Oliver Ronald of The Boss Design Group explains how the emergence of the concept of settings is influencing workplace design to benefit performance
Workplace design and furniture specification are no longer just about the space available. The modern office is all about settings – how people work and are managed, and the technologies that enable their work. It’s also about finding new and better ways to structure time and to design space that will maximise the happiness, success and wellbeing of individuals.
Employees need to be able to easily switch their mode of focus – be it focusing, learning, socialising, or collaborating – in order to stay fulfilled and productive.
This in turn has led to the birth of a series of designated settings within the workplace. Every organisation has its unique character in terms of strategies, culture, challenges and opportunities, but when creating a high performance work environment, there are six key applications that need to be considered when specifying furniture.
First impressions count, and the foyer or reception area is where visitors discover what defines an organisation. This space can also perform as a business lounge.
Relaxed and informal seating solutions – like modular seating that offers unrivalled levels of flexibility and practicality – ensure waiting time is spent comfortably. High-backed meeting booths also make it possible to hold short meetings there as opposed to bringing visitors into the body of the organisation and occupying meeting spaces that could be used for more critical business activities.
Many people require a dedicated workstation due to the nature of their work. Highly mobile workers do not necessarily need to own their own desk, but when they are in the office they need a place to perform individual work. The solution is to provide them with touchdown facilities.
Ergonomic considerations and physiological support are important for all workers, but of paramount importance for those with work profiles that require dedicated workstations. Enclaves or enclosed spaces should be located nearby for when people need to concentrate, make phone calls or conduct confidential interactions. Well-planned home spaces help people improve individual work processes, speed up the development of ideas, improve learning and gain access to information quickly.
People tend to be away from their desks holding meetings formally or informally, on or off campus, so collaboration settings should be located adjacent to home settings to assist in the speed of the development of ideas and flow of knowledge. There is a growing trend towards glass-fronted meeting pods that help continue the flow of nomadic working patterns and teamwork. It’s also important that vertical surfaces feature throughout the workplace. From meeting booths and pods, to standalone media walls that offer TV, video and online facilities, or a fixed whiteboard, a variety of technological functions should be made available.
Staged meeting ‘sets’ accommodate planned and traditional meeting requirements – 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 orkstyles, it’s vital that ergonomic seating becomes a priority.
While staged meeting sets are more likely to be defined by the fixed elements of partitioning, air conditioning and lighting, glass-fronted acoustic meeting pods provide a flexible alternative. With various configurations available, and with most pods boasting power and data capabilities, specifiers have endless design options. Some even boast special lighting systems to improve concentration and wellbeing.
Taking a cue from the name, the WorkCafe provides a combination of working, socialising and refuelling to foster employee productivity and wellbeing. It is a compelling new way to generate energy in the office – 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 WorkCafe is a dynamic hub throughout the entire workday. Soft seating solutions with integral USB and power points are advisable.
The primary paths through the workplace provide plenty of opportunities for planned and unplanned encounters. Knowledge moves quickly through networked groups and from chance encounters. Valuable encounters often take place in transitional spaces like hallways, coffee areas, or outside a doorway, so furniture that provides easy access to power can support the use of mobile technology.
Sympathetically located standing height tables and bar stools can also encourage spontaneous exchanges, and visual displays such as monitors and writable surfaces can support discussion and idea sharing.
Knowledge workers need to be able to continually switch between their four main modes of working throughout the day. By introducing workplace settings, the choice of office and contract furniture will not only serve to support their patterns of working – it will foster individual and corporate wellbeing.
Oliver Ronald is the sales & marketing director at The Boss Design Group