- Article by Marnie Hammond
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There’s no denying that advancements in technology are having a knock-on effect to the way in which people live and carry out work. From the ability to work remotely through to workplaces that are referencing residential interiors – this paradigm shift means that workplace design needs to follow suit in order to cater to demand.
THE RISE OF THE MOBILE WORKER
One of the more obvious examples in how change is playing out is the rise of mobile workers. As smartphones, tablets and laptops permeate across work and home life, workers are no longer necessarily required to stay chained to their desks. More and more, workplaces are allowing their employees to work remotely or even simply move around the office to the most suitable spot for the individual.
From a design point of view, this means offices need to really embrace flexibility. One way this has shown up in the past is through concepts such as ‘hot desking’, although this helps to capitalise on the premium of space, it doesn’t align with workers having a sense of ownership, which becomes lacking when multiple staff are sharing a desk. Alternatively, there are design solutions that can accommodate mobile work. By designing spaces with a mixture of layouts, breakout spots and furniture options, employee’s can be emboldened to stake out their own space, or facilitate impromptu meetings. By empowering workers with the technology and options to move freely and set up anywhere within the office, they can take control of the space around them, which can only add to engagement and satisfaction.
By empowering workers with the technology and options to move freely and set up anywhere within the office, they can take control of the space around them.
Furthering that notion of flexibility, modern workplaces need to allow new forms of group work to take place. Obviously a lot is dependant on the type of work that needs to be carried out, but different teams and divisions of a workplace may need to operate in different ways. For example, in a creative agency or technology company, production teams, creatives, accounts and management will all have different needs to be met. Typically accounts and management will be relegated to their own office space for privacy. But in what other ways can an office encourage the full spectrum of working types? Consideration needs to be given to allowing small informal gatherings such as ‘stand ups’ all the way through to large corporate meetings, and even loose furniture options to allow people to gather around a computer.
The common thread is creating flexible spaces that can cater to a range of working styles and meeting requirements.
MOVING AWAY FROM THE OPEN PLAN
Another design consideration that has continued to emerge is a move away from sprawling, open plan spaces. In a similar vein to enabling mobile work, creating a series of spatial options and quiet zones is something that has been on the rise.
Noise, distractions and lack of privacy are problems often voiced by employees and can easily be made worse when there are no options for respite. Although not everyone needs to be cocooned in a private office, many people often require a more intimate space to make phone calls or hone in on high-level focused work.
Unfortunately, the open plan format doesn’t easily accommodate the more private or quiet modes of working. And although constructing offices and cubicles is perhaps not the solution, something in the middle could provide the best answer. So what is the middle? Acoustic products and furniture have continued to be developed with this very problem in mind. The beauty of these moveable pieces is that they can be used in both retrofits and new projects alike, and in a multitude of ways.
Acoustic wall panels can be used along the walls in open plan spaces, helping to deaden the overall din so common in large, expansive workspaces. Other innovations, such as soft overhead boxes and pendant lighting with acoustic properties can be used to create zones that muffle sound when making phone calls.
We’re seeing more projects that are now incorporating smaller meeting room spaces that can accommodate either silent individual work, or small teamwork. Particularly for technology companies that use a scrum methodology, smaller more agile teams are required to turn work around quickly and use high-level problem solving – the kind of work that requires plenty of focus.
Cafe Culture + Insitu is an inside adviser. Lead image, Dropbox Sydney designed by Gensler.
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