Tag: furniture

There’s more to office design than desk placement and adding a couple of pot plants. The IWG plc (IWG) team gives some insight into harnessing the vital elements of a perfect workspace.

Forget ping-pong tables, meditation rooms, and even beer on tap in the communal lounge. The secrets of a truly great office lie deeper – in its fundamental design. According to reports, a good, well-designed office can boost employee happiness by 33 per cent while more than half of workers believe their productivity would increase if they could attain their ideal office environment.

Flexible workspaces and remote working improve productivity. Evidence shows workers take fewer breaks, commuting time is reduced, employees are happier, more motivated and less likely to have time off sick. In financial terms, the savings in reduced operating costs and increased economic output of flexible working versus fixed real estate can be anything between 5% and 75%.

IWG brand, Regus, understands these issues better than most. In 2017 alone, it opened some five hundred thousand square meters of new workspace around the world, adding almost daily to the company’s global network of more than 3,100 business centres in 1,000 cities in more than 110 countries.

Meeting the needs of the 2.5 million individuals who use these workspaces – not just today, but in the years ahead – is a challenge that calls for an imaginative approach to design and a profound understanding of how the way we work is changing.

Understanding the new world of work

“Great office design is a balance of art and science,” says Joanne Bushell, Managing Director and VP Sales in Africa for IWG plc. “The art is designing the space to be attractive and deliver a wow factor for the user. The science is in making sure the space works for the businesses renting the space and the employees using it.”

She points to Regus’s unique position – offering flexible space to a diverse range of customers around the world. “We have to be able to plan and position office infrastructure that works for any possible future customer,” she says. “What size space will they need? What power and data needs will they have? How long will they stay? And what happens when they leave – will the needs of the next occupant be accommodated in the same space?”

“People tend to think of office design as just about where you position the desks, but it’s so much more than that,” says Mark Dixon, CEO of IWG. “It’s about responding to when, where and how people work. Workers of all generations – not just Millennials – are discovering the benefits of co-working and becoming more mobile. Offices need to be spaces that foster productivity, creativity and collaboration.”

In a 2019 Regus survey of 20,000 senior managers and business owners across the world, a fifth selected business centres as the most popular location for remote work. “Today’s offices are moving towards being a destination-type space,” says Dixon. “It’s the place you choose to work, because it’s where you work best.”

Choose the design template

As modern office design has evolved, so too has the Regus design. Compared with 30 years ago, when the company was founded, a new Regus office looks as different today as a 2018 Tesla would to a 1989 Honda Accord. New business centres are based on one of several designs. The location and the potential future clients determine which option is chosen. “Our customers range from Millennials in tech start-ups and creative industries to professionals in finance or services,” says Bushell. “We want to offer space that is sympathetic to different business types and their needs.”

The fundamental new thinking on employee well-being is also informing office design. Studies have shown that exposure to blues and greens can boost creativity, while red improves performance on tasks that require attention to detail. And furniture isn’t left to chance. An environment with curved lines – say, circular tables in a meeting room, or desks with smooth corners – is linked with positive emotions, which aid creativity and productivity.

Consideration to optimised ergonomics is also critical in furniture choices to increase healthy productivity. It reduces downtime caused by physiological disturbances such as back and neck pain.

As wholly open-plan environments fall out of favour, offices are being redesigned to accommodate more varied work settings, known as activity-based working (ABW), and more opportunities for movement.

“Offices in the past often resembled schoolrooms,” says Bushell. “That uniformity has been replaced by a diverse range of elements, including individual office rooms, meeting booths, communal tables, reading tables, think tanks, phone booths and meeting rooms. “The key is to offer every type of space a client could want. That same client may have changing needs for different spaces at different times. The challenge is to correctly estimate the demand for each element so that the space is neither crowded nor underused.”

Prioritise social spaces

Another important consideration is the non-workspace. There’s a glut of research showing that interactions, including accidental meetings – sometimes termed ‘creative collisions’ – boost productivity rather than drain work output. A case study cited in the Harvard Business Review described how employees were given sociometric badges to track their movements and interactions. The data collected over weeks showed that when a salesperson increased their interactions with co-workers on other teams by 10 per cent, his or her sales also grew by 10 per cent.

A simple decision about where coffee machines are placed can prove critical in engineering such collisions. That’s why a café area and social space is at the heart of every new business centre – from China to Africa. “We want to encourage interactions,” says Bushell. “The café is right at the entrance when you arrive, and it’s connected to all the other areas, so that you as an individual also feel more connected.”

Provide a sense of place

The final stage involves customising the space: with furniture, soft furnishings and artworks. This is where there is most scope to give each business centre a distinct identity which resonates with its locale. A prime example is Black River Park in the Cape that is the first office precinct in South Africa to receive the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) certified Green Star SA ratings for all its buildings. The office park is situated in the “artsy” town of Observatory which is home to corporates, artists and actors.

“It’s all about picking some part of the local architecture to give a sense of place,” says Bushell. To ignore the local input on design would be a mistake, Regus centres around the world may draw from the same design guidelines and aim for a consistent quality and standard, but they use locally sourced products and are far from uniform.”

Check it’s working

From sensors under the desktops to employee wearables, the office is becoming more connected and is driving how workplaces are designed. “We have a huge amount of intelligence on how our centres are used,” says Andre Sharpe, Regus’s Chief Information Officer. “We’re like a laboratory, able to monitor how customers use our products and services – and then adapt and improve their experience based on the results.”

One such example is using booking data for each component for the office, drawn from other worldwide sites, then observing how customers use the business centre. “We can see which spaces experience high traffic – and at which times of the day. This helps us to understand if the areas are performing as well as they could be for our customers.”

“In the future, companies will be able to cross-reference information on employee movements with performance data,” says Sharpe. “The results could then be analysed to find out how the space is serving the users and how it is impacting the company.” Sharpe points out that while data privacy will be a crucial consideration, “when correctly used, these services help companies create tailored offices that encourage positive performance and collaboration”.

In a rapidly changing world, IWG also recognise the importance of using data to inform future design – and the exciting prospect of this. Says Bushell: “We’re designing for companies, but we’re also designing for people. If we can give people what they want in a workspace before they even know it themselves, it’s good for everybody.”

The notion of teamwork is not new, and for most of the twentieth century teams functioned like an assembly line, focusing on areas of expertise and the division of tasks.

“But this siloed work style ended up slowing things down, causing errors and overlooked opportunities,” says Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy.

“To combat this problem, that paradigm gave way in many organisations to open plan offices. According to global office architects and furniture designers Steelcase, 69 percent of all offices now have an open floor plan. But work in these settings is mostly an independent pursuit, interspersed with team meetings and water cooler conversations.

Says Galloway-Gaul: “Without question, the need to reboot the corporate workplace is overdue because while the processes and activities of teams today has dramatically changed, some businesses spaces have not kept up.”

Today work gets done through networks and lateral relationships. Employees who once operated in different universes must come together in interdependent, fluid teams. The spaces that best support this kind of work are designed specifically for teams, while embracing the needs of all the constituent individuals.

“Forget the adage that ‘there is no ‘I’ in team,” says Galloway-Gaul. “Teams are made up of individuals. We need to design for multidisciplinary teamwork in a way that also gives the individual what they need to do their best work.”

There is therefore a growing demand for user control over spaces – people want to be able to adapt spaces at the pace of the project, and to give team members agency in defining how the ‘me’ and the ‘we’ need to work together at a given time.“

But right now, although many organisations have become nimble, there are still businesses in which employees need to file requests with facilities and end up waiting weeks for the changes they’ve asked for. Galloway-Gaul noted. “Project work moves through different phases and each phase has its own set of activities. It’s important that the space can evolve with the project.”

So what do teams need from their work environments?

Teams need a sense of shared purpose, cohesion and identity to be able to successfully work together and build on each others’ ideas. Galloway-Gaul says companies should consider three things to help their teams excel.

1) Build a home for teams – the role of team space is bigger than just supporting the work itself. It’s also about the human dimension. The team space should reflect and encourage the type of practices and working style of the team where they can foster a sense of identity, cohesion and trust.

2) Flex space to process – teams need a dynamic space that keeps up with their process and keeps them in flow. The space should let teams in rapid cycles reorganise in a natural, spontaneous way.

3) Empower teams – teams need control over their environments to cope rapidly with individual preferences and project needs. Empower teams and individuals to make quick adjustments to their space on demand to keep projects moving.

Good ergonomics is essential to a productive and healthy workforce – and they cost almost nothing to implement.

Linda Trim, Director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap: “All enterprises should strive to create an ergonomically sound workspace for all employees. Quality furniture and good design is of course a great help, but it is the responsibility of each person to make sure they are using good ergonomics at their own workstations.”

Here are 7 easy-to-implement tips that will help optimise ergonomics:

1. Good working posture

The number one ergonomic priority is establishing a good working posture. “People should be able to sit or stand in a neutral body position with a relaxed posture that requires no stressful angles or excessive reaching to complete tasks, “ Trim said. Office workers should sit with hands, wrists, and forearms that are straight, inline, and parallel to the floor. The head should be level, facing forward with no turn to the left or right, and generally be in line with the torso.

2. Adjustable chairs and desks

To encourage good posture and the neutral body position, enterprises should install high-quality adjustable chairs, furniture, and equipment. “The more positions a chair and desk can adjust to, the more they can be tailored to the individual using them. When it comes to ergonomics, one size most definitely does not fit all, “ Trim noted.

3. Proper display height and distance

Monitors and other display devices should be placed at eye level. Viewing a display should not require straining the neck nor squinting the eyes. Ergonomics dictates that individuals not be required to turn their neck to the left, right, up, or down to view a display.

4. Keyboard and mice position

Said Trim: “While often ergonomic afterthoughts, the proper keyboard and mouse configuration is just as important as posture when it comes to neutral body positioning.” If people are reaching for the mouse at a bad angle or have to violate the inline parallel rule for elbows and wrists, they are going to lose neutral positioning. Reaching for input devices can lead to excessive fatigue, and after lengthy exposure, injury. Keyboards and mice should be accessed without breaking any of the neutral positioning rules.

5. Reducing repetitive movement

Even if an individual applies perfect ergonomic principals, repeating the same motion over and over will cause stress and eventually lead to injury.

“The best way to combat this is by changing tasks. Doing something else even for a short time will reduce potential for injury, “ Trim advised. When changing the task is not possible, individuals should periodically change the neutral positioning they are using – from the upright sitting position to standing, reclined sitting, or declined sitting.

6. Standing up and moving around

For office workers, this is a really important tip. Once an hour, workers should stand up and take a few minutes to walk down the hall, get a drink, look out the window, anything that gets them out of their chair.

7. Environmental setting

Often overlooked when discussing ergonomics is the overall working environment. “Proper lighting, temperature and humidity are ergonomic essentials,” said Trim.

Lighting should not cause glare on computer screens, which means that many workplace settings should be equipped with softer light systems. Lighting that is good for reading printed material is not necessarily the best lighting for computer displays

Temperature settings are trickier since because of individual preferences, but every attempt should be made to maintain a temperature that is comfortable for as many people as possible.

Trim added that Giant Leap advise user training with all of their projects to allow people to get the benefits out of their furniture and office.

During the last decade, the workplace has undergone dramatic change: but it pales in comparison to how new organisational structures will impact the work environment as we move towards 2020.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Our ways of working have changed as many societies become wealthier, as consumers demand new types of products and services and as we constantly seek to increase productivity.”

She notes that there are four megatrends, which will have a profound impact on how we work:

The rise of mobile knowledge workers

A knowledge worker uses research skills to define a problem, identify possible solutions, communicate this information and then works on one or several of these possible solutions. “The rise of knowledge workers sets new requirements for office design. Knowledge work is flexible, and knowledge workers are far more likely than other types of workers to work from home and be more mobile.

“The design of the work environment must be adapted to specific work needs as well as suit personal preferences, “ Galloway-Gaul notes.

Burst of new technology

For more than 30 years, IT and mobile advancements have had a profound influence on how we work and it’s likely this exponential advance will continue.
A few emerging technologies are already so advanced that it is possible to gauge their future influence. For example the Internet of Things, a connected network of physical devices, can connect and exchange data, resulting in efficiency improvements, economic benefits, and reduced human efforts. Real time speech recognition and translation will support easier communications between different language speakers and big data will allow companies to recognise patterns and make better decisions.

From Generation X to Generation Y

Generation X describes people born from the early 60s to the early 80s, many of whom hold now senior and work-influential positions in society today. Generation Y, often referred to as millennials, represent the generation that followed Generation X.

Says Galloway-Gaul: “Looking ahead to understand how our ways of working will change, it is necessary to understand what Generation Y need from their workplace, what their characteristics are like and how differently they see the world.” For example millennials tend to be more family-centric which means they are willing to trade higher pay for a better work-life balance. They are also the most tech-savvy generation which makes remote work possible, even desirable. They are achievement orientated and seek frequent new challenges.

Globalisation and the pressure to perform

Globalisation affects how we work in at least two ways. “Firstly, there is a now a larger, global talent pool available which means talent is more geographically dispersed and culturally diverse.

“As we head towards 2020, people will increasingly work with co-workers they have never met before,” Galloway-Gaul says.

Secondly, globalisation increases the pressure to perform. Previously companies could produce goods and have a secure home market with limited competition. “Now many products are sold at similar or more cost effective prices with the same or better service, and innovation is copied by competitors within weeks. This puts the question of whether work or services should be outsourced to other countries on the strategic agenda of any corporation,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

Increasingly offices are beginning to look a lot more like our homes. But what is behind this popular global trend?

Linda Trim, Director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap said: “The term ‘resi-mercial,’ has been coined to describe this blending of residential and commercial furnishings and feel in the workplace. We are seeing greater numbers of requests for our installations to look more casual and more like home.”

Trim noted that it is all about about creating a space that people want to be in. When you think that we spend about a third of our lives working, no one wants to feel like they’re in an office.

“It’s not so much managing work, home and play but the blending of it.”She added that with more people using laptops instead of desktop computers, people are no longer tethered to a desk. “People pick up their laptops and will perhaps sit or lounge on a couch, much like they they do at home.”

More comfortable work space also appeals to younger employees Trim noted. “This is a really important consideration for companies in competition to attract and retain skilled workers.”

A mix of desks and couches is practical too – it makes it easier to do different types of work, from collaborative brainstorming sessions to heads down work.But it’s not just all about adding colourful sofas around the the office. Beyond the traditional desk, there are different sized couches, bar-tall tables let people sit or stand, and even work spaces that resemble a kitchen table or diner are popular.

“The right mix of furnishings can create an environment that increases employee engagement and satisfaction, which are considered key drivers to a company’s success. A space plays a role in the cognitive, physical and emotional well-being of workers. In that world, you have to think more about informal spaces,” says Trim.

Trim adds that home-like offices reduced the sense of hierarchy in offices. “Previously the ‘boss’ would have his own office in the corner while workers sat in rows somewhere else. A more casual environment does away with this old fashioned rigidity and can therefore reduce the tension in the workplace.”

By Michael Holder for BusinessGreen

Upcyclers turn old desks, chairs, and carpets into new office furniture, saving money and delivering environmental benefits.

Making sure products and materials can be used again – rather than going to waste – is good for for both businesses and the environment. That is the premise that underpins the concept of the “circular economy”, an emerging sector the government estimates could deliver £23-billionn a year of benefits to UK businesses if resources were used more efficiently.

For example, one third of our office furniture – 300 tonnes per day – ends up in landfill.

Firms such as Rype Office create sustainable furniture from items that would otherwise get thrown away and is employing ‘upcyclers’ across its growing business to help turn the circular economy vision into a reality.

By Maria Dermentzi for Mashable

Plastic Whale is a professional plastic fishing company that offers boat trips during which tourists — while sightseeing — will pick up plastic from Amsterdam’s canals. The plastic bottles that are being collected get turned into office furniture, in collaboration with Vepa.

Ideas are the new currency of modern economies and it is no more evident than in recent billion dollar idea success stories like Airbnb and Uber which are now disrupting established industries.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Increasingly companies are putting emphasis on new ideas to grow their business and stand apart from the competition.

“We live in an ideas age and business are recognising that fact and today’s offices must support the ‘cult’ of new ideas. And in comfort of course.”

These are the biggest office trends expected in South Africa in 2018:

Idea-centric offices

“Because ideas are so important to the new economy in 2018 so we expect to see more idea centric offices that enable creative thinking. Many people think creativity is just for creatives but it should facilitated and encouraged in all aspects the working life because it helps all areas of business,” Andrews noted.

“There is a misconception that creativity is a ‘light bulb’ moment but it’s not. Creativity is really a haphazard, tricky problem solving process that should allow people to work in groups but also alone. Offices should therefore create spaces where people can work in a creativity supporting way.

This year Andrews expects an even greater shift away from traditional ‘battery farm’ corporate workplaces to places that are more like creative studios – that means different kinds of workplaces that offer uninterrupted individual focus, developing ideas in a pair, generating solutions as a group, converging around ideas and allowing time for diffused thinking.

“These different options allow the mind to wander.”

Unconventional work area design

An extension of idea-centric offices is the unconventional work area design.

“These are not just for hipsters working at Google anymore. Unconventional work offices now offer meditation spaces, dressed-down conference rooms complete with sofas, bean bag chairs, vibrant colours, and lots of room for fun, stress busting activities like ping pong or foosball.”

Offices all over the world are adopting these new and unorthodox working and meeting spaces to attract young talent and make working spaces more fun and collaborative.

Home-style comforts

“We are receiving a growing number of requests to make South African offices more  relaxed and people friendly so people don’t feel they are sitting in a such a severe place,” Andrews adds.

Demand for homestyle comfort design is a sign that employers are listening to the desires of their employees and figuring out new, fun ways to get them to stay at work longer. This design trend is all about making offices feel more comfortable or homelike.

Dynamic spaces

Dynamic spaces is another big trend. They are typically defined by lightweight and moveable furniture with wheels, doors to open extra space, moveable green wall dividers and wipe boards or chalk boards. They are moveable, constantly fluctuating, engaging, and can transform from a space for company parties and activities to traditional conference rooms or meeting areas.

Said Andrews: “Dynamic spaces offer the opportunity for businesses to be a lot more creative with their space. Businesses are constantly changing and becoming more flexible, allowing colleagues and staff to try new things in innovative ways.”

Greenery & nature

More a long-standing design principle than a trend, this is not just about adding a few plants here and there around the office.

“This goes much further by integrating nature through the building in the form of textures, patterns, plants and natural lighting. Being close to nature and living plants instills a greater sense of calm in offices. While not new, we are seeing a strong increase in demand for green in the workplace,” Andrews concludes.

Let the light shine in

A recent survey of office workers across South Africa has revealed the top five things people want from their office space.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says that the survey was carried out late last year and queried just over 3000 office workers on what mattered to them most in the workplace.

“Unsurprisingly 42% said more natural light was the the most important element.

“It so simple but often design gets so caught up in the fancier things, people forget the importance of sunlight to humans’ sense of well-being.

“This is especially true in the workplace, where traditionally there has been a focus on issues of layout and safety – important factors, but not the only elements affecting happiness at work.”

Second on the list was ‘quiet working spaces’ at 22% and in third ‘was a view of the sea’ at 20%.

“Increasingly we are installing quiet zones for our big clients. People need to escape from what is often a noisy and disruptive environment to really get work done.

“A typical office work switches activities about every three minutes and half of these switches were caused by interruptions. Interrupted work is usually resumed however it takes workers about 20 minutes to get back to what they were doing.”

She adds that views of the sea were a nice to have but not practical for inland cities. “We have found however that placing large pictures of peaceful natural places like forests, mountains or the sea does create a calming atmosphere in the office.”

Rounding out the list was ‘live indoor plants’ at 18% and ‘bright colours’ at 15%.

“The recent trend to create clinical uncluttered offices doesn’t make people more productive or help them concentrate better.”

Trim noted that a green office signals to employees that their employer cares about their well-being.

“Adding live plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.”

Another factor that made offices better places to work was the right use of colour.

“Bland colours induce feelings of sadness and depression while grey and white can also contribute to feelings of gloom and anxiety.

“Scientific studies have shown that colours don’t just change our moods, they also profoundly impact productivity.

“That’s why it’s best to decorate your workplace with a vibrant mix of stimulating hues that increase output and spark creativity,“ Trim says.

How space affects learning

South Africa faces a particularly challenging teaching environment with often overcrowded classrooms, distracted learners and hard working but sometimes under-qualified teachers.

And another, more subtle challenge is that traditional teaching classroom experiences are often not aligned with how the brain works, particularly as it relates to attention.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says that learning institutions in South Africa can achieve far better results by better understanding how learning works.

“There are so many things vying for student attention today it makes it harder to get attention and therefore engagement but there are five things that can be done to dramatically improve results:

Seat location impacts attention

A study by Kennesaw State University revealed that where students sit in the classroom impacts focus. Says Andrews: “Students in the front and middle of the classroom stayed on task, while those in the back were more distracted. An active learning classroom where students easily moved and rearrange their seating enables them to stay attentive.”

Classrooms configured with no fixed position where the instructor must stand and mobile seating create better results. Here an teacher or student can address the class, lead a discussion and share content from anywhere in the classroom. There’s no front or back of the classroom, and since the seating allows students to change posture and position easily, every seat is the best seat in the room.

Active learning

Research by Diane M. Bunce, et. al. on “How Long Can Students Pay Attention in Class?”, compared a passive lecture approach and active learning methods. Researchers noted fewer attention lapses during times of active learning. They also found fewer lapses in attention during a lecture that immediately followed a demonstration or after a question was asked, compared to lectures that preceded active learning methods. This suggests active learning may have dual benefits: engaging student attention and refreshing attention immediately afterward.

Physical movement fuels the brain

Schools are starting to incorporate more physical activity in the classroom, such as Delaney Connective, a high school in Sydney, Australia, where students do “brain pushups” each morning: five-minute, Tai Chi-like exercises that get the blood flowing and help students focus.
“Physical movement increases alertness and helps encode and trigger memory. Yet schools and teachers traditionally train students to be sedentary, and equate sitting still with greater attention and focus,” noted Andrews.
Simply allowing students to get out of their seats to move while learning provides the brain with much-needed novelty and change.

Novelty and change get attention

Our brains naturally seek out what’s new and different. Therefore varying materials and breaks facilitate attention. A study by Kennesaw State University found that students paid more attention when the professor reviewed quiz answers, presented new information or shared videos, essentially by changing things up.
Novelty and change facilitate learning in another way too. Repeating important points by engaging multiple senses helps to reinforce learning. There is a greater likelihood that learning will generalise outside the classroom if it is organised across sensory, physical, emotional and cognitive networks.

Learning has a natural rhythm

The need for periods of both quiet focus and healthy distraction finds its parallel in learning.
Our brain can focus on a task for only so long, after which it needs a break for renewal to achieve high performance on the next task. Ignore this rhythm and we tend to lose focus.
“Researchers have found that people who respect this natural rhythm are more productive,” says Andrews. Breaks for rest and renewal are critical to the body and brain, as well as to attention span. The work of education is similarly organic, changing at different times of the term, week, even during a single class period.

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