In a 2003 survey by Management Today magazine, virtually all (97 percent) respondents regarded their place of work as a symbol of whether or not they were valued by their employer. A further 2005 study commissioned by the British government concluded that the link between environment and performance was “so profound” innovation in how we design our office spaces was essential to meet the demands of the knowledge economy.
10 years on from this research, and many practical solutions have emerged to help us create spaces that improve productivity, innovation, and give employees a greater feeling of belonging. Here are four of the top workplace design trends to consider:
Different spaces for different conversations: Create informal collaboration areas (not just meeting rooms)
Traditionally offices have only offered us two variations in setting: Our desks, where we’re meant to work, heads down, being productive, and meeting rooms for planning and thrashing out issues that need solving in groups. This limited choice is not conducive to the spontaneous generation of new ideas, and neither is it very practical in any sense.
If you’ve got something quick you want to discuss, then all you need is a reasonably secluded place to sit with a colleague for ten minutes – no need for a formal meeting room that requires booking in advance. Clearing some space around the office to add sofas with coffee tables can easily provide these areas – and you’ll find they quickly frees up your meeting rooms for real meetings. The high-backed sofas from Vitra are perfect as they help keep sound in and out, and they look great.
You can also use similar seating or light-weight, portable acoustic walls, to create small areas for individuals to attend online meetings, or work with maximum concentration for a few hours.
Dimly lit offices have long been known to cause fatigue, eye strain and headaches. Personally I find it rather soul-destroying to walk into an office awashed with yellow light from old fluorescent bulbs. After an experiment using different lighting systems, two thirds of employee prefered working under “lensed-indirect lighting system” – which light the room without beaming down directly onto those below in the way parabolic lights do.
There’s no substitute for natural light and moving desks toward windows is always a plus, but using bulbs in the 6500K range provides the closest colour lighting to what’s outside – these tend to be standard issue in new offices.
More than an office: Social spaces to form team bonds
A 2015 Gallup study found that close work friendships improve employee satisfaction by 50%, while people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be highly engaged in their job. Creating a space for Friday evening get togethers, for team breakfasts, and more, shouldn’t been seen as a nice to have – rather an essential for helping cultivate bonds that keep teams together in the long term.
Another growing trend towards creating more friendly workplaces is offering free lunches. Eating together, with high-quality catered meals, can quickly break down barriers between teams and help strike up conversations that lead to new ideas. View our guide to introducing company lunches.
Elevation desks on the rise
A growing body of evidence suggests that sitting for prolonged periods is detrimental to our health. In response, standing desks began to grow in popularity at the hippest, most health conscious, offices – but over the last few years, they’ve really gone mainstream. Advocates of the standing desk explain they no longer get the 3 o’clock slump and feel active all day long.
Now perhaps the only obstacle to their ubiquity is disappearing: Standing desks used to cost a fortune (although I still think the expensive ones were worth it), but now they’re even available at IKEA for around €125 each – which makes them a no-brainer. Of course no one’s going around telling their employees to stand all day long, but giving everyone the option for when they want to, is no longer a luxury.