Smart Working Space

Today’s office environment is evolving radically to accommodate new ideas and the ways in which business is conducted.  Technology also plays a vital role in shaping how we learn, communicate, store information and carry out daily functions.  Companies that have a genuine interest in the well-being and quality of life of their employees heed the necessity to learn about the logistics of how people work and the direct influence on the built environment.

There is a shift in trends from the traditional private-office work environment.  The office is opening up and walls are almost non existent.  Large, status related offices have become smaller and the extra space allocated to where it is relevant.  The view of the new office space is an open, multi-functional environment that promotes collaboration, effectiveness and flexibility. Employees are encouraged to work together to problem solve, share ideas and use this collaboration as learning tools, and hence designers are focusing on making work spaces better suited to these needs.

Thought to be some of the most important trends currently:

The universal use of flat computer screens and laptops and new ways of working has meant that the density at which buildings are occupied has been rising, but with the use of this type of equipment, furniture designers and space planners have been able to make a space saving of up to 25% on a work station in some instances. The challenge is thus for designers, developers and facilities managers to adapt buildings that were designed according to different usage such that working space is more shared and open.

Technology rather than making the office obsolete, is defining our relationship with space, just as it is with the idea of time.

The Environment
The environment is possibly the most significant factor challenging each of the professions involved in building design and management.  Whilst legislation continues to be debated and case studies bringing critical mass in terms of reporting and evidence, there is no doubt that the environment will colour every decision taken in the work place and that colour is most certainly green.

A huge consideration in any office move or refurbishment is without a doubt cost, but there also comes a point at which this factor could become counter productive, as cheaper is not necessarily better and saving upfront may affect long term productivity, maintenance and the general office environment.

At one stage inclusive design was the wheelchair.  This has however evolved dramatically and factors such as access to work and services for a wider ranger of people, including a broader range of disability is now the order of the day and should be an exciting and rewarding challenge for office workplace designers.

An interesting factor to consider, as this is the point at which Human Resources and Facilities Management overlap in workspace design.  Essentially it is the outward manifestation of the company’s attitude towards its workers – what surrounds people in the working environment influences what they feel about themselves, and how the company brands itself will affect how it is perceived by employees and its ability to recruit, retain and motivate employees.

Wellness and Productivity
This factor deals with the fact that enlightened workspace design tries to give every worker a comfortable space and there is much research to prove that a “humane” working environment leads to the happiness and productivity of workers.  It is insufficient to merely consider health and safety issues as this ignores the many ways in which our surrounding can make an active contribution to physical and mental wellbeing.