Posted by Oliver Meredew on November 29th, 2017.
Offices are a staple of the modern workplace, from the classic cubicle setup to open-plan spaces, and in recent years increasing emphasis has been put on designing workspaces that support employees, boost productivity and improve wellbeing.
Check out some of the top innovations found in office spaces and see whether any could be used to boost your business in 2018.
One of the first stages of office design is getting the layout right. Employees need to have all their equipment easily accessible and be positioned so they can communicate with colleagues.
The traditional cubicle plan ticks one of these boxes but not the other, while open-plan spaces have a tendency to create either deathly silence or chaos.
Where possible, it can be best to adopt a varied layout to accommodate different departments and their functions.
There is no one right answer to office layout – the right layout is unique to your circumstances.
One trend that has taken off recently has been modular or ‘collaborative’ furniture, which offers an elegant solution to the issue of accommodating different teams.
Flexibility is the key principle of modular design, and it can also tackle the issue of noise, as some pieces can have noise-reducing properties built-in.
Uses include making an impromptu meeting room out of panels and benches, creating desk islands for different teams and turning the boardroom into a creative open space.
Explaining the benefits of open plan offices that feature modular furniture has been Adam Monago, Vice President of Client Services at software company ThoughtWorks.
When it comes to layouts, Monago recommends catering to all workers equally;
‘One of the common misconceptions about open floor plans is that what you see is what you get.
A visitor who walks into a busy office of IT workers talking around small tables or working in teams at whiteboards might assume there’s no privacy.
But even for a project that requires a lot of collaboration and teamwork, workers need a place to retreat’.
As well as making sure the working environment is conducive to productivity, efforts are also being made to support employees’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
While overworking isn’t really a headline issue in the UK, it’s a major concern in other parts of the world.
In the Netherlands, one company has been doing its best to encourage workers to have a healthy work/life balance through innovative office design.
At Heldergroen, designers have been experimenting with an interesting desk system to prevent overworking – at the end of the day, the desks are lifted into a ceiling space, out of the reach of employees.
Describing the versatility offered by the system, Creative Designer Sander Veenendaak says;
‘We are able to pull the tables up into the ceiling and make the whole room into a dance floor, yoga studio, trend session, networking reception, or anything else you can think of -the floor is literally yours’.
While this method of clearly defining the cut off point for work is a little extreme, an increasing number of companies are looking at ways of reinforcing the separation between home and work.
Another new addition to office design is the consideration for employee’s physical health, or more specifically their fitness levels.
Various studies have highlighted the risks attached to being sat at a desk all day, so companies are taking steps to help employees keep active.
Some offices have entire floors converted into gyms, while others take things off site with team runs and membership for local leisure centres.
A novel in-house approach to keeping employees healthy can be seen in the White Collar Factory building, in London.
Making innovative use of the building’s rooftop space, designers have installed a 150m running track. In a similar vein, Google are looking at having their own running track in their sprawling King’s Cross ‘landscraper’.
Naturally, not all offices have the luxury of a large roof space to run laps on, but the implementation of some kind of fitness facility is still worth considering.
If you can’t spare the space for a dedicated fitness area, there’s always the option of a less-intrusive under-desk cycling setup.
Fitness activities aren’t for everyone, so you may also want to consider introducing a relaxation or chill-out zone.
Your chill-out zone could be a quiet, comfortable place for reading or relaxing, or it could be a more social space including things like table football or a pool table.
Taking even a ten minute break can reinvigorate employees and help them deal with heavy deadlines or demanding workloads.
Social areas can also be important for team building, so it’s well worth finding space for one if you can.
It is somewhat stereotypical of offices to have a token plant, whether it’s a novelty cactus on someone’s desk or the ubiquitous cheese plant in the corner.
Modern office design is taking greenery much further, with the interesting concept of ‘living walls’.
These typically involve a large framework of a climbable material (like wire or mesh) and different varieties of climbing plants.
The living wall has more than aesthetic appeal, as the plants festooning these structures can act as natural purifiers.
Another benefit is that living walls can be used as handy sources of healthy food in the office – ‘edible walls’ can be packed with easy-to-pick salad leaves or fruits for a snack or lunch.
While they can be pricey to introduce, if you have the budget and space, a living wall can make an excellent addition to the office.
While some of the workplace considerations mentioned above aren’t exactly revolutionary, making a few changes to your working environment can make a big difference to employee satisfaction and productivity, so they’re worth considering!
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