Trends creating a

great place to work

FutureOffice spoke to Charles Fair of Great Place To Work and Babette Bouman, Architect and Designer about how intelligent workplace design is shaping new ways of working, keeping employees engaged, active, healthy and happy, and making businesses more productive.

Transformational times

Compiling an annual list of “Great places to work”, means Charles Fair regularly sees how creating thoughtfully designed workspaces can deliver great results and is quick to point out his belief that, “We are on the verge of a generational shift in working and in organisational structure and design.“

 

The office of the future

Bouman is equally evangelical about the future and believes that agile working concepts and innovations in interactive technologies could even spell the end of the desk as we know it, “If you have an activity-related work environment, you can choose wherever you like to sit. I think the office of the future will look more like meeting places, cafeterias, or a nice place to meet your colleagues to talk and collaborate.”

 

It’s driven by the millennial culture, the next generation coming through, they are very values driven, very collaborative. Pair this with the new technology available, things like, big data, the internet of everything, all these things are starting to come on stream in a way that’s going to be quite transformational in the workplace.”


- Charles Fair 

Spaces to inspire

Bouman led the interior design effort at The Edge, a ground breaking new office space recently opened in Amsterdam. Inspirational workspaces have been created throughout the building, places to reflect, think, collaborate and create. Her concept included intelligent floorplans to enhance employee comfort and efficiency, flex workspaces, and the use of environmentally-friendly materials.

“What we as Fokkema & Partners always try to do is find the obvious but unexpected for people. We always try to find the extra space within the building.” The idea that employees use all aspects and areas of the building is fundamental to the design. Open spaces are located around a vast atrium bathed in natural light. At its hub is a coffee bar where meetings and discussions take place, working at a table or bar rather than a traditional desk.

“We did a lot of workshops to convince them that it’s not scary to leave your desk and that you have a lot of opportunities to go and work elsewhere in the building and get your work done in a better, nicer and more efficient way.”

 

- Babette Bouman

Generation gaps

Fair agrees employee engagement is crucial to making changes in culture and working practices are essential. We now have a multi-generational workforce and there are sources of conflict. Some of it is around technology and working habits, so engaging employees in office design is essential in activity based working, as each generation will have different requirements.

Older baby boomers might be more focussed on a quiet space where they can get things done, whereas younger millennials have grown up working collaboratively so will be happier working in an open way, as they can handle the background noise.

 

You need to find out what different groups and roles want and then create a variety of workspaces where they can all develop a work pattern that suits them most.”

 

- Charles Fair

Communication and collaboration

“Collaborative sharing is going to be the engine driving growth in the economy and the latest generations have grown up doing that, it’s all they’ve ever known” adds Fair.

 

By offering flexibility, there’s likely to be more communication and collaboration as team members move around the workspace. Providing a range of spaces designed for specific tasks, like quiet work, brainstorming, meetings and presentations, employees will be able to concentrate better, and produce a higher quality output.

The right light

The right light is also a huge factor, notes Fair, not only to best suit the task but also the generational differences “It’s really important to get the lighting right, color balance, you need all the wavelengths to recreate natural daylight."

Creating an office environment that maximises natural light, incorporating glass atriums, walls of windows, skylights in the roof are all great design features. Modern lighting can also mimic natural daylight and can be varied according to the time of day and the time of year to boost wellbeing.

Comfort and control
Bouman builds on this as she explains how personal comfort has been enhanced further with the ability to control and flex the lighting and the temperature, even in an open-place space, via the Philips Personal Control iPhone app, specially designed for use in The Edge.

There are other big advantages too. The connected lighting system makes it possible for employees to locate colleagues within the building in real time, check on room availability, and find their way easily from place to place.

 

The agile work place concept is about flexibility, and this lighting system is also about flexibility. So if the sun shines brightly, you can tone everything down to create a more comfortable way of working wherever you are in the building."


- Babette Bouman 

Healthy by design

Employee wellbeing is also high on the agenda for both Fair and Bouman. It’s a core principle influencing design. Regular walking and moving is key to our health and wellbeing and is proven to improve productivity.

At the Edge, breath-taking staircases take center stage whilst the lifts are tucked away – this encourages more activity and enhances the cultural change that moving around is a good way to work. Fair agrees, “Standing up desks, or ones you can move, I am seeing a lot more of those, as companies realise that people need to be mobile and active to stay fresh and creative, whereas sitting down all the time is not good for your health.”

Actively encouraging more movement counters the sedentary sitting and promotes the benefits of collaborative working. It’s more than hot-desking, it’s planned and becoming inherent in office space design and building infrastructure.

 

I think it’s quite true that it might be the end of the desk as we know it."

 

- Babette Bouman

Walking 10,000 paces a day is said to significantly improve your health

Building the buzz
If The Edge testifies to the end of the desk as we know it, employees and building managers seem to feel just fine about it. “We are very happy with the design and with the concept, as are the tenants and workers.” Bouman says.
“The building itself works. You feel the buzz and you see that everybody is happy. When you see people sitting near the coffee areas, sitting outside from their workspaces, and all the features of the building work really well, you can tell The Edge has so far been a success.”

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