Posted: 16 June, 2020

3 Ways to create a supportive, transformative and safer office experience

With emerging work-life balance opportunities, we now face new responsibilities and an evolving office dynamic. Director Andrew Brown explores how studios and offices can innovate their environments to create a better new normal.

2020 has certainly been a year of change. Barely five months into the new year and we have found our lives have changed almost beyond recognition. While we adapt to the challenges inherent to a pandemic and feel the effects this has brought – we should not fail to recognise that this can also be an opportunity for a positive transformation. Events have happened to coincide with changing attitudes towards work, flexible spaces promoting collaboration and the introduction of wellness to the mainstream which had already started to become a new normal.
It was the emergence of this philosophy of having balanced flexible workplaces, designed to foster better focus, a better ability to collaborate and create, that is perhaps the answer as we navigate a post-pandemic world.
1. Collaboration and Well-being In the current climate where social distancing is not just a prerogative but an essential tool to protect the well-being of staff, a more open and flexible setting can not only encourage a safer environment but help boost productivity. The generic office format has become obsolete, where optimisation and innovation have led to greater gains in staff performance and overall wellness. By promoting a more open, versatile setup we are also providing a platform for lower density workspaces that can utilise the full footprint of any given office. Through lower density, flexible arrangements we reduce the risk of pathogen transference but more importantly support staff physical and mental well-being. ‘Co-working’ office spaces Belgium each capture the unique identity of their city to bring a striking sense of individuality. What they also bring within every branch is a mix of private offices, closed-off booths, and sprawling lounges dotted with plush sofas where individuals and teams can work and collaborate throughout the day.
‘Co-working’ inaugural property in Antwerp, fitted with luxe light fixtures and art pieces. Space is increasingly seen as needing to serve a specific role. Historically staff have been organised by job function or department, but productivity is now being understood more in the context of how people are organised around project related activities. Creative, social and informal interactions provide the foundations of collaborative group decision-making. Steve Jobs famously said that ‘the best, most unique and innovative ideas happen in the corridor between colleagues who may not ordinarily work with one another’. Collaboration will ultimately come more naturally where community is encouraged, helping to build relationships across the organisation and inspire new thinking. Can a new, low density, versatile environment increase the effectiveness of staff whilst encouraging safer working practices? We certainly think so. 2. Communication and Enrichment Company values matter, and this should be reflected in how we communicate and encourage a creative working environment from wherever we may be whether this is at home, our studio or abroad. One of the characteristics of our industry is its international nature for which we have found ourselves travelling less and relying on technology more. Without quite realising it we have prepared ourselves for a world reliant on remote communications. Furthermore, not only are we fully proficient and equipped in this form of communication, we have found this progression to be a natural one. The dynamics of communication have already changed, how we work has changed. Now is the time to cultivate this understanding of technology and how we use space to enable a fluent and flawless working process.
For those without a whole room to spare why not consider this desk designed by Keiji Ashizawa for Danish brand Menu, helping to define your workspace at home. In today’s landscape we endeavour to blur the lines between at home and at work, to deliver the most engaging experiences for our staff in the most effective and efficient ways. Companies are allowing their staff and clients to connect on a whole new level and elevate the nature of collaborative design. We have found new ways to punctuate and enhance these experiences, to communicate ideas and support workflows. It may be through dedicated and imaginative studio enclosures, such as those pioneered by Jean de Lessard – where we can in solitude and security host meetings across the globe. Or perhaps it is from home, engaging VTC solutions at a ‘residential workplace’ now being reimagined by our designers whilst establishing and encouraging new behaviours. Wherever it is we work, we have the solutions to support and even enrich these experiences, enabling us to cultivate our staff in a more relaxed, safe working environment. 3. Brand ethos Pride in your brand is now firmly on the agenda in the workplace. This may be through considered workspaces that in turn create a safer, motivated and productive workforce. It may also be how we encourage staff to develop themselves given their new semi-independence. It is in these times that your staff will judge the culture of the company and it is in how we move forward that we will galvanise their relationship with the brand. A safe and beautiful workspace that staff are excited by and proud to spend their time is a good a place to start as any. But it is by investing in your employee experience and how we bring the client into that experience that the passion for the work can be best demonstrated. By making the staff advocates of your company they will only imbue their work with this passion and inspire their design, which in turn will be evident and reciprocated by the client. But there is a balance to be struck. These are not playgrounds for adults, but environments that cultivate and enrich.
WeWork has transformed expectations of what an office can be, proving that antiquated open plan offices are no longer the way to optimise your staff. It may be that we use this time as a reason to revaluate what a functional office is and where perhaps we have not utilised techniques that would benefit our working processes. A well-designed work environment can boost employee productivity and efficiency. Flexible environments that cater to various types of working, allowing either focussed independent work or relaxed collaborative work has been proven ultimately to result in higher efficiency and revenue growth – whilst promoting safer working practices. Is this an opportunity to contemplate and reassess our understanding of the workplace, leading to a more productive and successful brand and work culture?
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