are demanding to know how their furniture is made and, more importantly, what it’s made from, ensuring that the wood sources are sustainable and environmentally friendly. With an eye on their carbon footprint and “furniture miles” many businesses are keen to source furniture as locally as possible, thus reducing transport costs and carbon emissions. There is also an increase in demand for more natural fabrics and materials, both in hard and soft furnishings, as businesses want to shout about their “green “credentials.
It all goes to show it’s worth putting a little thought into your office design. It can make all the difference to the way you do business.