Make Your Office Work For You

 New trends in workplace design can help to attract talent and improve productivity.  Yet facilities managers need to ask the right questions before following the latest fashions, explains Lee Day, Director of Workplace Concepts at Area

“We shape our dwellings, and thereafter they shape us,” Winston Churchill once said.  There’s no better proof of that than the offices we work in.  The layout of a room, the design of the lighting, the space allocated to collaborative working – all of these things will affect the quantity and quality of the work people do.

There’s never been so much choice for businesses looking to refresh their commercial interiors.  Good ideas travel well – and in a global economy, it’s never been easier to share knowledge, market trends and industry insights.  That’s great news for facilities managers, who can look at new ideas or developments of existing concepts which have proven successful in other parts of the world – notably, ‘sympathetically’ designed task orientated open plan offices – and import them into the UK.

The benefits of a refresh are numerous.  Recognising the need to differentiate space by task and need will improve productivity, reduce real estate waste via agile and activity-based work settings, and create the template for scaling a business.  The need to attract – and retain – a high quality workforce means paying attention to their expectations, in terms of working styles or social environment – think of communal break-out spaces or canteen areas.  A new visual identity that is linked to the wider brand values of the business can help instil an integrated, connected feel across the workplace.

The key thing, though, is not to rush into a redesign.

Ask why, not how

As a rule, there will only be select occasions when a business makes a major change to its workplace.  The most obvious is when a lease break provides the opportunity to move somewhere new.  Other key times may involve a rebranding or change of ownership, or even midway through a lease, when the original design is looking tired and there’s still time enough to get value from a refresh.

When the decision has been made to make a change, there are several considerations that facilities managers must take into account.  The existing culture of the business, the immediate needs of the workforce, future growth forecasts, and many other factors will coincide or collide in ways that will shape the ultimate design of the workplace.

For example, it might be that you feel the need to go open-plan for a more collaborative approach, or create a Google-style ‘campus’ feel to attract bright new graduates.  Don’t forget, though, to leave enough space for people to work quietly and in a focussed way so the fruits of collaboration can be turned in measurable outcomes.  We all know colleagues who have a habit of starting early or leaving late because that’s the only time they can focus – but a well-designed workplace will cater to these people within normal business hours.

Projects often revolve around how many meeting rooms are required, what the kitchen should look like and how many social areas need to be designed. Very rarely does anybody ask why. By understanding why meeting rooms are required; what types of meeting they will hold and the purpose of these meetings, or why the kitchen must feature a central island, and whether or not it will just be used for catering, you can start to truly understand the overall company vision and the culture it is trying to create. ‘Form’ must not out shine function in order to maximise your ROI.

Your business, your design

Crucially, you have to judge what’s right for your own business.  Don’t be swayed by trends for their own sake.  Nor should you accept the advice of a workplace design consultancy blindly.  Some consultancies have a specific style – they’ve found a certain niche, and are very good within certain limits, but they tend to design to a ‘one size fits all’ model.

In reality, every business has a unique mix of requirements that must be addressed.  A good workplace design business will listen to you and reflect what you want.

At Area, we’re accustomed to working with a variety of businesses, from start-ups to FTSE 100 global leaders.  What might be a quirky, dynamic statement of intent for one company may not appeal to a corporate giant, or vice versa.

Similarly, we know that office refurb projects often take very different procurement paths depending on the type of client, size of the project and speed of delivery. Whatever the client’s preferred route, Area has dedicated professional teams in place to offer full design and build, detail and build, or traditional fit out solutions.

By having all of these under one roof, we can leverage knowledge to offer the best possible service.  That gives us the problem solving expertise to help clients and professional teams deliver complex projects on time and on budget.

Reinvigorating your workplace is one of the biggest projects that a facilities manager will face.  Yet by taking advantage of the exciting global trends available, and working with design partners who understand how to adapt these ideas to suit the specific needs of your business, the result is a workplace that provides the perfect base to expand your brand.

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