Walls: A Divisive Subject
Walls are both integral and easy to take for granted. Every office needs at least four of them — at least if you plan to keep it indoors — but after that, where do you go from there? Like many of the other elements of office design, we’ve discussed in previous articles, from the different types of layouts available to the spectrum of colours used in decor, the placement and usage of walls can have a noticeable psychological effect on the moods and mindsets of employees in the workplace. And even with many other considerations to factor in, like available space and brand identity, the impact of wall space, design, and usage on the work environment should be considered a high priority. Of course, it’s also a priority with a number of possible options, many of which are up for contentious debate among different workplace philosophies, so it’s good to know going in just what’s available for you in wall placement and style, and what sort of effects each one may have on your employees’ mood and productivity. Here are a few to keep in mind:
The Traditional Wall
This is the sort of wall that might first come to mind when the subject comes up: opaque, floor-to-ceiling, and a clear delineation point between rooms and spaces. Naturally, they’re great for soundproofing and other concessions to privacy, as well as a useful surface for all kinds of utilitarian and decorative possibilities. The problem is that many contemporary offices promote and operate best on a sense of inclusion and transparency, figuratively and literally, which makes a cordoned off space with physical barriers, less natural light, and an inability to see inside feel psychologically stifling. Think of how people use walls as a metaphor when discussing problems with collaboration or communication, and you’ll have a good idea of why they can have a certain effect in the literal, physical sense, too.
The Invisible Wall
As much as the open-plan office was developed to break down the figurative as well as the actual walls between employees, the need to have dedicated spaces is still present in many workplace scenarios. The “invisible” wall has become a popular and useful compromise in the process — glass that you can see through and let light through, yet still, use as a just-noticeable-enough partition for dedicated areas. It’s proved to be a useful solution to creating areas of an office that can be used for a smaller group or individual tasks while still keeping the workplace in sight, bypassing the possible feelings of isolation or being cut off that drywall and other opaque room separations can cause. Soundproofing is still viable when using glass walls, too, which can retain a necessary amount of privacy. Just be sure to factor in some level of visibility, like decals or etchings, on glass walls to prevent safety hazards.
The Moveable Wall
Modular wall systems have been a familiar sight for decades, assuming you’ve spent some time in a hotel conference room or high school gymnasium. Naturally, they can be a good fit for an office, too: solid yet moveable, temporary yet functional, the ability to extend and retract walls as necessary can give your office a flexibility that dedicated open-plan or walled spaces often can’t. Need privacy, but don’t want to keep that barrier up for good? Just pull out a modular wall fitting and use it as necessary. Moveable walls are also a good fit for office spaces that like to mix it up a bit; subtle but noticeable rearrangements of wall space can keep a workplace feeling dynamic.
Still not sure what kinds of wall options are best for your office? Contact us for a detailed and comprehensive strategy for your workplace that can pinpoint just how to best streamline and optimize your space. Whether it’s your business’s culture, efficient productivity, or employee happiness and wellbeing, we’ll be sure to factor in every aspect that’s important to you.