By Ollie Plastow of Consensus Workspace.
Hybrid working looks here to stay. We have seen a huge cultural shift over the last two years when it comes to work, with less time spent on commuting and meetings, and more time spent focusing on work and wellbeing.
This can only be a good thing - a healthy workforce is essential. But it’s the culture that is key. People can work from home of course - give them the right kit, the right connections and productivity can actually increase, without the distractions of a busy office. But the office is more than just a place of work. It’s a community, a place for people to get together and share ideas, learn from one and another and work together to drive a business forward.
If everyone is working remotely, connecting via screens at set times, then this culture - and the creativity and progression - could falter. A recent study from global recruiter Robert Walters has revealed that 60% of U.K. professionals feel “disengaged” due to lack of face time with leaders - two-thirds are “highly likely” to leave their jobs because of it. 22% report they “don’t communicate” with their managers when working from home.
A good leader is empathetic and recognises the needs of everyone in their team. But everyone has different needs. Their roles and responsibilities, their home situations and their unique personalities are all variables that can greatly affect whether they would be better working from home or in an office.
We work with companies all over the UK to ensure their office interiors are the most functional and fitting that they can be for purpose. That purpose will vary depending on the organisation’s industry or profession, but throughout the course of Covid, one thing has remained true: people still want to see each other. The office provides that place to be together.
Companies that used to have a more traditional interiors are now following the lead of shared and serviced office providers, creating stylish spaces that will welcome people in to plan, communicate and create effectively, with the option to then stay, or work remotely. Banks of desks are removed and some smaller offices taken out to create much more open plan, informal settings, with just a handful of smaller meeting rooms for confidentiality. Communal, informal areas are based around natural light and larger open plan kitchens to encourage teamwork and collaboration.
Sustainability is key for offices looking to the future. Aside from being an ethical issue, it’s a sensible business decision - to attract the best clients and candidates, organisations of all sizes need to recognise the importance of sustainability and be clearly defined as responsible suppliers and employers. Amnesty International’s 2019 Future of Humanity Survey revealed that 41% of respondents felt that global warming was the most important issue facing the world and 89% of Millennials expect employers and suppliers to pe proactive around environmental responsibilities in the workplace, according to LinkedIn.
Moveable pods and units crafted from sustainable materials are very useful as workspaces adapt to flexible workforces and still have the need for privacy within open plan spaces. We have used them for Peel Media Ltd at MediaCity - the 12,000 sq ft office space refurbishment involved us using specific materials and creating bespoke booths for private meetings and calls, building safe social spaces and meeting rooms as well as large open plan areas.
Comfort is also top of the list. Soft fabrics, lots of fresh area and biophilia all play a large part in office design. Our client Orega demonstrates this in all its 18 UK locations: each one slightly different to reflect the building heritage and the wider surroundings. Its Bath location for example, is spread over two floors in a Bath stone Art Deco building, and includes fully equipped meeting rooms, breakout spaces and a range of additional amenities.
The white backdrop maximises the natural light and provides the perfect base for the colour scheme of rich navy and gold, which is inspired by the art deco design of the building, providing a contemporary yet classic interior. Combining state of the art technology with comfortable furnishings, the interior design deliberately blurs the lines between home and work.
That comfort and blurring of lines is important as hybrid working will require regular transitions, and employees need to be able to shift from working at home and in the office.
Softer fabrics, warmer tones and rounded furniture, with natural light, plants and fresh air should be prioritised to ensure a comfortable workplace. Clever use of these plants, paint effects, floor design, and furniture provide clear zones while maintaining the comfortable, open plan aesthetic. These touchpoints provide an environment that is more like a home, while providing a layout that is still conducive to work.
The office is still the hub of the company. Even with people carrying out some tasks from home, a successful office will provide a place for the team to connect and check in on each other, using the space to be together and build a healthy company culture that works for everyone.
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