“Workplace Design is Important”
“Looking at the average office interior objectively, it is a strange place: a great barrack, with bright lights shining down on the heads of workers regimented at groups of desks and with bits of screen sticking up around the place. At the far end, perhaps, are rooms where people sit in isolation – for no very apparent reason, except that they are paid more.” Chapter 1, Introduction: Tomorrow’s Office by Santa Raymond & Roger Cunliffe published in 1997.
The sub title for the book is ‘Creating effective and humane interiors’. Throughout the book, there are observations and proposals about the way in which we should be working. 20 years later, is it shocking that many companies, particularly outside the main metropolitan ‘hubs’, are yet to truly embrace the benefits: improved productivity; greater efficiency; enhanced working environment; staff recruitment and retention; corporate branding?
Different priorities and financial constraints are almost certainly the primary reasons for lack of adoption. Many organisations may also believe that ‘new ways of working’ do not apply to them and believe new practices really only reap benefits for large corporates.
Workplace design and planning should be a collaborative process – facilities management, human resources and employees. Seemingly minor details have a big impact. Reported in the British Council of Offices June 2016 Report “What Workers Want”: Open-plan offices are still the dominant choice of occupiers, but only 45% of respondents were satisfied with the noise levels in their office. It is, therefore, important to have areas where employees can concentrate on work in a quieter setting.
The importance of the office to the employee cannot be denied, and is highlighted by the fact that 25% of the respondents would be willing to commute an extra 30 minutes to work in their perfect office.
Maximise your Office Space
Many organisations are now recognising the benefits of creating more informal meeting and social spaces in the office workplace. Areas for staff to socialise whilst exchange ideas or perhaps reply to a few emails before leaving for a meeting.
(Photo courtesy of Frovi)
Few companies are really maximising the use of outdoor space. With the rise of the ‘café culture’ in the UK, people enjoy the opportunities to take advantage of spending some time outdoors.
(Photo courtesy of s-zone.co.uk)
Outdoor areas will become the new ‘breakout’ space – even the great British weather can be tempered with the use of commercial parasols!
New Ways of Standing
Numerous scientific studies have shown that sitting all day is bad for your health. It can cause serious problems, including increased risk of diabetes, spinal problems, heart attacks and obesity. On top of the health benefits, many users have found that standing up at work improves their productivity, focus and energy levels.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the lack of physical activity is one of the TOP FOUR leading causes of preventable death worldwide, ahead of high cholesterol, alcohol and drug abuse.
Should you stand up all day? It’s up to you but the idea is that you should change your working position regularly. How often depends on you, but the basic concept is to keep moving and avoid long periods in the same spot.
Sit / Stand Desks
Over the past 10 years, employees have become accustomed and expect to have an ergonomically designed office chair. The most basic of chairs do provide a range of adjustment mechanisms but, like most things in life, you do get what you pay for. A mid-range chair will cost around £150-200 but models specifically designed for those with particular needs, such as Repetitive Strain Injury or Back problems, can cost upwards of £500.
It is now becoming increasingly commonplace for employees to require a sit/stand desk. Various options are now available and they have come down in price enormously. It is also possible to have banks of desks – each with individual adjustment.
One of the leading UK office furniture manufacturers reported to me that over 60% of all the desks sold are now sit/stand.
There are four basic types:
Electric Sit-Stand desks are the most popular solution, easy to use and prices have come down.
Counterbalance desks adjust by releasing and locking a lever to alter height. They require moderate force to push down and can easily be raised upwards. A consideration, however, is the weight of equipment on the desk.
Winding Handle sit-stand desks use a cog and wheel system to elevate the desk. These are less practical and are being phased out.
(Image: Courtesy of Tangent Furniture)
Hybrid desks combining both counterbalance and winding handle functionality are a more recent development. They are easy to operate but are currently more expensive.
New ways of working
A more cost effective and arguably more practical solution is to create stand up ‘break out’ areas.
Many companies now recognise the importance of providing different work ‘zones’ within the office. ‘Break out’ areas (as the industry refers to!) create informal meeting areas equipped with a choice of soft seating and low level tables. These ‘zones’ provide for team collaboration and provide a more interactive environment that a more formal meeting room.
Concentration areas provide private work areas away from the desk – often using individual ‘pods’ or high backed sofas.
(Image Courtesy of Connection Seating)
Social spaces are just that – areas for colleagues to interact and enjoy each other’s company. It’s one of the reasons why home working is not as popular as originally predicted. People like the social benefits of going to the workplace.
(Image Courtesy of Orangebox / Essex Water)
Stand Up – Away from the Desk
An opportunity, often been overlooked by workplace planners, is to create standing up work spaces. Some people, particularly those with disability issues, will need individual height adjustable desks but others would benefit from standing work areas. Logon terminals can be provided and with cordless telephony now commonplace, it is the logical option.
(Photo courtesy of Orangebox)
A central bank of storage units can also be used to create a stand-up meeting space - adding a single piece worktop converts a space hungry facility (i.e. storage) into a multi-functional area.
(Photo courtesy of Bisley)
It has also been proven that meetings that are held standing up will be shorter than the same meeting sitting down!