When it comes to workplace design, it’s no longer just about making furniture fit the space available. Today, the modern office is all about how people work and are managed, and the technologies that enable their work. Incorporating new and better ways to structure time, and to design space that will bind the happiness, success and wellbeing of individuals, is also high on the agenda.
Many of us spend a large chunk of our lives at the office and, as such, it can have a major impact on our work-life balance and wellbeing. Hence, it makes perfect business sense for organisations to create a work culture and environment that makes us feel valued and supported in our work roles. Not only does this foster our own individual health and wellbeing, it can have a significant impact on the company’s productivity and, more importantly, on its bottom line.
At work, we need to be able to easily switch our mode of focus – be it focusing, learning, socialising or collaborating – in order to stay fulfilled and productive. This has led to the birth of a series of ‘Habitats’ within the office – specific locations that help create a more streamlined and connected workplace. Let’s take a closer look.
First impressions count, and the foyer or reception area is the place where visitors discover what defines an organisation. When planned correctly, this area can double up as a lobby and a business lounge, and by introducing a range of furniture options, it can be exploited to maximise efficiency and utilisation. Relaxed, informal and versatile seating solutions ensure that waiting time is both comfortable and productive.
The award-winning offices of Energy Systems Catapult, located in Birmingham, demonstrated this perfectly by creating a ‘transparent’ Welcome habitat. Within this dynamic, shared space, a range of furniture meets the demands of a variety of transient and customer-facing roles. Luxurious soft seating helps bring a boutique hotel-feel to the area, along with timber-framed tables, chairs and high stools. For added vibrancy and energy, bold fabrics are featured on the upholstery throughout.
Alongside traditional workspaces, more and more offices are introducing touchdown, hot-desking facilities; enabling employees to have access to the tools and technology to perform their job. Well-planned Home spaces help people improve individual work processes, speed up the development of ideas, improve learning and gain access to information quickly. The Home habitat is also vital for when people need to concentrate, make phone calls or conduct confidential interactions. Hence, telephone pods are gaining ground and provide a much-needed place to concentrate and make private calls.
High-backed meeting booths were specified throughout the Home habitat at the head offices of Wates Group in Leatherhead, Surrey. As well as providing a comfortable breakout area, they enhance collaborative working and make it possible to hold short meetings there too.
In the modern office, people tend to be away from their desks holding meetings formally or informally, on or off campus, and, as such, there is a growing trend towards collaborative work hubs that help continue the flow of nomadic working patterns and teamwork.
In the offices of Arthur J Gallagher in London, glass-fronted meeting pods create the ideal space for both private meetings amongst employees and visitors. Some systems also feature a unique human-centric lighting system to further aid wellbeing.
These habitats focus on accommodating planned and traditional meeting requirements, including board meetings, seminars, client presentations or informal networking events. As traditional meeting chairs may not deliver the necessary levels of ergonomic support demanded by emerging work styles, ergonomic seating becomes a priority in these settings.
At the Dolphin Square apartment complex in London, SW1, a highly versatile conference table and seating helps create the perfect formal meet space. Featuring a series of flip-top tables in a striking black American walnut veneer finish, the tables present a highly flexible layout to suit a range of meeting scenarios and, complete with power and data facilities, they can meet the demands of any meeting.
This habitat is a compelling new way to generate energy – a hub where people choose to work. Whereas a standard cafeteria’s activity spikes at breakfast and lunch, with some activity around break times, the WorkCafé is a dynamic hub throughout the entire workday. Soft seating solutions with integral USB and power points are essential here.
Wates Group successfully made the most of its restaurant space by creating a multi-functional area for working, socialising and refuelling. A new dining area with low chairs, benches and high stools creates a dynamic hub throughout the workday, whilst booth seating provides added comfort and privacy, and additional meeting space.
These spaces are the primary paths through the workplace that provide plenty of opportunities for planned and unplanned encounters. Knowledge moves quickly through networked groups, and from chance encounters in transitional spaces like hallways, coffee areas or outside a doorway. Furniture that can provide easy access to power can also support the use of mobile technology.
At Birmingham’s latest conference venue, The Vox, modular seating that features single and double benches, as well as corner pieces and curved sections, was chosen to provide optimum seating and comfort in busy thoroughfare and Flow areas.
In conclusion, the walls are coming down. By creating habitats within the workplace, we are able to continually switch between our main modes of working throughout the day. By creating an environment that enables workers to easily move to a different area of the office to complete their tasks, or to collaborate with colleagues and visitors, the end result is greater wellbeing for staff and improved productivity for the business too.