For many employees the physical work environment ranks among one of the top factors that influence their decisions to join a company. And with a global war for talent intensifying, the workplace can be a strategic asset that distinguishes an organisation as an exceptional employer.
Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says: “As workplaces look to attract the best and brightest, companies are turning to design to help differentiate their work environment, focusing on an increased understanding of what employees really need to make them happy and engaged at work.”
Designing a magnetic workplace
How can workplace designers create a magnetic workplace that attracts employees?
Says Trim: “The most important principle is that the office space should make people feel really good.” Landscapes, nature views or the introduction of plants in the office strongly impact productivity because there is a powerful bond between humans and the natural world referred to as Biophilia. Studies have shown that being surrounded by nature improves both physical and mental health.
Feel good spaces should also be tactile and have ample daylight. Living walls, or biowalls, combined with natural materials bring a sense of the outside into the work environment.
Office appeal and productivity can also be improved by offering a variety of interior settings that allow employees to choose where they want to work that day based on the mode of work required.
“For example, in the morning, workers could gather in a cafe style area for coffee and informal interaction. In the afternoon, they can move to a gathering place designed for teamwork or to a privacy ‘hive’ for focused work,” says Trim.
Magnetic workplaces support the unique roles, work styles, and personalities of each individual, and provide a range of space types, furnishings, and multi-functional common areas that draw people in and keep them wanting to come back to the office.
The coming challenge for design
Telecommuting offers employees an alternative to working in a traditional office. This trend, combined with the number of hours people now spend online, means individuals are interacting in vastly different ways than they once were.
Remote work is likely to become ever more the norm. The designing challenge therefore is to create a space that attracts employees back to the office.
“A magnetic workplace will be defined as one that is so appealing that employees who might otherwise work remotely from home or in a coffee shop, choose to come and spend their day at work,” says Trim.
There are already examples of this in co-working spaces which blur the lines between office and social venue.
“Knowing that our future workplaces present a greater emphasis on virtual communication, workplace designers will be challenged to create physical spaces that encourage face-to-face interaction and speak to our innate need for human connection. Many view the workplace as a second home, so employees will be drawn to magnetic workplaces offering comfortable environments where they can work, socialise, and simply be themselves,” Trim concludes.
It is estimated that between a third and a half of the population are introverts, but workplaces seem to increasingly favour noisy extroverts, often to the detriment of those who prefer to work in quieter environments.
Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, says that with the rise of the open plan office and the culture of speaking often and loudly as a way to gain career advancement, many offices risk sidelining up to half their workforces.
“Our goal as designers is to create places in the workplace that allows everyone to work more effectively, not just those with the most to say.”
It is important for offices to embrace flexibility for introverts.
“It is imperative to remember not all introverts are the same. Some prefer visual privacy to focus and recharge, therefore a booth or screen can provide the needed barrier for added comfort.
“On the other hand, our experience shows that introverts and extroverts alike require audible privacy to focus, yet some prefer not to be isolated. This has led to the popular concept of library-like settings, where employees can easily plug-in and work silently in a shared environment.”
She adds that some introverts thrive in an isolated environment. “A small focus room that is set up with multiple screens, a comfortable work surface, whiteboard and natural light will allow those people to quickly focus.”
She adds that offices always faced the challenge of workstation distractions. “People still often prefer to work at their desk, especially those who have items they frequently use stored there. This can be especially challenging for introverts, because of distractions like colleagues on their phones or a group collaborating nearby,“ Trim notes.
The solution is to work with targeted individuals to create flexible workstations that offer the appropriate amount of storage, visual privacy and posture customisation.
“These factors are easily modifiable allow people to curate an environment that meets their needs and maximise individual productivity. We are also mindful of the importance of giving employees enough space between workstations,” says Trim.
But even when offices are well designed to cater for introverts working solo, there are still many instances they have to collaborate with colleagues and this creates a further challenge for the office.
“A solution is to hold meetings in a quiet room with seats organised in a myriad of forms within the room. This design creates a more inviting atmosphere and allows for more options, unlike the typical individual focus room. Therefore, the introverted users feel included as part of a group rather than excluded, isolated or on display.”
Because introverted leaders tend to carefully listen to their colleagues, they are often more successful in one-on-one meetings in areas without distractions.
“We recommend having two configurations of space. The first should include seating at a height that makes note taking or reviewing work easy, the second should include lounge height furniture for more conversational meetings.”
Trim added that research also indicates introverts are more successful when they host industry or client events in their own space, as attendees will seek them out as the key person to engage with.
“Designing a space that can easily accommodate events could be an area that has a variety of uses as well,” she concludes.
For the Japanese Sun-Star design contest in 2015, graphic designer Hiroaki Doi created something truly unique – a sakura-shaped pencil.
Creating a pencil in a non-conventional shape is pretty difficult. Doi not only managed to create a pencil shaped like a sakura (cherry blossom), but his pencil also produces shavings shaped like cherry blossom petals when sharpened.
The pencils are available for sale online.
By Rūta Grašytė for www.boredpanda.com
What makes an office not just mediocre, but exceptional? How can a design that has all the functional elements be taken one step further?
It comes down to the little finishing touches. The splash of colours and textures. The furniture and art. The detail that is incorporated into the design. These finishing touches bring together the elements of a room and set the tone for the space.
Choose a design company, such as Giant Leap, who knows how to carefully choose these features, spending time pulling together the overall design of a room.
In 2016, Giant Leap has seen certain trends coming through with these finer details. A lot of natural materials, textures and neutral colours have been incorporated in the design and accessories. Pops of colour are brought in through aspects such as the art, scatter cushions for the furniture and the objects that may be placed around the room. At the moment, favoured materials are copper, brass, wood and marble.
An integral part is also ensuring that the overall design works with the finishing touches. Some offices have been designed with intentionally exposed elements, such as exposed roof beams or unpainted concrete. In these instances, the accessories or finishing touches will tie the space together and highlight the design. The finishing touches work hand-in-hand with the design to enhance the space and ensure that it leaves a positive impression.
Although lighting may not be considered a finishing touch, it is! The use of floor lamps, table lamps and pendants can provide a warmer, calming atmosphere, affecting how a space is perceived. It’s an important part of the design that can really tie together the tone of a room.
Ensure a design that is exceptional from floor to ceiling by inspiring creativity, enhancing productivity and focusing on the finer details.
Perfectly designed objects are hard to find.
But as 30 March was National Pencil Day, it seems appropriate to give credit where it’s due. It’s been 158 years since Hymen Lipman first married the eraser to the lead pencil and created one of the most perfectly-designed writing implements in existence.
Lipman, a Jamaican-born inventor from Philadelphia, submitted the patent for his “combination of lead-pencil and eraser” in 1858, the same year the world saw its first can opener, mason jar and ironing board.
He described it as particularly useful for “making mathematical, architectural, and many other kinds of drawings in which the lines are very near each other … as it may be sharpened to a point to erase any marks between the lines.”
Lipman’s design for the attached eraser was significantly smaller than erasers found on pencils in use today. Instead, it more closely resembles modern mechanical pencils, which still have tiny erasers.
Before Lipman came along, people would use separate erasers to correct their errors. (In Europe, that’s still largely the case.) And before that, they used things like moist pieces of bread.
So praise be to people like Hymen Lipman, who don’t just focus on improving life’s biggest pieces of technology, but realise the smaller annoyances can be just as important to fix.
By Chris Weller for www.techinsider.io
Dutch furniture brand Lensvelt is producing a collection of “boring” office furniture intended to “restore the balance between work and play” in the workplace.
The Boring Collection was conceived as a comment on the “ugly” appearance of affordable contract furniture and the distracting designs being added to some workplaces in the wake of the Google office.
Created in collaboration with Amsterdam architecture studio Space Encounters, the collection consists of a plain grey desk chair, visitor chair, acoustic panel, low and high cabinets, and four types of desk. The team also created a “boring” bin and clock.
Each piece is made up of simple, archetypal shapes in order to help the furniture be less conspicuous.
“The looks of affordable office furniture are pretty much dictated by legislation and therefore often detonate with the rest of the interior and surroundings,” said the design team.
“The Boring Collection does not pretend to be more beautiful, in fact the Boring Collection does not claim any attention,” they told Dezeen.
The team’s opinion on modern-day office design is similar to that of expert Jeremy Myerson, who told Dezeen that the Google-inspired fad for slides and ping-pong tables has had a damaging impact on the workplace.
“Partially thanks to Google, the modern day office is nothing like it was before,” said the Boring Collection team. “Office cubicles were torn down and replaced with open-plan floors, dimly lit meeting rooms turned into cappuccino bars, and damp office buildings abandoned in favour of spacious warehouses.”
“These are all meaningful improvements, but somewhere in the process we went too far,” they continued. “When slides, brainstorm mattresses and ping-pong tables started appearing we lost sight of what offices are actually meant for work.”
“With Boring Collection we want to give designers the tools to restore the balance between work and play again.”
Dutch artist duo Lernert & Sander, who are well known for their moving image campaigns for fashion brand COS, were enlisted to create a video and a series of interesting images of the pieces.
One of the images shows the furniture pieces stacked on top of each other in a shape inspired by Ettore Sottsass’ Carlton bookcase.
“We can totally relate to the idea that furniture should not demand too much attention,” says Lernert Engelberts. “For this project, we worked with the most iconic gesture of boredom: the attempt to throw a ball of crumpled paper into the trashcan until the clock turns five.”
“The office people steal the scene even though they are surrounded by the designs of Boring Collection. Just like the architects intended,” he adds.
Lernert & Sander’s concept will be repeated for the furniture collection’s debut at this year’s Milan design week with an installation at Ventura Lambrate.
The furniture will be placed in a clock-like formation, and will stand in an artificial landscape of 150 000 paper balls made from leaflets about the collection.