We’ve had the poky isolated booths and partitions. We’ve had the vast open-plan space. But with architects and designers telling leaders that if they create office environments that make staff happier, they will be better motivated and more productive, it begs the question of how?
Well, successful office design appears to be a question of variety. With a shift towards more flexible working, spaces should suit different needs at different times such as co-working and collaboration, socialising and private research. In fact, if people have the opportunity to vary their environment, research shows that they believe they are more comfortable.
So, if the trend is for more variation in the workspace, how will it work?
The idea is that people (not design) should be the priority in office design which could consist of various spaces within the office that are different sizes and can be easily reconfigured. And it makes sense. People can be introverts, extroverts and everything in between at any given point, so an office with different spaces to accommodate a range of characteristics would be more conducive to getting the best out of them depending on how they felt. And the need for quiet and the need for community can both be more easily accommodated as technology gets smarter.
Spaces with different ceiling heights, paint tones and lighting, air conditioning and temperature levels would enable people to find their own comfort levels and have more control over their own micro-environment – which inevitably makes them feel better – both because it is empowering to have control and because they can genuinely pick the environment most conducive to work, based on how they feel at the time. The outside stays the same, but the interior can be changed.
With the benefits of being close to nature well-documented, architects could build-in opportunities for workers to see outside more easily into their designs. By incorporating natural materials, natural light and vegetation into the environment, workers would be more in-synch with the time of day, the weather and the seasons.
So, as office design evolves, we could end up with individually customised workplaces where well-being goes hand-in-hand with productivity.