bright airy office environment

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

The Landscape of Office Design is Changing: Are You Ready?

When it comes to the design and architecture of the future, change is vital. Occupants require change and designers must redesign environments to meet those expectations. Our workplaces have transitioned from windowless rooms filled with cubicles to inviting workspaces that rejuvenate and inspire. Before we look forward to the future of office environments, let’s look at where we started.

 

Open Offices of the Past

If there was one style that was utilized tirelessly throughout the decades, it was the advent of the open office. This idea was created roughly in the mid to early 20th century as a way to develop spacious workstations. The open office removed borders and other walls to improve interactions between coworkers and improve company morale. Although this setup sounds ideal, it did have quite a few challenges. When this design became popular during the mid-1900s, the setup had more resemblance to a factory with long rows of desks that were packed with workers. Although the open office wasn’t necessarily a failure, it did set the groundwork for what was to come.

 

The Cubicle

Many individuals think cubicles should belong in a museum. However, the cubicle was designed with one goal: empowering employees. It was a rebuttal to the open office layout and it was an answer to many of its problems. For starters, the cubicle allowed workers some privacy in their workspace. Instead of employees being stuffed into tight spaces with one another, employees could have their own dedicated space. In addition to this, the cubicle allowed personalization to one’s workspace. It optimized productivity and had a promising future that was envisioned by Robert Propst (the cubicle inventor) who viewed cubicles as “Action Offices.”

Sadly, the cubicle became cheaper and smaller with many workforces expecting the massive growth of new workers. “Cubicle farms” became the new normal in the workplace. Pop culture offers a dismal characterization of the modern office as a windowless area that’s stuffed with cubicles. Worse yet, early cubicles were actually made with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that tended to make workers sick. It was clear something had to change with workspace design–with that change being right around the corner.

 

Biophilic Offices

In recent years, the occupant’s health in their work environment has been a major concern for designers and architects. Since the average American spends at least 90,000 hours working throughout their life, it’s important for designers to create buildings that promote wellness and health.

As mentioned earlier, the offices of the past have been notorious for not meeting the standards of the human health code. Cubicles weren’t the only part of the office that was making employees sick, though. In some instances, employees would also get sick from the building itself (appropriately called “Sick Building Syndrome”).

Thankfully, biophilic office design made the workplace a much healthier environment. Its philosophy is rooted in keeping nature as the center of a building’s design and has received fantastic reviews for its numerous health benefits, including lowered blood pressure and reduced stress. For commercial environments, the biophilic office designs are quickly becoming the industry standard. It should also be mentioned that material selection is another major factor in biophilic office design. Illnesses such as SBS occurred due to the fact that toxic materials were utilized for interiors. Today, architects have intentionally selected new materials that contain no to little VOC properties. One of the materials most commonly utilized for biophilic office designs is reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood brings vivid textures and a rich appearance that allows employees to connect with nature in ways that most materials cannot. In addition to this, reclaimed wood enhances employee wellness, encourages interaction, and relieves stress. Since reclaimed wood utilizes little to no VOC products for its finish, it won’t make anyone sick.

Biophilic office designs are perfect for promoting flexibility in the workspace. A far departure from the “cubicle farm” or open office designs, flexible workspaces are created to remain modular. This means that employees are capable of modifying their surroundings so that their space can be utilized for a number of purposes–from private meetings to solo work session or formal presentation. Perks such as multi-furnishings, adjustable surroundings, and mobile furniture allow employees to get the most out of their workspace.

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Looking into the future, there’s a lot in store for the future generations of employees. Between managing the growth of your organization and automation becoming the method in which many jobs will be performed, the future of office occupancy is looking bright.

In consideration of the information above, there are plenty of ways companies can adapt their office environments for the betterment of their workforce. If you haven’t adapted your workspace yet, we hope this will give you an idea of where the future of office design is headed. For advice on how your company can achieve maximum effort from your office space, contact Aura Office Environments and learn how we can help.

Attracting & Retaining Millennial Employees With Your Office

It is always important to cater to your workforce with a quality office design. When folks wake up for work daily, you want a sense of excitement on where they head. Dreading walking into a boring office with out of date technology and designs will lead to lost employees. Attracting and retaining millennials is more important than ever. The work done towards retaining millennial employees has a lot to do with office design, as much as it has to do with whether they get a promotion.

 

The Millennial Numbers to Back-Up the Push

There exists a lot of numbers to support the effort to cater to the millennial generation. A millennial is someone born between the year 1981 and 1996. Over 70 million millennials exist in the world, and they are all the age where they are in the workforce. They make up the largest generation of working individuals today, so making sure the office design suits them is crucial. These are young minds, tremendous visionaries, and tapping their knowledge occurs by placing them in a setting sparking creativity.

 

Losing Employees is Costly

It is very costly to lose employees. Millennials have no concerns with switching companies, jobs. The days of individuals staying at one company for several decades is a thing of the past. It still happens, but far less than with prior generations. Millennials seek engagement and where they find it, they prosper and prove to be productive contributors to an organization.

The cost of losing an employee, all that knowledge, multiplies when you factor the spend on recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new talent. The time and effort to get the new employee at a foundational level is always a struggle.

 

Retaining Millennial Employees With an Office Design

You can do a lot with your office design to work towards attracting and retaining millennial employees. Millennials are unique. They want a different office, catering to their asks, which usually conflict with the make-up of older organizations.

Retaining Millennial Employees With Technology – You can do a lot with technology to work toward attracting and retaining millennial employees. Millennials want a connection to the Internet at all times, with the constant ability to communicate with employees. Remote millennial employees need the ability to video chat, to use tools like Slack, Skype, Teams, and others to collaborate. By giving millennials technology, always-on Internet, and the ability to connect and work from anywhere, you increase engagement and retention.

Design With Culture in Mind – You want an office design that takes company culture in mind. Millennials seek out the open, college style design. These employees do not want to be stuck in a cubicle. Instead, open space and wall removal are key. It drives company culture as well, showcasing commitment to collaboration and innovation. You want to engage millennials. Give them a reason to show up and commit their whole self to your company, each day. You know what culture you want to showcase, now match it with an office design that exceeds expectations to keep millennial talent.

Work with the Remote Crowd – A remote employee can provide a lot of value to the organization. Millennials want the ability to work from anywhere. If they are away from the office, why do they have to be completely unavailable? Make remote employee arrangements possible and show your company culture of flexibility and commitment to working from anywhere, at any time. Over 4.3 million employees work from home at least 50% of the time. With many of these millennials, making this an option helps keep talent.

 

Create an Office Space Strategy

You need a strategy to tackle your office space. The plan should incorporate short and long-term goals. What millennials want today may not be what they want a decade from now. When you go through your office design process, think ahead. Be sure you end up with an office space strategy that can evolve over time. Millennials are the young generation now, but that will change. The focus for millennials is on their career more than ever. Giving them office space and planning a strategy that drives forward engagement will allow for better retention.

 

Remember to Craft a Culture

Employee seeks out a company culture more than they do the appearance of office space. Let your culture and space speak for itself and attract millennials, retain them. Think about the best campus locations in the world. Google and Apple are top-tier. Employees long to work in settings they create. The campus environment, the feeling that everyone works and functions as one cohesive unit, is a key driver to engagement and retention.

The discovery-centric office design strategy Aura delivers helps you craft the culture. You want your office space to scream what your company is all about, in a positive light. From the interior design to the open spaces, to even beverage stations and technology offerings, you want it all to tie together. Create your office space in such a way where it is a destination for millennials, where they’ll feel like they miss out on growth opportunities by leaving. Put millennials in a place of constant engagement and they will stick around, thrive.

What you do as an organization to design an office space towards attracting and retaining millennials starts at the discovery stage. Think about your workforce and where the company stands today, as well as where you want it five years from now. Craft an office space strategy with a focus on your core millennials. By catering, you will not only retain the best talent, but you will attract it as well. Be a destination employer and watch the very best seek out your office as space where their creative juices can be on display.

The Millennial Workplace Blueprint

Office design is crucial to the success of every business. You want a workplace that matches with your employee base. If you have a millennial workplace, which most companies do today, you need to adapt. What is the blueprint for the millennial workplace? How can you be sure you meet their needs? You need to connect with each employee, figure out what they value, and it begins with knowing the make-up of your workforce.

Continue reading “The Millennial Workplace Blueprint”

5 Breakthroughs In Commercial Interior Design Technologies

The very first iterations of a so-called modern office were rolled out to the masses in the early 1900’s. Most of them featured an open concept layout to support collaboration and communication – but they also contributed to massive levels of noise and distraction. Cue the 1950’s cubicle revolution, which went a little too far in the other direction and inspired unintentional isolation and a drop of office worker morale.

The most up-to-date commercial interior design mantra does something in the middle, option to include aspects of both to accommodate the individual working styles of different employees who need different environments to accomplish different tasks – but the biggest breakthrough of 2018 has proven to be the inclusion of more and more advanced commercial interior design technologies.

Here are our top 5 breakthroughs in commercial interior design technologies.

 

Virtual Reality Communications

Remember the hologram meetings the Empire or Rebel Alliance would host in Star Wars, with the fuzzy life-size visual of Darth? While virtual reality conferencing may not quite be on that level just yet, virtual reality communications are soon to be the mainstream choice of tech-savvy firms the world over.

With current teleconferencing, individuals can carry on with their everyday tasks, or ignoring the meeting altogether because they’re not visible to the other attendees; alternatively, video conferencing has similar issues with participant engagement – a meeting attendee can still do their own thing on-screen in privacy, rendering the meeting ineffective. Virtual reality conferencing allows users in different locations to literally meet in a room together to present CAD 3D models of new products, or share plans.

Skype and Zoom are proving to hold onto their relevancy, as these technologies have become a staple of modern office experiences, and help take meetings to new levels with reliable and high-quality face-to-face video conferencing.

 

Visual & Collaborative Brainstorming

Video conferencing and screen sharing are nothing new – but more and more offices are embracing these tech advances as the primary go-to technology for boosting efficiency in the office and communicating creative ideas in real time.

Screen sharing technologies give meeting attendees a front row view of the presenters screen from anywhere in the world, helping them gain unprecedented access to Powerpoint presentations, product designs, or brainstorming ideas for discussion.

Think back to an old school in-office presentation. Much like an elementary classroom, the presenter would use a black/whiteboard to illustrate and take notes of the topic at hand – but in 2018, these visual supports have received a much-needed makeover.

Google recently introduced a revolutionary G-Suite tool called Jamboard, a virtual whiteboard conferencing app, enabling individual employees from multiple different departments or offices to collaborate and view a singular screen for multiple meeting attendees to draw on and contribute to during brainstorming sessions.

 

Video Communication

Inbound giant, Hubspot, tells us that over 50% of marketers agree video is still the king of creative content, and it provides the best ROI for organizations, prompting some tech groups to embrace video as a means of email communication as well.

Similar to rapport building video conferencing technologies of 2018, video communications are also changing the ways people interact and exchange ideas and correspondence when they’re not live or in a meeting. Programs like Vidyard allow office employees to record and create simple, short video messages as emails, eliminating text, and adding a personal touch that text messages and voice messages can’t come close to.

Videos also help to better communicate context, voice, and tone, helping to more authentically engage workplace communication needs and eliminate any unwanted misinterpretation.

 

Gamification Culture

Gamification is a growing and expansive methodology used predominantly in education and training circles, but more and more commercial office environments are using games as a way to build company culture. Hosting a trivia, or video joke session via Slack, for example, which can be used to boost company morale as a way of introducing and familiarizing staff with each other.

From a team building perspective, gamification is easy to accommodate, fun, and a great way to connect individuals who may not get the chance to interact at work otherwise.

Advancing the fun-having identity of gamification and connective apps like Slack, Google Drive, and Google Hangouts, organizations are voluntarily employing the concept of “remote week” wherein they encourage employees to work from their favourite location — a coffee shop, the cottage, home, etc — as a way to encourage them to better understand these fun and engaging modes of communication and collaboration, but also as a way to introduce and familiarize themselves with telecommuting and the many benefits of a liberated and mobile workforce.

 

Voice Recognition & Activation

Studies show nearly half of all American routinely use digital voice assistants like Apple’s infamous Siri, Amazon Echo, and Google Home – so it’s no surprise that more and more office employees and organizations are using these computing voice assistants to accelerate tasks and minimize the impact of small tasks.

Voice assistants are excellent for scheduling meetings, sending messages, setting timeline-based goals and reminders, and typing notes; so they’re literally like an extra set of hands, and a quick and painless way to make staying on top of your day-to-day office life a breeze.

 

Easy accessibility, remote capabilities, advanced communication tools, and the rapid rise of the telecommuter demographic have prompted technology to make rapid changes to keep up with the ever-evolving office. Similarly, offices are also using consumer technologies in more professional capacities to bridge the gap between work and personal life – and that to us means people are happier; using commercial interior design office tech is making office life easier and enjoyable.

Top 5 Functional Office Ideas That Will Increase Productivity

The design of your office reflects your company’s values. Well-designed workspaces create an environment that can have an enormously positive impact on your employees’ overall productivity and morale.

Function within design elements are of utmost importance – whether you commute to the office, or you work from your home. If you’re the owner of a company, you should be encouraging and supporting all of your remote employees to carefully design their offices at home, by offering tips and ideas on how to better enjoy their tenure as a remote contributor to your company culture. As far as the onsite offices, it’s left in your hands to have them designed in a manner that enhances productivity.

A good office design will support a variety of work modes. You need spaces that support collaboration as well as individual workspaces where employees can focus and be free from distractions.

When considering office design, companies need to ask questions and listen to their employees. Leaders should consider who their employees are, as well as, who they may be in the next five years. Given the countless ways to design and plan an employee’s workspace, leaders should take a strategic approach when re-designing an office.

Studies on workplace and productivity have shown the most important element in determining an employee’s ability to focus is the physical environment in which they work. Employees must be able to filter out distractions in order to focus on the task at hand. Preferred physical characteristics of an employees’ environment will vary from one employee to the next. The individual preference is typically dependent on the task being tackled and the individual employee.

Let’s take a look at five popular office designs that are meant to increase efficiency and productivity.

Multipurpose Workspaces

Utilizing a single space for everything from multimedia presentations to casual breakout areas is a growing trend. Employers are seeking to provide employees with a more comfortable and enjoyable work environment to encourage collaboration.

Many offices are mandating dedicated lounge areas as employees now look for more interaction with coworkers. Cubicles are disappearing and being replaced by “the bench.” Many organizations are moving towards a non-assigned seating mindset and are integrating oval-shaped office desks, providing space for 4-6 people to meet.

Ergonomic Workstations

In order to stimulate thinking, creativity, and concentration, employers are incorporating ergonomic workstations in their offices. And to mitigate the effects of sitting at a desk for long periods of time, modern office workplaces are integrating ergonomic chairs. The chairs provide lumbar support and feature adjustable height and armrest settings. It’s not uncommon to find height-adjustable desks being used by people who like to alternate between sitting and standing while working.

Exercise ball chairs are being incorporated for employees who want to exercise while they work. While exercise balls may not be preferred by all employees, it’s commonly agreed that adjustable desks and ergonomic chairs are well received by everyone in the workplace.

Color Philosophy

As offices migrate toward a more open and collaborative workspace, there is also a focus on colors and the impact they have on an employee’s productivity. Color has long been proven to affect productivity, thus being a reason more offices are integrating pops of color in multiple ways, such as paint, accessories, and furniture.

Today’s companies strive to create workplaces that reflect both their brand and values. This is achieved by doing much more than simply placing logos here and there. Employers are considering the impact color plays in the workplace environment and they are choosing colors that emit a positive emotional response from both a customer and employee standpoint.

Worth noting is that people react differently to various colors, so employers will often look to hues and shades that are generally believed to promote energy, creativity, calmness, and happiness. Due to a large number of variables, employers will often hire office design professionals when choosing workspace colors. These professionals recognize the relationship between important elements, like furniture, lighting, color, and texture, and how they reflect a company’s culture.

Adding color to the workplace is about much more than painting the walls; color can be injected throughout the office through art, graphics, and more.

Nature

Reconnecting people with nature is one of the most powerful trends in workplaces across America. It’s believed when employees connect with nature, it provides better concentration, creativity, and performance. Employers are bringing sunlight into the workspace through large glass windows, glass walls, glass doors, and glass ceilings. Although not popular in smaller offices, the use of fountains, streams, and mini waterfalls are commonly being seen in building lobbies, common areas, and large offices.

We are also seeing a huge surge in the popularity of plants being integrated into the work environment. Plants purify the air of toxic compounds, and they also transform carbon dioxide into oxygen, which helps employees concentrate better and it improves their health. Employers are placing plants, trees, and rocks throughout the office environment to promote a natural environment. According to a research team in the UK, having plants in the workplace can boost employee productivity by as much as 15%

Glass Doors and Walls

One of the most popular materials being integrated into workplace design is interior glass. Aside from the advantages of glass allowing natural light to flow throughout the work environment, companies are using glass doors and walls to promote more transparency in the workplace. To reduce a feeling of being isolated, glass walls and doors allow employees to view what coworkers are doing, which encourages team collaboration. Glass doors and walls are soundproof when used in this capacity. Making use of glass throughout office design tends to encourage and promote honesty and integrity throughout an organization.

With advancements in glass systems, interior glass has become the material of choice. Many offices have glass areas where information can be written or projected onto them; this enhances functionality and augments workplace connectivity. Glass walls give the appearance of openness and are easier and cheaper to install than regular walls.

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Company leaders have an opportunity to improve their employees’ productivity, satisfaction, and engagement by improving their workspace design. Sources claim productivity can increase by approximately 20 percent when providing a well-designed office for employees.

Not only will a carefully curated office design improve employee performance, but it will put employers in a position to compete with other organizations by helping them attract top-talented employees. Today’s workforce demands creative stimulation, collaboration, and flexibility, and a well-planned office design can facilitate all three of these valuable elements.

Why Co-working Spaces Don’t Work For Everyone

Co-working spaces are the proverbial feather in the cap of modern office spaces for the simple reason they support and encourage both chance encounters between colleagues, and collaboration, inspiring increased productivity via an open, creative space. C’est la vie… Well, not always.

In this post, we’re diving into the discussion and sharing our perspectives on why co-working spaces don’t always work for everyone, while examining ways to bridge the gap to provide working environments that cater to all.

 

We’re All Different

There are many social archetypes rolled up into an office environment. You’ve got the social butterfly who always seems to have time to chat. You’ve got the ‘sorry, I’m too swamped to chat’ person who is rarely around to collaborate with; and of course, the people who sit wearing headphones from 9-5 and rarely have the time to collaborate or make themselves available for anything.

It’s estimated that by the end of 2018, over 1.7 million people will be working in some 19,000 co-working spaces globally, and the expansion of co-working ideals are still on the upswing. But people are weary. While 29% of all co-working spaces have opened in 2018, the number of people signing up hasn’t grown as quickly as initially expected.

To each, their own – it doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to tell you that people all need different things. Understanding that open, noisy, collaborative spaces isn’t the perfect elixir for 100% of the working world shouldn’t be alarming – it’s how we all strive to deal with the advance and popularity of the co-working space that should be the focal point of this conversation.

 

Distractions are Everywhere

Digital distraction is real. Remote employees and freelancers abound can attest to the ease of getting lost in a downward spiral of related content, amplified research, social time with your fellow workspace colleagues, and yes – even Instagram. It’s tough for people to disconnect when the vast majority of their professional responsibilities are online.

Co-working spaces are meant to be places of respite and refuge from the scourge of distraction, and are meant to give remote digital employees a space where they can plug in and work at the same time. When those two counter-intuitive values don’t jive well, it can feel like its impossible to meet the expectations of growing workloads and expanding responsibilities.

 

Privacy is Tough to Find

Having a place to literally go to work is important to many remote employees – the simple sensation of leaving the house or apartment every morning is enough of a routine that it helps adjust to the co-working sphere – but there’s an innate lack of privacy in shared co-working spaces. Without privacy, some people can easily become overwhelmed, anxious, and can experience real lulls in their productivity.

Growing attention is being paid to purposeful and curated interior design within co-working spaces. The inclusion of more and more dedicated focus spaces is geared at providing remote co-working employees the opportunity to retreat from the open corral of the shared real estate, so they may concentrate in semi-private zones – like conference rooms, and even phone booths.

This is often completed by co-working space owners implementing modular, mobile furniture that can adapt and provide people with ever-changing environments that complement their style of working, or a specific project.

 

Co-working Spaces are Their Own Businesses

Consider this: a lot of the time, startups and fledgling businesses opt to begin out of a co-working space to house their employees as a way to bridge a real estate gap while they find their own space. This is a good thing — the success of popular co-working startups like Convene and WeWork provide corporate real estate for employees – but they do so on their own terms.

These spaces lack the potential for companies to grow in terms of their own identity. This makes it difficult for new companies and employees to unite under a collective umbrella without the identity of a business structure that’s bred to please everyone.

In the short-term, co-working spaces are fantastic collaborative spaces to foster creativity, bursts of productivity, and to bridge the real estate gap. Over the long-term, co-working is a business, and is no true substitute for a strong office identity of your own that will ultimately inspire a much more meaningful company culture.

Physical spaces help to amplify and unify a brand’s voice and mission — working in a space that’s not your own takes away from that necessary building block.

 

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Co-working spaces are fantastic ways to help remote workers enjoy some office culture routine, but their physical structure isn’t the perfect solution for everyone, and certainly is no substitute for long-term business success.

Co-working space, by their very nature, can’t work for everybody – because everybody is a unique individual, with unique traits, unique working preferences, all while working on unique projects that require unique thinking; how on earth can one style of space accommodate the complexities of the human condition and individualized critical thought? Simply put, it can’t – and that’s OK.

 

How to Maximize Office Productivity with a Focus Space

Collaboration is a critically important aspect of successful modern office environments, but focus will always rank higher as a means of building effective and productive workplaces. Maximizing office productivity with a focus space allows employees to independently dedicate attention and concentration to tasks and projects in a way that can’t be replicated in the hustle and bustle of offices shrouded in non-stop socialization.

Continue reading “How to Maximize Office Productivity with a Focus Space”

Adapting to the Open Office Concept

Innovative and leading organizations the world-over are busy trying to support employees who are adapting to the open office concept in an effort to retain top talent, encourage collaboration, and boost creativity and efficiency.

The concept of open offices is geared towards increasing employee satisfaction and job fulfilment, but the open office is also sometimes criticized for an increase of distractions, eliminating much-needed privacy, and reducing overall employee motivation. Helping staff pivot around a newly integrated open office concept lies in the ability to find common ground with employees, identify with spatial shortcomings, and improve the work environment.

The issue with open concept offices is: research shows that many employees don’t like them. This means adopting adaptive strategies to optimize and tailor the work experience through an open concept office will be key to transitioning to the new space and boosting the employee experience.

 

Benefits

Increased Communication

One of the benefits employers are eager to cash in on, is an increase of quick communication that speeds up the workflow of the entire office. This boost in efficiency and openness reduces the time it takes to find the info employees need to do their jobs, makes collaboration instant, and is supposed to maximize the chance for encounters that foster discussions relevant to the company cause.

But – and this is a big but – increased communication must start with a different type of communication before all of these glorious benefits can come your way. Adapt to an open concept office space by getting everyone together and communicating the perceived hurdles and pain points employees may have with the new open space, and discuss ways that can help the entire team feel heard and respected.

For example, lay out some ground rules for how to work as a team with differing working styles in an open space by coming up with an open block of communication time, rather than a free-for-all during the whole day. Alternatively, come up with a universal office-wide symbol for privacy, like a flag or another visual cue that the individual needs privacy at this time.

Ground rules for distracting and unwelcome behaviour is important so employees know ahead of time the way that benefits the majority of their peers – things like loud, off-topic discussions, music, constant personal phone notifications, etc, are all issues that can be addressed to test out a proposed ban and/or set of rules.

This type of increased communication in the form of a formal discussion of boundaries and working styles is first in your journey to adapt to an open office concept and harness the benefits of a boost to communication.

 

Supportive of Shared Goals

Open office plans are critical for teams who need to find ways to respond to change and support shared goals through collaboration. From an employee perspective, the open office concept is a wonderful weapon that helps combat the time-tested obstacles of cubicle and/or private office based spaces. Open space offices support shared goals because they unify employees in one room, under one roof – so to speak – working towards a collective goal.

To adapt to the new open concept space, employers may be wise to evaluate and formulate new teams of individuals who’s working styles are complementary, creating an optimized environment for support, efficiency, and goal-based work.

 

Instant Help

Open office concepts help teams that need to quickly and efficiently exchange information throughout the day in short interactions. The open concept corrals employees working together in one common space and places collaborative information right in the neighbours seat beside them. This means an accelerated working environment that minimizes wait times for data and shared information, and a boost to the availability of help, and new ideas.

When help is instantaneous, employees feel empowered and confident in their approach to new and complex goals, and can also benefit from observing and utilizing the skill sets of their colleagues in such close quarters.

 

Discuss the Vision Beforehand

One of the major problems with the changeover to an open concept office space is, there’s some considerable research that demonstrates employees don’t want to embrace the change. In fact, over 70% of offices in the US today are open concept, according to the International Facility Management Association, so there’s evidence to support that employers just don’t care about how employees react and perform under these new parameters. Why? Open offices are cheaper to create and maintain, and with time, can create great office culture and performance.

So, the answer to bridging the gap between reluctant employees and employers eager to make the change, is a formal, excited discussion about the whole idea before it takes place. Get the entire team together to talk about the benefits you’re planning to implement-  maybe a cafe style collaborative working space, or an open desk corral that is specifically designed to use the latest technology, etc.

These perceived perks are great ways to discuss the vision for your new open concept office plan before knocking down walls – and represent a good way to head off any negativity or reluctance from staff.

 

Enthusiasm is King

Many companies and organizations do well by embracing a positive attitude from their internal leaders to communicate ideas about a new office space to their employees. Being enthusiastic brings new meaning to the change, and can help employees feel satisfied and optimistic about the information that’s relayed to them.

The Harvard Business Review found in a study investigating the transition to an open concept office, that when business leaders were positive about the change, company identity flourished and were more likely to embrace the new office space. In the study, many employees were initially worried their main modes of working would be threatened – independent working with minimal supervision and disruptions – but when their internal leaders expressed positive messages and welcomed the move, most workers felt reassured about the change.

 

Empower Your Staff to Make the Space Their Own

Changing working environments is hugely dependent on how workers relate to their surroundings; changing the dynamics of a working environment can be really negative when workers identities are removed from the space altogether. The HBR also found in their study that when employees were encouraged to make the new space their own, identity was left intact and remained positive.

These improvised and collaborative space designs ended up being more colourful and included personal touches – some teams even felt compelled to arrange desks to help meet their needs as the space around them changed, fostering a renewed sense of control, and freedom.

When trying to adapt to a new open concept office space, encourage your staff to make the space their own by trying a few different things: layouts, desk configuration, furniture placement, colour, the inclusion of plants, etc. When you give creative control to your employees, the transition from traditional office space to new open concept office space will be much easier, and more welcome.

 

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Adapting to the open office concept also means understanding that it doesn’t work for everyone. Playing to the strengths and hurdles you know exist within your staff is key to finding ways to adapt to the open office concept. When in doubt, you can work with a commercial interior designer on your workplace strategy and build a framework for an improved open office concept.

3 Must-Haves of Collaborative Office Spaces

Trends in modern collaborative office design can change rapidly. As more and more millennial employees enter the workforce, the spirit of the office changes with them, and adaptability is proving to be the critical overarching must-have of collaborative office spaces.

Every aspect of an office space contributes to this positive shift in company culture; furniture, architecture, openness, layout, colour, and even access to privacy are key pillars of collaborative office spaces that are contributing to the reinvention of how we use work environments.

The most important must-haves of collaborative office spaces aren’t the materialistic company perks you may be thinking of, like office kegs, ping pong tables, and espresso machines. While those round out the experience, the most sought after designs cater to human connectivity first and foremost.  

 

Flexible Technology, Connectivity & Power

Gensler reports that 80% of Millennial and Gen Z employees believe that technology including mobile devices, laptops and mobile workstations, video conferencing capabilities, and wearable technology have all benefited the workplace. Thanks to millennials making up the majority of the modern workforce, and modern offices depending on immense levels of constant connectivity, integrating state-of-the-art flexible technology and access to power is integral to the success, productivity, and usefulness of collaborative office spaces.  

New technology allows collaborative office spaces flourish in ways never before achievable. Modern capabilities of mobile technologies like laptops allow employees to customize their work environment daily, and adapt their space to the specific project they’re working on at any given moment. Encouraging the use and inclusion of flexible technology and reliable connectivity allows organizations to cater to and support the spontaneity of their employees.

One of the larger items on the wish lists of millennial employees is the ability – or opportunity – to work remotely, making video conferencing and modern communication technology a vastly useful tool to increase efficiency and productivity. With organizational communication apps like Slack, Google Hangouts, or join.me, office/worldwide tech allows employees to collaborate and exchange info and ideas over huge distances almost instantaneously. These options make use of screen-sharing, virtual whiteboards, and file sharing to optimize the virtual office experience.

 

Collaborative Work Spaces

Must-have modern technology is also dependant physical work spaces that cater to, and support the mobility of employees within the office environment. Both the physical layout of the space, including the flow of energy in the room, its architecture, openness, and layout – as well as the furniture and objects that occupy that space should always be tailored to optimizing the functionality and collaborative spirit of the office itself.

 

Layout & Flow

90% of polled employees agree that room is not enough – intuitive office design is integral to the flow of energy within an office space and its direct link to organizational and individual productivity. The atmosphere that’s produced by an office layout must be designed to distinctly cater to positivity and efficiency.

Gensler surveyed 4,000 employees to find that companies with more functional, better designed office environments were more likely to earn the reputation as innovative. Traditionally, open concept offices have been beneficial for companies that occupy the creative sector, utilizing conversation and openness as a front for establishing conversation and sharing ideas. On the other side, the classic cubicle and individualized private spaces have fared better with organizations that require private conversations with clients and/or customers and quiet space for specific tasks. Finding a happy medium with collaborative office layout is key to giving employees the option to have either or depending on their way, working style, and personal preference.

 

Furniture

Consider when companies hire a new employee, they’re more inclined to hire someone who brings more than one skill to the table – collaborative spaces need to include adaptable furniture that serve more than one function so they benefit a number of situations.

Multipurpose and adaptable furniture helps ensure employees are empowered and able to change the spirit and function of a collaborative space at any given time to address their specific needs. From simple things like rearranging seating and tables at a moments notice to facilitate a group brainstorm session, to adapting an open concept space into more private workstations, furniture can play a big role in the transformation and comfort of a collaborative office, giving teams and individuals the power to build spaces that serve them best.

Moving desks together, creating private work spaces, allowing impromptu meetings to take place, and encouraging the likelihood of positive brainstorming sessions and change meetings are just some of the ways adaptable furniture can benefit a collaborative office space. Multipurpose furniture can also encourage staff to utilize furniture in ways that support physical wellbeing.

Height adjustable desks give sedentary positions a new lease on life by allowing employees to sit and stand as they please encouraging mobility and healthy ergonomic posture in the workplace. Standing at work can lower risk of weight gain, promote lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce potential back pain associated with sitting, and improve mood and energy levels.

 

Purposeful Designs that Focus on Nature

The Millennial workforce is now the single largest employable demographic in the modern working landscape, and they come with their own quirks, values, and must-haves. Of considerable note, millennials are much more environmentally conscious than the previous generation, and are dedicated to contributing to the health and sustainability of their own environments, both at home, and at work.

Must-haves in this regard for the modern collaborative office are sourcing sustainable products, and taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of the organization — reflect their values by choosing to do the same.

Living Walls

Offices can begin their pursuit of a more eco-friendly space by integrating natural elements in purposeful interior design, like including plants and greenery in open and collaborative spaces, or even opting to include a living wall as a way to both increase the exposure employees have to green spaces, and as a way to refresh and improve the air quality in the building.

Living walls, also referred to as vertical gardens or green walls, are a fantastic addition to office spaces that are hellbent on improving their spaces by adding a natural element to its design, and identity. They’ve been proven to benefit employee morale and enhance the overall aesthetic of the environment, while boosting air quality by acting as a living filtration system by metabolizing harmful toxins like carbon monoxide and benzene. Alarmingly, 58% of offices neglect to include living plants in their environments.

Living walls also assist in reducing the energy costs of an office building via evapotranspiration – a process that functions to cool the air in summer months, and warm it during the winter. The greenery acts as additional insulation that can effectively lower surface wall temperature by up to 50°F. They’re also beneficial to the reduction in ambient noise, assisting in the acoustic design of collaborative office spaces that respect and cater to private zones dedicated to brainstorming, or client discussions.

Views of Nature

Human beings are intrinsically linked to nature. We’re social creatures who are naturally explorative and having access to nature while at work is statistically linked to both feelings of wellbeing in the workplace, productivity, and creativity.

A study titled Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace recently polled 7,600 employees around the world, and found that employees who work in collaborative office spaces with natural features reported a 15% increase to overall feelings of wellbeing, while 6% reported increased productivity and 15% reported a boost to their creativity. Despite the direct correlation between employee satisfaction and views of nature, nearly half of companies don’t have access to natural light. This can be easily attained through a staunch revaluation of practical layout and purposeful interior design.

Windows should be optimized to allow for maximum sunlight, while including forms and patterns commonly found in nature, including leaf outlines, honeycomb, waves, etc. helps to integrate a connection to natural spaces. Having access to a physical connector, like a rooftop patio, common space, or break space can offer employees an opportunity to retreat from the office. Water features, or views of rivers, lakefront, or shoreline also help perpetuate a feeling of serenity and tranquility amongst employees.

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The modern office environment must be a welcoming and enjoyable place to work, helping foster an atmosphere of collaboration geared towards optimizing productivity and efficiency.

Utilizing any of these tips for collaborative office must-haves can help to spearhead the transition to a more satisfactory workspace, but key to developing a unique space that’s tailored to the needs and working style of your staff is open communication and the willingness to make meaningful change. The ideal collaborative office is within reach – ironically, sometimes all it takes is collaboration to reach the right solution.