Uprooting workplace norms and changing our expectations about work is now commonplace amongst companies. Indeed, the notion that the desk is the only way of working has long gone. Today, successful office design is a place that is conducive to the wellbeing of all employees – a place that creates comfort, happiness and productivity. Hence, the challenge now facing designers is to create environments that address the needs of workers in their daily tasks whilst ensuring they are engaged, happy and productive. It involves creating a series of settings or habitats that aim to support the different types of activity-based working. At Boss Design, we have identified six habitats that need to be considered when creating an optimal and flexible work environment. Let’s take a closer look:
There’s never a second chance to make a first impression, and the foyer or reception area is the place where visitors discover what defines an organisation and what makes the culture unique. No longer confined to receiving visitors, when planned correctly the reception area can also perform as a business lounge.
By introducing a range of furniture options, the welcome area can be exploited to maximise efficiency and utilisation. Hospitality is central to the user’s experience, but the welcome area should also provide opportunities for helping visitors find their way, and ensure that their waiting time is both comfortable and productive.
Everyone needs a home and many people require a dedicated workstation due to the nature of their work. However, recent studies show that personal workspaces are getting smaller and are shrinking in floor area as people spend less time at their desks – hence the rise in popularity of hot desks, benching and touchdown facilities that provide highly mobile workers with access to tools and technology. However, whilst the walls may be coming down in the workplace, focus work is still seen as a crucial activity, so nearby enclaves or enclosed spaces are perfect for when people need to concentrate, make phone calls or conduct confidential interactions. Well-planned home spaces should help people improve individual work processes, speed up the development of ideas, improve learning and gain access to information quickly.
These spaces are the primary paths through the workplace that provide plenty of opportunities for planned and unplanned encounters. When planned strategically, circulation spaces are about encouraging the serendipity associated with spontaneous informal exchanges. Knowledge moves quickly through networked groups and from chance encounters – in the stairwell, over the water cooler and in the reprographics section. Sympathetically located standing height tables and bar stools can encourage spontaneous exchanges, and visual displays such as monitors and writable surfaces can support impromptu discussion and idea sharing.
Collaboration spaces are becoming more commonplace inside organisations. Today, it’s normal for people to be away from their desks holding meetings formally or informally, on or off campus, so ideally, collaboration settings should be located adjacent to home settings to assist in the speed of the development of ideas and flow of knowledge. When teams need to concentrate or engage in confidential collaboration, it’s important to consider both acoustic and visual privacy. Technology, furniture and interior architecture should all be integrated to provide a plug and play environment. Breakout spaces serve as great areas to collaborate. These spaces encourage interaction and spontaneous conversation, and should be designed with mobile and casual furniture, work tools and technology. Indeed, equipping these habitats with comfortable seating can provide relief from hours in desk chairs.
There’s often still a need for a formal meeting environment to accommodate board meetings, seminars, client presentations or informal networking events. Spaces for staged meetings not only provide the means to share information at many levels and through many different styles, they are also about conveying the company image, learning and developing new ideas, and ultimately expediting effective decision-making. Such meeting spaces should be dynamic – supporting different postures, ensuring technology is accessible, and providing flexible furniture.
Cafes and coffee bars where employees from every department can intermingle are breeding grounds for fresh ideas. Very often, these spaces tend to be a signature space that can define a company’s culture, improve productivity and become a magnet that attracts employees to the workplace.
This habitat provides for a combination of working, socialising and refuelling, and can foster employee productivity and wellbeing. It’s a compelling way to generate energy – a hub where people choose to work. The space should be a magnet for people and activities and provide a variety of settings to support collaboration, not just lunch-style tables and chairs. Whereas a standard cafeteria’s activity spikes at breakfast and lunch, with some activity around break times, the work cafe is a dynamic hub throughout the entire working day.
By creating a series of habitats in the workplace, employees will be attracted to their physical environments that feel less like nine-to-five institutions and more like a home-away-from-home, and a place where they can be at the top of their game.
Designers must now tailor the space available to suit the various work activities being carried out, and with the habitats firmly in place, the careful choice of office furniture will further aid wellbeing and overall productivity in the workplace.