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Top 5 Challenges in Workplace Design

by Ramona Savencu

What does the workplace you create say about you?

The office space has evolved into more than a place where employees perform their professional activity: it now represents the brand and image of a corporation. New jobs are constantly being created because the nature of the traditional organization has changed dramatically in recent years. The evolution of technology and consumers’ changing behaviour alters the missions of many organizations, as well as the links between them. We currently live in a very connected world where people have become “more and more mobile”. All these factors bring new challenges and opportunities in as far as the workplace design is concerned.

FLEXIBILITY

When it comes to an office building, the location is one of the most important factors when deciding to choose it. But when it comes to the office space itself, people want as much flexibility as possible. It has become difficult to estimate the number of employees in a company for the next 2-3 years, and it is even harder for longer periods of time. Therefore, to create flexible spaces, each sector should offer solutions to support this feature, from design to construction and furniture. We estimate that more and more smart options will emerge to create the flexibility that employees need. To achieve the desired level of flexibility, time and resources need to be invested to understand the organization and to come up with solutions that ensure an optimal workflow.

There are different points of view about the level of employee productivity and collaboration when considering the open space. The main trend now is to adjust this area by integrating adjacent spaces: small meeting rooms, areas that encourage collaboration, relaxation oases or phone booths – which have become increasingly popular. There is a wide variety of pieces of furniture designed to meet the needs of acoustic and visual intimacy. The project team, that includes both architects and stakeholders, should collaborate well enough to give an effective office design direction that takes into consideration the culture, people and the physical space requirements and that supports the types of activities performed at work.

Healthy people are dynamic and the human body is made to enjoy both movement and rest. Any extreme can be damaging. As a result, it is better to have a variety of places from which you can easily choose and where you can work either sitting or standing. Thus, employees are encouraged to keep a balance between the risks of bad posture and physical comfort at work.

AUTHENTICITY

As employees feel that it is important to work for a company whose culture is aligned with their personal values, authenticity has become an important component of every organization. Employees value transparency and honesty from their leaders, so these need to be reflected in the physical design of the office. At the same time, companies must be honest with themselves and think about how they want to promote their values within the organization.

When an office is set up in a unique and authentic way, employees are more creative and inspired by the work environment. Teams search for increasingly unique pieces and handicrafts. Despite the easiness of online acquisitions, many interior designers continue to attend specialized shops and visit showrooms or factories. Proper culture cannot be created only through the workplace alone, so authenticity should be boosted both by the workplace design and company policies.

PRIMARY NEEDS

We are constantly overwhelmed by information and data. As the newest and best elements that can be integrated into the work environment continue to appear, we might be tempted to naturally choose the known, safe path.

The basic human needs, according to Maslow’s pyramid, are the physiological ones – those related to water, air, food, shelter, sleep – followed by safety and personal security needs. Thus, if you want to use the latest trends in office design, it is important to start from an analysis of needs. This process can act like a compass that will align employees’ expectations and can also be a validation tool for the employer’s efforts.

Flexibility, authenticity and primary needs represent just the tip of the iceberg. In the second part of our article, we will explore the reasons why wellbeing and technology are important attributes of a pleasant, successful and innovative workplace.

WELLBEING

Employee wellbeing is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to workplace design. There has been a gradual shift in people’s perception about this concept, from simple awareness to eventually being a top priority for organizations. Noticing the impact on employee recruitment and retention, many companies seek to include in the workplace elements that increase and maintain employee wellbeing. Unfortunately, most of the time, these specific items are the first to be given up when costs are optimized.

However, recent studies and research show that there is a correlation between the physical environment of the workplace and the physical and mental health of the users. As a result, companies begin to realize that it’s not just a social responsibility they have, but it is also an essential feature that employees are looking for. More and more manufacturers are investing in research and development in terms of ergonomics, so we are expecting to see more products that will contribute to a healthier workplace.

Wellbeing is more than just a green wall or a height-adjustable desk; it is about finding ways and methods that truly support the physical and mental health of individuals. We expect to see several projects that include: circadian lighting (color and light intensity adjusted for certain times of the day), meditation rooms, spaces that improve one’s mood (the use of crystals), the use of materials and models that imitate the natural environment, more attention given to the sensory elements in the office.

TECHNOLOGY

Devices will become stronger, allowing for local data processing and artificial intelligence capabilities. These will reduce the volume of data transfers, increase dependency on the cloud and give employees more flexibility. In this respect, industries requiring immediate action will be significantly affected based on a complex real-time data analysis (for example, production, public security) as well as cases where cloud-related connectivity can be restricted (transport and logistics).

The popularity of communication platforms such as Slack and WhatsApp increases exponentially. People will benefit more from artificial intelligence, as various software systems can be developed to streamline employee work both in HR (for example, we see applications that automatically generate the number of vacation days left), as well as in business (automatic reminder to call a customer for a meeting or congratulate them on their birthday). We are very close to the kind of technology that completes many of our daily tasks, such as meeting schedules or reporting.

There is a new paradigm of communication inside the workplace: messages / texts and various alerts. Many data are collected so that Appel’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant can be intelligent speakers who are easily integrated into our lives. Their responses will continue to improve: as technology becomes more sophisticated, it can drastically change what we do during a working day and it can have an impact on how we design the spaces where people work.

The way in which society supports and promotes productivity and progress is found in the features of a workplace, in the added value that it provides to an organization. By discussing these trends, along with using the resources and tools available, companies will surely continue to develop their offices as a key factor of their success.

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