It is easy for architects to get drawn into a fantastical daydream when thinking about future. Visions of a Star Wars-esk future with robots, space ships and holograms push creativity and design into the next dimension never mind the next level.
Technology is certainly a very important factor when designing and creating the future office but more fundamentally important than that is connection. The future office must enhance occupants experience, improve productivity and facilitate collaboration. The office of tomorrow must become an extension of the people who use and occupy it, its form must ultimately enhance its function.
Here are a few top tips for architects they should consider when designing the office space of the future.
In the last decade open offices have become all the rage. Roughly 60% of all offices adopted this design approach. The removal of physical barriers opens employees up to enhanced engagement with each other.
This can have a significant effect on a company by boosting its bottom line by up to 20%. A recent study conducted by Alliance Interiors yielded the following results:
- Some companies have seen an astounding increase in work speed and accuracy of up to 440%.
- 10% – 15% increase in employees satisfaction in companies that allow employees to self-select their work environment.
The workspace can engage employees by acting as a communication tools. Providing spaces for effective collaboration will keep employees engaged and productive.
Connecting With Nature
Another important factor in engagement is employee well-being. A building has a significant effect on the overall productivity and performance of its occupants. It can in some instances boost productivity by as much as 12% while in contrast it can also decrease performance by 17%. That means when the best building are compared to the worst companies can see up to a 30% difference.
The key question is, “How does well-being translate architecturally?” The answer is simple. Nature. When looking at what promote or inhibits well-being it is important to consider light and sound.
Light is perhaps one of the most influential factors when looking to enhance well-being. Providing a space with optimal lighting, both natural and artificial, has be reported to reduce absenteeism by up to 15%.
Acoustics within an office also contribute to performance and well-being. Dynamic space design must allow for employees to seek out quiet places to support complex tasks while allowing for planned or spontaneous interactions to promote collaboration and relationship development.
The inclusion of plants and green spaces are also highly effective. Plants help reduce tension and stress in a workplace by up to 12%. They also effectively help dampen ambient noise, an indoor hedge for example can absorb 5 decibels.
Flexibility and Ergonomics
Flexibility is the architectural sense comes in two forms. Firstly, it refers to future flexibility with regards to technology. Being able to reshape an office with movable patricians and all the technology is still accessible through vertical chase ways where new cables can be run. By being in a sense non-specific, architects can incorporate flexibility into their designs.
The second form of flexibility refers to work. Allowing people to choose when, where and how they work can have a significant positive effect. This freedom that allows employees to adapt their working environment to best suit them can drive employee satisfaction up by about 60%.
The nature of work has changed. People are engaged in a variety of complex tasks that can make single dedicated workstations redundant or ineffective. Architects need to design spaces that facilitate certain activities such as breather spaces or quiet zones, or project rooms and impromptu meeting areas. Taking down walls is simply not enough, spaces within this open environment need to be designed to encourage and engage employees in specific tasks.
There has been a recent surge in lateral thinking in redesigning the traditional desk and office chairSitting at a desk all day has come into the spot light with its obvious health risks and designers have taken up the challenge by designing standing desks, bike desk and even treadmill desks. A Dutch architecture firm took to removing sitting all together. Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances (RAAAF), designed an experimental office called The End of Sitting. The space features a series of diverse geometric surfaces that offer occupants a variety of working positions. The aim of designs like these is to be functional but also to increase mental and physical well-being.
Building automation is certainly not new concept. Most offices have some sort of automation system that controls the air conditioning, ventilation, lights and utilities. The aim of these systems is to boost efficiency and reduce operating cost. This approach to automation is very control centric and does not necessarily provide occupant with an optimal working environment.
Often buildings are over cooled or heated which creates discomfort for employees and unnecessary waste. Alternative to traditional air conditioning, such as radiant cooling systems, can help reduce energy consumption and increase thermal comfort.
Light sensors that can adjust artificial light to allow for maximum utilization of natural light and reduce glare can also increase employee well-being and productivity. These systems go a long way to support improved user centric design and is beneficial for both the company and its employees.
The key component that encompasses all of the above design aspects is people. The office space of the future takes a user centric approach to its design philosophy. Workplace design plays a vital role in helping maximize the comfort and performance of its occupants and should be the first and last consideration when creating a new space. How people engage with the space and if it ultimately promote well-being, productivity and collaboration will be the defining factors in the office space of the tomorrow.