At inOne, we understand that contemporary workspaces need to be intuitive, pleasing in form and functional in nature. We also know that your perfect vision of a workspace is driven by trends, style and a cohesive floor plan that is in harmony with how your team works.
To help you decide what’s important in your next office fitout, our designers have shared their top 6 office design trends for 2017.
Activity Based Working
Activity based working (ABW) is based on the idea that no person should own a desk or have a workstation assigned to them. This predetermined approach to spaces allows employees to work in accordance with their activity, and not their role. For example, an employee may use the morning to work on a project plan, then shift their attention to a collaborative product development in the afternoon. Instead of sitting at their desk in the morning and moving to a meeting room later in the day, the employee moves to a mutual space which caters to those activities.
On the surface, the idea carries a great deal of merit. Thanks to the convergence of roles and automation of tasks in recent years, people are spending more time conversing and collaborating with each other than ever, reducing their ‘desk time’. Wireless work and laptops have removed the need for a static workplace and our modern, outcome-oriented businesses now demand spaces that allow us to work wherever is suitable.
Companies around the world that have implemented activity based working have done away with flawed, single task oriented desks, empty meeting rooms and inefficient office layouts. They bring together people in open, multi-purpose areas where desks are shared and collaboration occurs freely. Activity based working is most effective when the employee needs little more than a laptop and a Wifi connection to operate, such as in tech companies. Although tech companies pioneered the idea, ABW has tangible benefits for a host of other industries and has been adopted by major banks for certain teams or business units.
“Thanks to the convergence of roles and automation of tasks in recent years, people are spending more time conversing and collaborating with each other than ever, reducing their ‘desk time’.”
How to design an Activity Based Workspace
- Forgo ‘assigned desks’ and allow employees to roam around to whichever table or surface is best fit for their activity.
- Place less emphasis on role titles and more emphasis on the work the employee will be involved in.
- Name the meeting rooms after the types of discussion happening inside. For example, create a ‘new relationships’ meeting room for sales meetings, a ‘bright ideas’ room for brainstorming, or a ‘personal goals’ meeting room for 1 on 1 meetings and coaching.
- Install large oval shaped desks which can be used for laying out plans and roadmaps, they are also wonderfully versatile for team scrums or practical activities.
- Include a suitable amount of ‘play spaces’ where staff can fraternise and switch off from their work. The spaces should allow for a healthy discourse from their work, which is vital for improving mindfulness and keeping staff energised throughout the day.
The modern connected workstation has a multitude of devices plugged into power points, with wires scrambled behind screens and powerboards scattered underneath. Although great for productivity, this tech-heavy approach to our workstation is far from aesthetically pleasing. By applying minimalistic design principles to workspaces, you can reduce the utilitarian effect which is now visible in almost every office around the world.
Recently, the trend towards a minimalistic workstations has increased in popularity as staff actively seek aesthetically pleasing places to work. By introducing ambient lighting, hidden storage and stylish decor, an office can be converted into a more visually satisfying space which polarises staff less. Another subtle way to reduce clutter is to integrate power sources and network ports into desks, resulting in less extrusions and a safer environment. Foregoing contrived, functionless decor for functional, geometrically simple fixtures can lessen the visual burden on employees whilst they work.
How to design a Minimalistic workspace
- Encourage a ‘clutter-free’ desk culture by providing seamless storage areas and nooks.
- Integrate power and network ports into the desk and tables and where possible, install wireless charging and Wifi spots around the area.
- In place of exposed cupboard and drawer handles, add push/close latches, doors and drawers
- Use integrated lighting which negates the sharpness of direct downlights and helps create a more neutral ambiance.
- Explore the use of unpainted or exposed timbers throughout meeting rooms and kitchens.
- Glass partitions in place of painted walls can help with opening up spaces and reduce the amount of colour contrast that occurs between rooms.
Robert Propst, a designer at office-furniture firm Herman Miller, was the inventor of the office cubicle in the 1960s. Propst intended to ‘liberate’ workers at the time by providing them with a personal, semi-enclosed workspace that allowed for unrestricted concentration and focus. He was quoted saying that the offices at the time organised workers in “row after orthogonal row of serried desks, where accountants or typists worked from 9 to 5, often surrounded by a corridor of closed-door offices for managers and executives.”
“Open plan design has many proven benefits; increased communication, boosted moral, genuine ambience and greater collaboration.”
“It saps vitality, blocks talent, frustrates accomplishment. It is the daily scene of unfulfilled intentions and failed effort,” Propst said. 50 years on, it’s common knowledge that methodically organising employees into confined spaces saps vitality, blocks out of the box thinking and frustrates people; quite the opposite to what Propst intended.
Open plan design has many proven benefits; increased communication, boosted moral, genuine ambience and greater collaboration. These days, high morale is as beneficial for productivity as celebrating accomplishment, positional power and intellectual challenge.
Understanding how to apply open plan design is the critical factor though, as a poorly planned open plan workspace can be counter-productive. Harmonics, the way sound is absorbed and carried, and staff interaction should complement the activities happening in the space.
How to design an Open Plan workspace
- Utilise large open working areas where staff have spacious, partition-free desks adjacent to each other
- Replace ‘corner-style’ offices with functional multi-purpose spaces, integrate management staff with the team
- Knock down walls and install glass-walled meeting rooms, creating transparency in the workplace
- Keep people moving around the office regularly with unfixed desks or areas
- Remove functionless furniture and create spaces where staff and move freely and stretch out
- Install bigger kitchens and breakout spaces which double as work spaces
Light has the uncanny ability to set the mood for a workplace. Too bright, and the space will resemble a hospital, too dark and the staff will begin to doze off earlier in the day. One major architectural challenge of modern times has been how to use light as a resource in city offices. The vertical nature of CDB streets can have a dramatic impact on the lower floors of buildings, as less natural light finds its way into workspaces and meeting rooms.
Cleverly designing office layouts to carry light from room to room can open up the space, making the office feel larger than it is. Using soft coloured materials and paint also helps to increase the brightness. The use of glass instead of solid walls for meeting rooms and offices ensures inaudibility whilst still maintaining the light-filled ambience of the adjacent room.
Health wise, the are numerous medical benefits to minimising artificial light. Employees incur less eye strain and generally experience a slower productivity drop-off throughout the day, however there are scenarios where no amount of natural light can assist such as shift work. In a night-time environment, special light-filtered fixtures can reduce the harshness of tube lighting. Finally, ensuring the temperature of the CFL lights is between 3000k and 4000k can ease the strain on eyes.
How to design a Light Filtered workspace
- Use glass partitions in place of plasterboard or timber partitions.
- Paint the walls in natural, light colours which reflect light around the space.
- Avoid using dark stone, concrete or paint as this absorbs light and creates a colder mood.
- Strategically fix lighting which fills corners or ‘dark spots’, opening up rooms.
Multipurpose spaces differ from activity based working in that they offer people an area designed for work, rest and play. Whereas ABW is designed to remove need for an assigned desks, multipurpose spaces can still compliment a traditional or open plan office by providing a unique space that can host an important company meeting, a ping pong table, or function as a social gathering space.
Influenced by our innate desire to be around other people, the presence of large oval desks, shared kitchens and free space can help bring people together. These multipurpose spaces promotes conversation and interaction, whilst allowing people to switch people work and socialising with ease.
Take a walk around some of the warehouse conversions in the trendy, creative suburbs of Surry Hills and Redfern in Sydney, and you’ll see multipurpose spaces designed for projects in the morning and parties in the afternoon.
How to design a Multipurpose workspace
- Create open empty floor space where staff can stretch their legs and play.
- Install large seated areas which double as a presentation space.
- If parties or social gatherings are planned, use laminate or versatile flooring which can mopped or vacuumed easily.
- Fix large TVs to the wall which can be used to pitch to potential clients or watch films after dark.
It’s widely accepted that the presence of nature in the workplace can benefit mood, emotional output and cognitive performance. The term biophilia was first used by Edward Wilson in 1984 in his book ‘Biophilia’,where Wilson claimed that humans have an innate and evolutionary based affinity for nature. Applying this to workspaces, biophilic design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn which places humans back in touch with nature.
The recent trend in green architecture has decreased the environmental impact of the office environment, but has accomplished little in the way of reconnecting us to the natural world. According to the whitepaper 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, new research supports measurable, positive impacts of biophilic design on health, strengthening the evidence for greater human-nature connection in our workspace.
“Biophilic design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn which places humans back in touch with nature.”
Although it’s challenging to incorporate great biophilic design into a city office with limited space, there are more practical ways in which biophilic design can be incorporated into sites. These include modular plant arrangements which can be freely moved, the use of ‘living walls’, water features for acoustic harmony and the installation of natural or living art.
How to design a Multipurpose workspace
- Create ‘living walls’ using climbers and other vine-like plants
- Instead of cold metal or concrete fixtures, incorporate trees into atriums which bring the outdoors inside
- If large plants or trees cannot be installed, switch to modular plant boxes which are portable and can be placed almost anywhere
- Install water features such as ponds or wet walls, add some fish if possible
- Lay earthy rocks and pebbles to unused floor sections to create a sense of groundedness