Why better design may not just be about space

Published on 01/11/2016

Offices are changing in ways previous generations simply would not recognise, with one of the biggest revolutions in workplace design focusing on swapping cubicles and corner work rooms for working in an open space.

But does this approach suit everyone? And does it create a better environment, or would some benefit from having their own private area in which to toil? 

Recent articles have drawn attention to a number of the frustrations some feel with today’s more fluid working areas, for example a need for quieter spaces and areas offering greater privacy for sensitive phone calls or serious focus. 

Indeed, research has indicated that, in many cases, the open office may even lead to some loss in productivity. However, at the same time, productivity and a health working environment also depends on being able to forge relationships with colleagues in communal parts of the workplace. Therefore, the question is clearly whether it is possible for us to have both. 

It would seem that, if done wisely, the answer to that question is yes. For example, one should be able to design an office which includes task-specific zones, and to have a culture that supports the flexibility and movement required to make these parts of the building effective. 

For instance, a single place of work could offer:

 • Collaboration zones where colleagues can meet and share ideas. These can be as informal as a large table in an office kitchen or other breakout area, bearing in mind that the volume s likely to be higher than in other parts of the office, and so ideally these areas are not based near quiet zones (see below.)

• Fun zones are famous in non-traditional organisations such as Google, where there are spacehoppers, slides and the like. Some argue these have proved vital in building strong work relationships, others that they are a distraction, and, admittedly they probably wouldn’t be suited to a conservative City law firm. But even a cafeteria or kitchen could be a “fun” zone.

• Quite zones where employees go for more concentration and focus. Clearly this should not have humming printers in the background or colleagues traipsing through, but it could be fine to have the occasional passer-by. 

• Private zones are way of telling co-workers “Do Not Disturb” and are areas set aside for intense, serious work and personal headspace. They are ideally intended for just one person at a time and have doors. 

Having zones like this can ensure those with different work styles can find a good “fit” for both their individual character and their task list. With the right planning and office furniture, you can achieve the right balance between creating an enviable office culture and high productivity levels. 

Modern Office Furniture from Calibre

At Calibre Office Furniture, we strongly believe office furniture should never be an afterthought in workplace design. We source high quality contemporary office furniture, provided with impeccable personal service.

• Juliet England is a blogger and online copywriter who writes extensively for the office design and furniture industries, including for leading companies such as Calibre Office Furniture

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