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Jack Cooper
Jack Cooper
  • 4 Minute Read
  • 22nd October 2013

Adapting for Success: Workspace Design

Your workforce is changing.

A recent visit to a new business centre - Landmark's 48 Dover Street development - got us thinking about workspace design and the potential effect it has on the productivity of staff members and clients.

While the very definition of productivity changes from business to business, the rule of thumb is that strong workspace design should allow companies to foster talent and achieve improved staff performance.

Most SMEs don't have the kind of freedom to install staff ball pools and miniature golf courses afforded to companies like Google, but the need for workplaces that allow productivity to thrive remains unchanged. Leased (as opposed to purchase outright) workplaces usually adhere to some form of preset interior design. Character may have been established by previous tenants, the space provider, or by the architectural constraints of the building itself.

Fortunately, many serviced office providers offer flexible plans that often include, but are not limited to, scalable floor spaces, area repurposing, and the option to create smaller rooms within rooms. With a little attention paid to what makes the modern office worker tick, a space optimised for productivity is an achievable goal.

The best solution for every member of staff.

In the time of the agile workforce, mobile devices and Cloud storage, it is becoming increasingly clear that the office space of the future needs to complement, not constrict, the fluid, dynamic nature of work. Just as the many variations on 'open plan' spaces have been an attempt to champion the collaborative nature of the modern workplace that's been evolving since the '50s, the office of the future will work to adapt to the demands of the increasingly diverse workforce.

So, what's changed? Well, we're collaborating more than ever before - though not in the traditional face-to-face manner. Instead, technologies designed to improve distance collaboration have become commonplace inside the office space. Even the act of checking an email - perhaps the last bastion of traditional desktop activities - has transformed to keep up with the agile workforce, with an Experian study revealing more than 50% of emails are opened on mobile devices.

The advancements in collaboration and the pooling of resources these technologies have brought undoubtedly unlocks a lot of potential, especially for workers who work better in closed environments.

Because of this, it's unsurprising that a study by office design firm Knoll discovered that almost half of all work (47 percent) occurs outside of the primary workspace. 17 percent occurs at other locations within the primary office building, and 24 percent takes place in community locations outside of the primary office building altogether. The geography of work is expanding, with an increased emphasis on team work and the social component of work.

With this in mind, Knoll determined a number of key goals achieved through workspace adaptation, by interviewing a number of high profile businesses.

The top five goals established were:

  1. Minimise cost
  2. Support collaboration
  3. Support effective work process
  4. Provide good ergonomics
  5. Attract and retain employees

With collaboration already supported by technology, employee retention is better solved by increased ergonomics and giving employees more choice as to how they work. The promotion of space flexibility, as well as time and location, allows for an increased level of autonomy - a balance that's hard to get right, but is typically beneficial for organic business growth. Since different projects require different levels of autonomy, and individual staff members perform better in different spaces, the move towards a more integrated workspace makes sense.

After all, if we can collaborate over the Cloud, why should the office space not resemble something that promotes chance encounters, and fosters individuality as much as community?

[caption id="attachment_15847" align="alignnone" width="580"]Landmark Dover Street Inside 48 Dover Street[/caption]

Encouraging social interaction.

“Think about a city park with a soccer field, a lake, a picnic table area and a grassy area,” says Randy Howder, senior workplace strategist at the global design and architecture firm Gensler. “That’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about where office design is going.”

A workplace strategist interviewed by Knoll believes "part of this approach is to use the workspace and technology to provide employees with the greatest choice possible in selecting their time and location of work. This helps to promote the seamless flow of people between work modes."

A sense of social connection was also defined as a key design practice. Forging strong relationships between employees and the company by creating engaging, energetic workspaces with real flow is something that, whilst sounding entirely holistic in nature, serves all parties best.

"Employees were upset at first because the space is more open. Now people love it; they are happier and have a better attitude. The meeting spaces and technology created interest and attracted new users," said a facility manager that took part in a redevelopment program during the Knoll study.

Finding the perfect balance.

What's fantastic about business centres that have taken the advice of integrated workspace studies into account is that many of them maintain a classic, workable aesthetic. Strength of professional design doesn't have to suffer in the face of the agile workforce's demands - and brand maintenance for those that operate under a clean image is still completely viable. What's important is the substance of an integrated space - the style is secondary, and remains a versatile factor.

Landmark's 48 Dover Street development is a prime example of such a space. Working closely with interior designers M+A London, Landmark has achieved a level of understated, minimally-branded elegance without sacrificing functionality. The attention to breakout areas and larger spaces are testament to the changing times, and complement the agile workforce perfectly.

Stephen Moore, Global Marketing Director at SOS commented, “Business Centre design has been developing rapidly over the last few years. It’s exciting to see companies like Landmark amongst others, really look at the detail in their interiors. Creating more well designed, communal spaces helps develop more “water cooler” moments for collaborative discussion and networking opportunities. Innovative space also creates additional revenue opportunities from businesses before they need an office, through the use of business lounge access, shared spaces and meeting rooms.”

The breakout spaces incorporated by Google and those influenced by its off the wall design principles are perhaps a little too stimulating for many, serving to distract rather than dynamise. Much of Google's modus operandi revolves as much around the creation of newsworthy 'fun' spaces as it does on hard workspace psychology. One questions what percentage of their staff actually spend in ball pools, but Google makes a prolific poster boy for the changing standards of office space design.

You can find out more about Landmark's 48 Dover Street development here.