Remote working has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many businesses claiming that the flexibility it affords increases staff wellbeing whilst boosting productivity. Nevertheless, IBM’s recent decision to end its decades-old remote working policy demonstrates that organisations are once again recognising the crucial role office space can play in increasing efficiency and realising business goals. Greg Stewart from Office Depot looks further.
The benefits of collaborative office working, including increased innovation and creativity, more straightforward management of employees and enhanced teamwork have been widely discussed. By using layout and design features to drive the domestication of the workplace, businesses can reap the rewards of attracting workers back into the office. However, in order to ensure costs do not spiral out of control and that design changes are well aligned with existing brands, it is essential that organisations plan ahead.
With the lines between work and home life becoming ever-more blurred, companies are increasingly aiming to make the office feel like a second home for their employees. By prioritising creativity and comfort during the design process, the domestication of the workplace aims to increase the productivity and satisfaction workers feel within the office environment.
As the domestication trend continues to develop, we are likely to see more organisations introducing elements such as soft furnishings, complementary colours and real wood to create a warm and cosy office setting. However, it is important that companies consider whether new design elements work alongside the old when deciding to refresh and refurb. For example, introducing homely pastel shades into an ultra-modern office is likely to result in a clash of aesthetics, creating a sense of discord in employees and visitors.
Upholding an element of flexibility when introducing design changes will allow businesses to adjust to progressing trends and working methods, whilst making the most of available office space. Innovations such as Wi-Fi can play a particularly important role in workplace domestication, allowing employees to move away from fixed workstations and work from sofas and breakout areas. Thanks to portable tech such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets, employees also have the freedom to unplug and work just about anywhere they wish to.
In order to accommodate this, companies are increasingly constructing dynamic and flexible spaces which satisfy the working preferences of different employees. For instance, providing charging points in different locations around the workspace and adapting furniture such as standing desks delivers on workers’ increasing expectations to charge electronic devices from any location, emulating the home environment.
Even though domestication is useful in encouraging staff to return to the workplace, it can often be too easy for costs to get out of hand. In order to ensure investments are not made prematurely, businesses must ensure they take into account the needs of the collective workforce as well as their workers’ individual preferences. To do this, companies should frequently retrieve feedback about what employees require from their working environment and offer various spaces for concentration and privacy as well as for networking and collaboration. As a result, the end office design will meet actual employee needs, helping to maintain physical and mental welfare, facilitating productivity and emphasising the importance and value of employee feedback.
To help keep costs under control, companies should also consider opting for modular furniture, which can be positioned to maximise usage of existing office space. For example, modular desks are designed so that they can be used on their own or fitted together with other desks or breakout furniture. This can prove a cost-effective solution which provides businesses with much-needed agility, allowing spaces to be adapted to suit individual work, large group projects or even informal meetings.
As long as businesses prioritise the collective and individual needs of their workers whilst ensuring design changes are aligned with their original brand, the domestication of the workplace can play a valuable role in enticing employees back into the office and supporting overall business objectives.
Greg Stewart, Head of Furniture at Office Depot