Workplace Design for the Modern Employee

Posted by Hayley Blacker on 25/07/2019

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Workplace design for the modern employee can be complex...

...and how an office space is designed can greatly influence staff productivity, wellbeing and motivation.

Modern Office | Collaboration | Interaction

The Modern Office

For most people, the workplace is their second home. It’s where the majority of the week and one third of our lives[1] is spent , so it’s unsurprising that employees have come to expect more than a desk and chair from their everyday workplace experience.

Workplace design has become a major USP for people-centric employers as they strive to recruit and retain their industry’s most talented individuals and unlock significant productivity gains. Standout offices regularly make national news, with companies like Google, Lego and Airbnb garnering widespread attention for their creative designs including napping pods, state-of-the-art gyms and play areas that wouldn’t look out of place in a nursery. 

However, despite the novelty of on-site slides, complementary cafes, picnic areas and game zones, what do employees really want from a work environment and how far does the ideal workplace transcend beyond the office’s four walls?

Comfort Is Key

People perform at their best when they are comfortable.  This knowledge is already being acted upon as the design of UK workspaces mirrors popular non-working environments, such as cafes, lounges and kitchen table settings.

Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, organisations are also creating new spaces that cater to different working styles in order to strike a balance between effective and efficient working. It is, in effect, recognising the increasingly personalised experience that today’s technologies offer.   By offering a blend of different spaces, workers are given the opportunity to pick an area that matches their mood or the type of project they’re working on. Brainstorms and team catch-ups are best over a coffee in more relaxed and creative settings, but for detailed work and quiet study a more private and calm space is required. Empowering people to move around the office and work in a way that suits them – as opposed to feeling tied to their desks – breeds trust, productivity and creativity; three values that are integral to business success. 

A 2017 report by JLL – Workplace, Powered by Human Experience – revealed that the average business uses 48% of its space for dedicated workplace seats, with the other 52% set aside for alternative working areas[1]. Not so long ago, the majority of offices’ breakout spaces would have been a kitchen area or meeting room rather than a dedicated and carefully curated space - a clear demonstration of the modern workplace undergoing significant change for the better.

Coworking | Modern Employee | Interaction

Flex Appeal

Workplace design is evolving and in today’s fast-paced digital society, these changes are driven by the adoption of new technologies. Just as our homes are becoming more tech-enabled, so too is the workplace.  Now that employees are adept at using smartphones, tablets and other intuitive and collaborative technologies on a day-to-day basis, they expect workplace solutions that are equally user-friendly and are shunning traditional enterprise-led software in place of more familiar programmes such as FaceTime, Dropbox and even WhatsApp.

Employers that embrace this consumerisation of the workplace express a willingness for employees to work flexibly, which will be met with heightened efficiency and an all-round more engaged workforce. Research by YouGov has revealed that 89% of British employees consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity[2], so the ability to tap into work remotely, from any location and at any time of day without compromising efficiency is an attractive prospect for the modern worker.

But where does increased workplace mobility leave the future of office design and how can employers create a working environment that people want to spend time in?

A key consideration is to support a wide range of devices and how they are used. Increasingly, people favour using portable technologies such as notepads and tablets, so the need to dedicate large amounts of floor space to formal desking and fixed desktops is diminishing dramatically.

A range of meeting rooms with intuitive collaboration and meeting technologies now often has more relevance than formal boardrooms or individual offices and centralised, well-equipped, open areas with comfortable seating and creative design cater for transient workers and those working collaboratively.

Workplace Design | Modern Office | Interaction

Providing a range of working environments is important for staff wellbeing and productivity. Having that choice of how and where to work allows individuals and teams to work according to their mood, style and circumstance. Here is a shot of a rocket shaped meeting pod we installed for Rocketmakers, acting as a central part of their office space encouraging collaboration. 

As the boundaries between home and work merge, it becomes even more important to recognise the need for relaxation and sociability too – providing spaces for company culture to thrive and people to come together to forge valuable personal and professional connections.  Whether it’s on-site cafes,  a range of chill-out or tech free zones, areas for lunchtime activities or outdoor spaces for quiet reflection – diversity is an important component of the modern workplace.

Greater personalisation can be expected too as more smart building technologies are rolled out. Not only can these technologies take centralised control of core functions such as heating and lighting to improve environmental sustainability, they can also offer a more bespoke experience for users. Thanks to improved connectivity, Big Data and the Internet of Things, smart building technologies can verify employee identity, allocate parking spaces, provide building entry by recognising a car registration and even assign work settings based on tasks and personal heat, lighting and acoustic preferences. 

A strategically designed office that is planned with the modern employee in mind offers an entire workforce — remote or otherwise — the optimum environment to build connections with colleagues, host clients with pride and choose the workplace experience that is right for them. In turn, this improves employee satisfaction and demonstrates a commitment to future proofing the workplace for maximum commercial success.

Has something you've read here sparked an interest? Do you want to find out more about how we could help you improve your employee experience through office design? Why not get in touch? For more information about office design have a flick through some of our other insights: Rethinking the modern workplace; Cyber slacking in the workplace; A guide to getting the most out of your workplace.

[1] 
https://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/globstrategy/en/index2.html
[2] 
https://timewise.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Manifesto-for-change.pdf