Case Study: Corporate Finance Insti...


Case Study: Corporate Finance Institute

The Business

Corporate Finance Institute (CFI) is a business based in Downtown Vancouver that offers online courses in financial analysis, including modeling and valuation. Their coursework was taken by over 100,000 clients in 2018, who range from university students to investment bankers and accountants. With a history going back decades, CFI has gone through a number of changes that, while beneficial, have also meant a need to constantly update their style, refresh their visual identity, and set down roots in their location.

The Problem

While CFI’s Vancouver space was sizeable and conveniently located, they were based out of a coworking space. This meant its layout wasn’t ideally set up for their business and didn’t feel like it actually belonged to them. There was a marked lack of rooms and spaces dedicated to CFI’s specific needs: not only was there an insufficient amount of space dedicated to meeting and collaborative rooms — of which they needed several — the space had no dedicated lobby or waiting area for visitors and clients. On top of that, the office felt second hand in an aesthetic sense, with a lack of branding or visual identity to make the space feel like a dedicated home for CFI.

The Solution

Aura’s approach was a holistic one, covering the necessary changes to the office’s layout and giving it a visual overhaul that made it feel far more like a space that belonged to CFI. In terms of practicality, space was rearranged so that certain areas felt more distinct than others. The hallway adjacent to the main door was widened to create a boundary between the main, open workplace and the area around the entryway newly designated as the waiting area. Multiple rooms were created using glass walls as demarcation points which still allowed for a wide-open, highly visible environment, including both small and large boardrooms, casually furnished meeting spaces, and a dedicated room for recording podcasts. And in terms of branding, well-placed elements of colour — focusing on CFI’s shade of dark blue — adorned window and door frames, as well as walls in the entryway and boardrooms and subtle elements in the carpeted flooring. Lively multicoloured graphics, both abstract and representational, add both visual pizzazz and statements of CFI’s purpose.

Aura worked with both the client and the building’s landlord closely, fitting both the budget and the timeline despite occasional challenges. Even in the event of a setback involving structural asbestos in the office’s exterior walls and columns, Aura was able to come up with creative solutions to the matter that had minimal impact on pre-construction time.

The Outcome

With an emphasis on close-quarters yet spacious-feeling use of the office’s layout, paired with furnishings that made waiting and meeting rooms feel more like welcoming living rooms than an all-business workplace, Aura’s reworking of CFI’s space gave it a feeling of coziness that made it feel like home. Along with the creation of multiple dedicated workspaces, the new layout and design gave CFI employees a versatile and comfortable place to work.

Learn what else Aura can do for you and your office space! Feel free to contact us, and see what other spaces we’ve brought to life.

Office Space Utilization for Growing Tech Companies

Most growing tech companies spend a significant sum on office space in order to meet the needs of their talented workforce. As start-ups grow into larger businesses, office space utilization becomes vital. By making some tweaks to office aesthetics and optimizing their use of space, tech companies can create workplaces that align with their dynamic, predominantly millennial workforce and meet lofty business objectives.

What is Office Space Utilization?

Office space utilization is the process of determining how current office space is used by an organization. The aim is to identify unused or badly used space and devise ways to utilize any extra footage through redesigning, renovating, and reimagining existing layouts.

In modern tech office design, office utilization rates usually range between 60-70%, meaning that 30-40% of space is underutilized on a typical workday. Office real estate costs organizations thousands of dollars each year, so companies ought to properly manage workspaces to reduce further expenses.

Most contemporary tech office designs are activity-based working (ABW) offices that continually grow in size and scope. Such office spaces are partitioned into various areas to enable the staff to perform their numerous duties. Some sections include:

  • Quiet spaces
  • Shared workstations
  • Networking rooms
  • Meeting rooms

This design enables the staff to use areas well-suited to the specific tasks they are performing, increasing efficiency in the processes. Companies can easily determine which areas are important. Those who add little value can be removed to improve utilization.

The continuous assessment of space utilization measurements is critical as it allows organizations to know trends and collect data that is instrumental in saving energy, space and costs. Ideally, companies should measure space utilization once or twice annually. This helps identify areas that need revamping and to make necessary alterations.

 

Guidelines for Better Office Space Utilization

Horizontal to Vertical Layout & Storage

Horizontal office layouts are common because employees need space to work and move around. While most offices are designed for work, business owners shouldn’t underestimate the importance of effective storage solutions. Poor storage can significantly slow office operations and lead to reduced productivity.

Offices need to adopt vertical storage solutions because they’re organized and take up less space. The freed-up floor space can be used by growing tech companies to create new workspaces that foster collaboration. What’s more, new employees can be added to keep up with demand.

Currently, millennials make up the largest part of the workforce. This group of environmentally conscious staff prefer biking to work (instead of driving) to reduce carbon emissions and save money. Since there will be more bikes at work, this presents a new problem for storage. The best way to accommodate this change is to provide staff with vertical wall storage for bikes at the entrance or in common areas. This way, the office won’t be laden with bikes and employees will have an easier time moving around. Moreover, such storage is visually appealing and gives the company a sense of organization.

A few years ago, tech companies had to contend with physical paperwork. Today, this isn’t the case. With digital file sharing and cloud storage, tech offices can do away with outdated filing systems and instead use vertical shelving units to store tech-related publications and references. It’s advantageous not only because of the space savings but it also makes it easier for employees to access information.

Floor Plan Changes

You need to assess your office design to determine if it needs a new set of furniture or if some items take up too much floor space. An agile interior design ensures accessibility, creating more space and giving employees the freedom to move about and choose suitable areas to accomplish specific tasks.

Another trend in office design for technology companies in the elimination of stand-alone desks which keep employees at one position all day. Collaborative work zones are open concept common space and private zones that are often integrated into modern tech office designs. Employees don’t have to suffer the dullness that results from spending the whole day at one position anymore.

You may discover that your staff spends more time in collaborative spaces than in quiet spaces. In such a situation, consider redesigning some quiet spaces to become additional collaboration spaces. All this is done to increase convenience and boost productivity.

 Adaptable Furniture

An agile floor plan is one that improves mobility and encourages employees to ditch the traditional use of floor space. These modern floor spaces should embrace human personality and spirit, thus increasing the efficiency of operations.

Another awesome way to maximize office space utilization is through the use of modular furniture. This type of furniture is portable, mobile and multi-purpose and easily replaces the bulky furniture often found in traditional offices. Companies can invest in furniture that promotes good space utilization such as height-adjustable desks and privacy walls.

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Over time, tech companies outgrow the existing office space and require optimized spaces that can support more staff and increase efficiency. The first thing to do when faced with this predicament is to analyze your current step to determine which areas need refurbishing. Be brave enough and try out new ideas.

Great office designs for technology companies are those that portray company culture and are flexible. At Aura, we take away the stress of redesigning a tech office from you. Sit back and let us help with everything from workspace planning and real estate advisory to interior office design and construction management. Contact us to discuss more on this matter.

 

How to Plan a Successful Office Renovation

An office redesign or renovation can be an exciting time for a business growing and investing in its future. A carefully curated interior with a focus on fresh aesthetics can help readjust the attitude and identity of the office–a much-needed clean slate for reimagining your culture and direction. 

One of the most asked questions by companies considering an office redesign is: How soon should you get started on planning?

It’s easy to act on impulse and start imagining all the incredible features and amenities to incorporate into your new office design. However, there are a number of key factors to consider before jumping into decisions on furniture layout and colour schemes. 

In this post, we share best practice insight into successfully planning your next office redesign.

 

Identifying Your Office Environment

The first step in planning your office resdesign is determining which type of office environment you strive to foster. The idea is that your office environment should complement your business–from your brand values to the personalities and interests of your staff. By considering these key factors, you’ll be poised to create an office that people are excited to come to, but also one that is capable of enhancing your internal culture.

Once you know what sort of environment is well-suited to your business, you can start considering what modern office design trends and features would help you to build it. For example, if you were hoping to foster more collaboration in your workplace, a bright and airy open-concept office design would be an asset. Alternatively, building a more close-knit company culture may require the addition of community spaces in the office design. In this phase, it may also be helpful to consider the psychology of design and how things like colours, lighting, temperature, etc. influence people’s emotions, thoughts, feelings and productivity in the workplace.

 

Start Planning Early

The timeframes for planning an office redesign can vary dramatically depending on your company structure and team but we recommend taking 6-8 months before starting any work on the project. That way, you’ll have no trouble fleshing out ideas and assembling a team that will help you achieve your vision. 

During this planning period, you’ll need to detail a plan that includes the following: 

  • What is driving the need for an office redesign? How is it necessary for achieving your goals as an organization?
  • What issues may affect the construction schedule? Will this renovation require you to temporarily relocate? Can you maintain an efficient and motivated workforce for the duration of the project?
  • How much money are you willing to invest in your renovation? Do you have funds allocated for any unexpected changes, permits, insurance, etc.?

By doing this type of homework prior to starting on renovations, you’ll be able to mitigate risks, eliminate downtime, prevent workflow disruptions and keep employees motivated–not to mention, you’ll get to move into your new space more quickly!

 

Choosing A Design Team

Choosing the right design team is crucial to the success of your project. The best designers are those that complement your values, embody your goals, and identify with your new office renovation plans.

To begin, investigate a number of company’s portfolios of work and set-up interviews. Ask your selections to explain their design-build process as this will help you to determine if they’re right for the job. Trust and transparency are key qualities to look for in a design team to ensure the work relationship will be a positive one. 

A professional design team usually requires about 4 months to evaluate your space, make a comprehensive workspace strategy, and begin preparation stages for construction. During this phase, you’ll be able to consult with your design team on square footage requirements, aesthetics and layout, furniture selections, technology integrations, green/eco-friendly fixtures, colour palettes, and other finishing touches needed to create the perfect environment for your office.

 

Mitigate Downtime and Interruptions

There are a number of ways to minimize downtime during your office renovation and avoid a complete halt to workplace productivity. One way to do this is by relocating a section of your workforce to a different part of the business building while construction gets underway. Alternatively, find a suitable off-site office solution to minimize distractions and exposure to the by-products of construction like dirt, dust and noise.

If you choose to stay put during the course of the renovations, it’s important to focus on change management with staff throughout the process. Failure to do that will only create an environment full of chaos, confusion and stress. You can host weekly meetings with department heads to inform the rest of the team about progress and answer any questions they may have.

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A successful office redesign takes a lot of careful planning and consideration but can be the perfect way to rekindle some of the energy, inspiration, and excitement that may have been lost while operating in an outdated space. 

At Aura, we create innovative office environments that celebrate and enhance your unique company culture and character. Our turnkey design-build solution encompasses everything from workspace planning and real estate advisory to interior office design and construction management. Get in touch if you’re looking for a trusted partner to help you with your next office move or redesign.

Case Study: BERMANFALK Hospitality Group

Vancouver-based BERMANFALK has been providing furnishings to the hospitality industry throughout the world since 2007. In that span of time — relatively short in memory, but a long stretch for a growing business — BERMANFALK grew rapidly, with their design-first approach earning their seating and casegoods products a strong reputation and a growing footprint in the hotelier and interior design worlds. While their committment to a Canadian sense of quality products and efficient service was well-maintained, the rate of their growth led to an inevitability: how do they redesign their office and make it more efficiently attuned to the needs of an expanding business?

The Problem

For BERMANFALK, their needs were clear: their workforce was growing, and that meant a need for more coordinated teamwork in a larger operation. Due to the collaborative nature of the workplace, the idea was to gravitate towards an open space, one that encouraged and inspired a free exchange of ideas. But there was still a need to allow individual employees their own spaces, autonomy, and privacy, which open-plan offices aren’t always designed to accommodate.

The Solution

Partnering with Aura gave BERMANFALK many options to choose from in expanding and redefining their space. For their new office, located in a former industrial space, the openness of the space was emphasized with soft white walls and ceiling, letting the contrasting abstract/organic patterning of the carpeting reflect the shadows and light given off by the structure of the ceiling’s bare ductwork and girders. This lent the open space of the floorplan a bright uniformity, while other more delineated spaces — including individual cubicles, cabinetry, and window frames of conference rooms — were highlighted with darker slate tones. And in keeping with BERMANFALK’s reputation for design, furnishings were given a timeless modernity, mid-Century designs standing out distinctly while still maintaining a comfortable minimalism.

The Outcome

With Aura’s open space plan, BERMANFALK’s managers were able to get a clear, easy overview of operations as the size of their business expanded. Meanwhile, the visual impact of their space was directly in keeping with their stylistic philosophy, post-industrial chic highlighting a simple but versatile approach to creating a harmonic interior space. In short, Aura served as the interior designer that interior design experts trusted.

Learn what else Aura can do for you and your office space! Contact us, and see what other spaces we’ve brought to life.

Aura Office Environments Hosts Successful Tenant Talks Lunch & Learn Event

Tenant Talks is a complimentary event series featuring expert insights driving Vancouver’s modern workplace.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – October 15, 2019 – Aura Office Environments (“Aura”) proudly hosted its first-ever Tenant Talks Lunch & Learn at Spaces in Gastown on Wednesday, October 9th.  Themed around Remote Work and the Modern Office, the event featured a panel of top-tier industry experts, including NoW of Work Founder Rocky Ozaki, Visier Senior HR Business Partner Angie Ng, Quietly Head of People & Places Kraig Doherty and Aura Operational Development Manager Kristina Kovacevic. Together, they spurred a multitude of ideas and brought forth their vision for how remote work will affect office planning and employee dynamics in the long-term. 

 

Here are some of the event’s key takeaways:

  • Remote working is here to stay. Studies have shown that the benefits of remote work apply to employees and businesses alike. Given the opportunity to work remotely, an astounding 77% of workers stated they were more productive working remotely, with 30% of remote workers stated they accomplished more work in less time than working in the office. Normalizing remote work is increasingly beneficial, and the key to this is putting trust in your staff.

  • Office design, tech, and remote work are all integral to each other. Video teleconferencing is an accessible technology that can be accommodated by dedicated design plans, such as “zoom rooms” that feature large-screen displays for long-distance “face to face” interactions. Smaller meeting spaces and private spaces for smartphone usage — an update of the traditional “phone booth” — are also helpful, as are dedicated hotel desk and “hotdesk” setups for workers on the go.

  • Adopting remote work policies is easy and beneficial. Test the waters by giving workers the option of working remotely once a week. Budget for activities that will help remote staff build interpersonal work relationships, such as flying them to in-person events and having stipends to help cover their coworking expenses. Create working-hour expectations where people are expected to be “on-call” during particular times to set some needed parameters for self-directed workers. And, focus primarily on how people work rather than where.

  • Reward flexibility with benefits. One of the primary challenges of remote work is instilling a sense of community and social contact among workers who might otherwise feel detached from the organization. In-person social events and fun online group chats and Slack channels are two solutions businesses can offer.

 

Aura plans to host Tenant Talks on a quarterly basis at varying venues throughout Vancouver. Sign up to the mailing list to stay in the loop!

 

About Tenant Talks

Tenant Talks is a complimentary Lunch & Learn Speaker Series featuring industry experts and community leaders sharing their expertise, knowledge and valuable tips on workplace trends impacting Vancouver companies. Gain key insights over a catered lunch into office design and workplace culture best practices.

 

About Aura Office Environments

Tenant Talks is brought to you by Aura Office Environments, an innovative design-build company focused on creating experiential office environments that celebrate and enhance your distinct company culture. Founded in 1976 by the Boram family, Aura has evolved into a complete turnkey solution provider, offering a wide range of services including workspace planning, location selection, interior office design and construction management.

 

Contact Information:

Craig Boram  

Marketing Director

Phone: +1 (604) 510-7101

Email: craigb@auraoffice.ca

Case Study: Ram Consulting

Vancouver-based design and construction management consulting firm RAM is a highlight of Aura’s portfolio. Their space is a product of client-ready knowledge and creative problem-solving that helped give one of Western Canada’s most important infrastructure-managing firms room to meet its quickly-growing demand. And to get to that point, Aura would need to assist them in solving problems common to businesses undergoing rapid expansion. Here’s how it all happened.

 

The Problem

In taking on increasing amounts of large-scale work, including project and construction management for major Vancouver-area transportation arteries like the South Fraser Perimeter Road, George Massey Tunnel, and Canada Line Metro, RAM found their old office space insufficiently prepared for expansion. And any renovation would need to keep their workers foremost on their list of priorities: RAM’s core values didn’t just include ethical concerns like safety and integrity, they also held to standards of innovative, forward-thinking solutions, environmental sustainability, and a sense of workplace camaraderie and fun that established their business as a beneficial place for its employees. That combination of expanding business and appealing work environment meant they would need to prepare for a new space that comfortably accommodates a workforce that had the potential to grow by double if not more.

 

The Solution

Aura’s team collaborated with RAM to address their specific needs in ways that handled both concerns — rapid expansion and worker-friendly environment — in overlapping ways. Dedicated lounge areas not only added to the office’s footprint but were situated and arranged in ways that would enable easy communication and socialization between members of the staff. The line between traditional meeting rooms and social spaces was erased thanks to the unobtrusive but accessible placement of furnishings like couches and foosball tables. And the wide variety of seating, desks, and tables gave off an uncluttered, versatile sense that work could be done just about anywhere in the office.

 

The Outcome

Aura’s ability to create a bespoke space that paid attention to both form and function benefitted RAM in the long run. With their myriad teams consolidated into the same space, the company’s ability to facilitate freer and wider communication between different groups has bolstered their workplace’s focus on collaborative empowerment. And the lively, attractive decor underscores RAM’s commitment to giving employees a welcoming place to work.

You can see more in Aura’s online portfolio, and contact us to see how we can help your business, too!

Aura Office Environments Announces Tenant Talks Lunch & Learn Speaker Series

Tenant Talks is a complimentary event series featuring expert insights on office design and workplace culture best practices for companies located in Vancouver.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – September 4, 2019 — Aura Office Environments (“Aura”) is pleased to announce the launch of its very first Tenant Talks Lunch & Learn at Spaces in Gastown on Wednesday, October 9th at 12:00 pm. The theme will be centred on Remote Work, a trend that is becoming increasingly widespread throughout various industries as more people enjoy the flexibility it offers. Industry experts and community leaders from leading companies like Quietly, Visier, and the NoW of Work Inc. will share insights on the current and future trends of remote work and consider how the modern workplace can embrace it.

Designing an office should account for more than just budget, practicality, and aesthetics: there’s also a psychological angle to take into account, too,” explained Dan Boram, president and CEO of Aura. “Businesses both small and large have grown to understand that an environmental effect on employees’ psyches — from basic day-to-day moods to socialization patterns and engagement with company goals — can be affected and directed by the way an office space is built, arranged, and decorated. It’s an idea that’s already been put into use for more specialized environments like hospitals and schools, but the workplace — the most common home-away-from-home most people will ever know — has its own needs when it comes to influencing moods and instilling a sense of humanity.

If you’re interested to learn from industry thought leaders, connect with like-minded professionals, and experience innovative VR technology, Aura invites you to *RSVP your attendance. In addition, join the conversation online to ask questions, mingle with other attendees, and stay updated on future Tenant Talks.

*must RSVP to be admitted to the event

About The Speakers

Rocky Ozaki, Founder, NoW of Work – Moderator

Rocky is one of Canada’s most passionate evangelists on the Future of Work who believes that technology, a sharing economy and the connected generation have dramatically changed the way companies attract, engage and retain their people. Companies that fail to embrace this reality will find themselves disrupted or made redundant by an increasingly innovative and agile economy. Rocky couples 10-years of executive HR and operations leadership in large enterprise organizations, with 5-years of startup tech experience. He held the role of Vice-President and Head of Corporate Innovation for the BC Tech Association before co-founding the NoW of Work Inc. – a firm that helps organizations future-proof their business through culture transformation and innovative mindsets, and the NoW-Academy – a bootcamp that inspires and empowers people to leverage modern Operational and People practices. 

 

 

 

Angie Ng, Senior HR Business Partner, Visier – Panelist

Angie is the Senior HR Business Partner at Visier. Currently in her role, she partners with senior leaders and executives across Canada, U.S. and EMEA with remote employees across all three regions. Angie’s HR and talent acquisition  experience spans across multiple industries with companies including O2E Brands and Best Buy.

 

 

 

 

Kraig Doherty, Head of People & Places, Quietly – Panelist

Kraig brings 20-years experience growing and scaling tech & creative companies such as Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Indochino, Invoke and Eventbase. He is the Head of People & Places at Quietly, a full-service content marketing agency in Gastown that works with the likes of MEC, Slack, Herschel and Goldman Sachs on content strategy and execution. Over the course of his career, he has had the opportunity to recruit and hire over 1000 professionals from around the world. His experience spans human resources, culture building, recruiting and talent acquisition, employment branding, office design and construction and community building.

About Tenant Talks

Tenant Talks is a complimentary Lunch & Learn Speaker Series featuring industry experts and community leaders sharing their expertise, knowledge and valuable tips on workplace trends impacting Vancouver companies. Gain key insights over a catered lunch into office design and workplace culture best practices.

About Aura Office Environments

Tenant Talks is presented by Aura Office Environments, an innovative design-build company focused on creating experiential office environments that celebrate and enhance your distinct company culture. Founded in 1976 by the Boram family, Aura has evolved into a complete turnkey solution provider, offering a wide range of services including workspace planning, location selection, interior office design and construction management.

Contact Information:

Craig Boram      

Marketing Director

Phone: +1 (604) 510-7101

Email: craigb@auraoffice.ca

Register Now:

Data-Driven Office Design: Insights That Create Effective Workspaces

While designing an office space requires a lot of creativity, data and analysis come into play as well. You may not think data is pivotal in designing office space, but it is. Going beyond headcount, it’s important to consider everything from typical occupancy numbers, forecasts for hiring, company goals, industry trends, and more. When done properly, data can be used to create an office environment that not only meets the needs of your business but also enhances and celebrates your unique company culture.

Let us dig a bit deeper into how data elements factor into office design.

 

Occupancy Numbers

Where do you stand in terms of occupancy numbers? You may think that occupancy is simply the basis of your headcount, but it goes beyond that. Do all your employees come into the office every day? For those that intend to come in daily, what is their vacation and sick time allotment on an annual basis? All of this data will factor into occupancy.

If your office allows for flexibility in terms of how people work, you may also see the numbers of people physically in the office drive downward. Is working from home an option for many employees? If so, what is the average number of days people come into the office each week?

The goal here is to figure out the average occupancy within the office at any given time. You may end up with a design where everyone has a cubicle or office space. You could also end up with more of a flex space, where people work in a variety of locations daily depending on who is in the office or not. Why set up and design an office space for 100 people when, on average, you only have 60 in the office? Make use of every inch of your existing square footage with an experiential office design!

 

Forecasts for Hiring

Do you have plans to either expand or shrink the size of your employee base over the next few years? If you plan to double the number of employees you have over the next five years, go with an office design that meets the needs of that bigger employee base now. If you do not have dedicated space for them today, now is the time to invest in a scalable office design. 

It is important to think about forecasts for hiring as it will help you avoid having to do multiple redesigns over a short period of time. Say you have 50 employees today, but in a few years, you expect to have another 50 join the team. If you design a space for 50 now, but it is not something you can scale, or you lack the square footage to even do so, you’ll need to make big changes when the future new employees join . the team. The major expense of doing a whole new office move and redesign makes what you are doing now wasteful. Plan for today, but also plan for the coming years by considering your intentions for hiring.

 

Company Goals

What are some of the goals of your company? Who are you trying to attract when it comes to employees? All these factors are important to consider for your office design. If you want to attract and keep the best Millennial talent, for example, you’ll want more open concept spaces. Millennials enjoy having areas to collaborate with one another and so building open spaces where they can come together to share ideas, work through engagement is important. If Millennials are not your target, you may want to go with the different office design.

Your company goals will shape largely where you end up with office design. Technology companies may want a space that showcases their vision. More traditional companies may seek designs that keep them ground to their roots. Ultimately, you’re more likely to design an office environment that aligns with your bigger, overarching company goals by keeping them top of mind throughout the entire process.  

 

Industry Trends

Are there trends in the industry that will impact your office design in the short and long-term? Likely one of the most common trends that companies must learn to navigate now is work from home. More employees than ever seek this option, so plan for it when it comes to office design. It’s also important to consider other industry trends, such as having dedicated office spaces, cafeterias, common areas, relaxation rooms, and more. Staying up with the latest trends in the industry will ensure your new office environment meets the needs of your employees and help you acquire new talent. 

 

In the end, data can influence the entire direction of your office design. At the core of our company lies the Aura Integrated Experience, our unique approach to delivering a seamless execution of your design-build project. Taking all the data elements discussed above into consideration, we work closely with you to build an understanding of your needs and expectations; your space and location requirements; and the type of office environment that would best fit your company culture. In doing so, we create experiential office environments that will meet your needs in the short and long-term.

Reach out to us for a complimentary design consultation and get started today!

Adapting Your Office For Improved Workplace Wellness

Forward-thinking companies understand that their main goal is to create a phenomenal workplace for their people. The heart of every office is its people; they are the wheels that keep the company in motion. For this reason, it’s important to nurture a workplace culture and office environment that is conducive to their success. By keeping employee’s wellness, performance and personal goals, companies will be able to cultivate a positive workplace that gives its employees a sense of purpose and facilitates their success. 

However, as the office has historically been a place associated with stress, it can be difficult to imagine an office environment that actually does the opposite. So, how does one begin to create an office environment that promotes deep thinking, innovation, creativity and collaboration? Thankfully, organizational psychologists have created a better way to understand human performance by blending opportunity, motivation, and ability.

 

Performance: Three Major Factors

When it comes to performance, there are three major factors at play including opportunity, motivation, and ability. Opportunity is about how accessible a person is to amenities or resources. Motivation is the measure in which a person wants to perform a task. Ability pertains to whether or not the person can perform the task at hand. With this in mind, the question becomes: how do workplaces provide opportunities and keep employees motivated while also catering to their abilities, all in the confinements of an office space?

According to organizational psychology, there are ten key design elements that not only support performance factors but also positively impact the atmosphere of any given workplace environments. These design elements include:

  • Sensory Variability and Change
  • Noise Control
  • Thermal Temperature and Comfort
  • Colour
  • Access to Daylight, Views, and Nature
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Crowding
  • Employee Engagement
  • Ergonomics and Human Factors
  • Choice

In the next section, each of these key elements will be elaborated upon to show what they mean for the workplace. 

 

Sensory Variability & Change

Employees prefer sensory variability and change. If an employee is faced with a lack of visual stimulation, such circumstances can affect their ability to stay alert and dull their senses. In addition to this, human productivity can be hindered by workstations that are all the same height and remain neutral-coloured. To avoid productivity loss, try to have moderate levels of visual complexity, spatial variability, materials that offer a sensory experience for the mind, windows that offer views to the outdoors, and access to daylight.

 

Noise Control

Believe it or not, noise can be a major issue in the workplace environment. In many instances, noise in a workplace can even enable or disable productivity in the workplace depending on the work being performed. To eliminate this loss in productivity, allow employees access to a space with acoustical separation and a door when needed.

 

Temperature & Thermal Comfort

Thermal comfort requires the right amount of humidity, airflow, and temperature. To provide physical comfort in the workplace, you’ll need to be operating on all of these cylinders. If you happen to hear about temperature issues in the workplace, it’s likely that humidity and airflow are the culprits. The ideal temperature in the office is 70 degrees, as this temperature is associated with reduced sick leaves and a higher accuracy on tasks. If an employee has control over conditions in their workstation, it increases their productivity.

 

Colour

How certain colours are perceived depends on life and culture experiences. Brighter colours tend to be associated with task accuracy and higher focus. Blue is meant to cool and calm. Pink is intended to lessen burden, discouragement, loneliness, and aggression. Red is commonly associated with ambition and vitality. Orange eases emotions. Yellow helps people feel alert and clear-headed. Having your workplace a certain colour can significantly affect how your employees approach their work.

 

Access to Daylight, Views, and Nature

People tend to enjoy being surrounded by the great outdoors, which can offer an endless amount of sensory change and variation. Biophilia, the bond between other living systems and humans, is important to offer when people are indoors. It can also be beneficial for workers to spend time outdoors (even if it’s brief) during a workday.

 

Indoor Air Quality

Since most Americans spend at least 90 percent of their time indoors, it’s important to make sure the air quality is healthy. The health of a company’s workforce can affect productivity, sick days, and health insurance costs. Going beyond simple ergonomics and human factors, the workplace should make good health a priority.

 

Crowding

Whenever an employee feels crowded, they often feel stressed. Sadly, this feeling can impact how they feel in the workplace. Although the idea of space varies depending on gender, individual preferences, and cultural background, any level of discomfort can cause a significant amount of stress on an individual and impact their work output.

 

Employee Engagement

When it comes to worker satisfaction and employee engagement, there’s a direct correlation. In short,  ensuring your employees are engaged and motivated will facilitate innovation and productivity. 

 

Ergonomics and Human Factors

Workplaces should aim to be designed around and for individuals who are looking to be flexible, comfortable, and support long term productivity. Why? Well, workplaces should consider the limitations and needs of the individuals who will be occupying them. “Human factors” is a term utilized in workplace psychology that touches on topics that include human-computer interaction, human capability, product design, the reduction of human error, workplace safety, and ergonomics. So when it comes to “ergonomics” and “human factors”, the terms are utilized synonymously.

 

Choice

The workplaces of today require high levels of collaboration, concentration, and everything in between. A well-designed workplace must provide opportunities for choice to be made by employees and customers alike. From here, both parties will have an easier time determining how (and when) they shall utilize your workplace for the benefit of your company.

 

Considering the information above, there’s plenty of ways companies can adapt their offices for improved workplace wellness. If you haven’t adapted your workplace place yet, these tips are an excellent way to get started. For more tips on how to promote wellness and wellbeing in your workplace, get in touch! We would be happy to provide you with a complimentary design consultation

What is Biophilic Design?

Designing a workspace in a way that connects to the natural environment is known as biophilic design. The concept of biophilic design includes the use of indirect and direct nature as well as place and space conditions.

The name biophilic is relatively new. However, the idea of connecting buildings to their surrounding environments in a natural way has been noted in architecture dating back as far as the building of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Today, biophilic design is used at the scale of buildings and entire cities in many different types of environments.

The idea of biophilic design continues to proliferate in architecture circles because of its proven benefits to the health, economy and environment of its users.

 

The Beginning of the Biophilic Idea

Modern biophilic design can be said to have its roots in the biophilia hypothesis. This is an idea that is defined by seminal theoretical biologist Edward O. Wilson as the human instinct to focus on life and processes that imitate life. The hypothesis is based on the idea that humans focus on life and its ancillary doppelgangers as a technique of survival. In higher forms of thinking, human beings also focus on these processes as a means of personal fulfillment. For instance, enjoying oneself in a nature preserve is a form of the biophilic hypothesis at work. Owning a pet or buying a house that stands close to a waterfront are also forms of this hypothesis.

 

The Kellert Principles

Stephen Kellert is known as a father of biophilic design because of his widely accepted principles and framework around the idea. Below is a short summary of his biophilic framework.

The Direct Experience of Nature

The direct experience of nature designs that have quantifiable contact with common features of nature such as light, air, water, plants, animals and natural landscapes. Contact with these features usually corresponds with a heightened sense of space and connectivity within the environment.

The Indirect Experience of Nature

The indirect experience of nature speaks of a design coming into contact with representations and images of nature. These may include pure images such as photographs or professional paintings; natural materials or colors placed within the building design; natural air and light simulations; simulations of natural shapes within the design of a building; “information richness”; biomimicry; natural geometries; invoking natural changes within the Patina of Time and otherwise evoking nature in a project’s structural design.

The Experience of Space and Place

Biophilic design can also enhance well being through the spatial relationships between a design and its surrounding environment. The concepts that are used to flesh out this idea include Cultural and Ecological Attachment to Place; Mobility; Transitional Spaces, Integration of PArts, Organized Complexity and Prospect and Refuge. It is the job of the building architect to understand which of these concepts is the best fit for a project or landscape because each of them is usually meant to be experienced and considered individually.

 

Bringing Biophilic Design to a Municipal Scale

Timothy Beatley, an internationally recognized municipal planner and green urbanism author, is an important voice in scaling the idea of biophilic design from buildings to entire cities. Beatley believes that the primary objective of biophilic municipalities is to cater to the residents of the location so that they choose to actively participate in maintaining the biophilic nature of the landscape.

In keeping with this idea, Beatley designed a framework of ideas to help architects build cities around the biophilic notion. The dimensions forming his framework include Biophilic Institutions and Governance; Biophilic Attitudes and Knowledge; Biophilic Activities and Biophilic Conditions and Infrastructure.

 

The Benefits of Biophilic Design

On all scales, biophilic design has been shown to have certain benefits for environments as well as building occupants. Below are just a few of the benefits that are considered most relevant.

  • Health benefits – Medical professionals have found that biophilic elements in an environment may speed up recovery in mental health cases and in cases of physiological stress. For instance, a study conducted by Catherine Ryan, et al. found that aromatherapy use on post-surgical patients reduced the need for morphine and other painkillers by 45% and 56%, respectively. Other studies have found that simply having plants indoors increases pain tolerance and improves stress resistance in patients. It has been found that the presence of water also helps in restoring mental health. Simply putting patients in outdoor facilities helped them increase physical activity, reduce depression, build social capital and even avoid conditions like asthma and infant mortality rates.
  • Environmental benefits – It can be argued that building up the environment with biophilic principles allows for better management of potentially destructive environmental elements such as stormwater runoff. Biophilic designs can even turn these elements around to be helpful to the environment, as in the case that excess greywater is utilized to water greenery. Building vegetative walls also help to reduce the instance of polluted water in an environment; plants are natural biofilters. Building these “walls” with enough durability can even reduce carbon emissions and the temperature of an environment.
  • Economic benefits – Although the initial implementation of biophilic elements has an upfront cost, these costs are more than negated through the environmental and health benefits mentioned above. There are also direct benefits. Experts predict that New York City could save up to $470 million by implementing biophilic designs. Surprisingly, incorporating biophilic design could also reduce the expense of crime in the city by a whopping $1.7 billion.
  • Municipal resilience and sustainability – Beatley has stated that biophilic design helps cities better withstand municipal stressors, especially climate changes. His ideas are beginning to be used in building designs and recognized by watchdog organizations such as the Living Building Challenge and the WELL Building Standard.

 

Biophilia vs Biophobia

Just as biophilia exists, so too does the idea of biophobia. The suffix -phobia refers to a fear of something, so biophobia generally means a human’s fear of animals and nature, especially a fear that is inherited in some way.

Contact Aura Office Environments and speak with our design specialists on bringing a little more nature to the scene for your next office redesign!