It's incredible. No, really. A workplace is now a company's best marketing tool. It's true. Your office sells your business. Yes, it is hard to believe. But that's how far workspace trends have moved business today. It's a bit like technology. Once mobile phones were created, their development continued apace. From house bricks to lightweight devices which are supercomputers didn't happen overnight but certainly, their progress has been rapid. So it is with workspaces.
The big shift with workspace trends came when everyone agreed that the most important part of any business is the people who work there. Not just the managers and directors and owners, but all the employees. And when I say everyone I include those people involved with changing the workplace, people such as designers, architects, researchers, manufacturers and more. You pay a huge slice of your outgoings to your people and they are indispensable. If they up and leave, you've lost an asset and possibly a fantastic asset. Keep them and better still, keep them happy and your business is set to expand, improve and prosper.
Get the workers on board
The move to worker-centric workspaces has been rapid and has the professionals taking into serious consideration the people who will occupy that space. No longer do designers dream up their designs in isolation. It's very much a matter of who will use this space, this furniture, these facilities, and the question is asked; is it not just the best for the environment, but is it the best for the people?
A home has specific rooms for specific purposes and that principle is now very much the thinking with workspaces. It could be open plan, and often is, but it can also have areas, rooms (perhaps portable) which are ideal for specific tasks. Again, it is the needs of the employees which drive the design of the workspace.
They are consulted. They are studied in their habitat. Their ideas, requirements and issues drive and inspire the designers.
There are obvious and not so obvious features
The things you see because you use them such as chairs, seating, desks and the like are clearly important. But then there are other elements such as décor, surrounds and lighting. They may not appear to be so obvious but play an equally important role in workplace design.
Two key components are ergonomics and aesthetics. The first involves the comfort and health of your people and the second is linked to their wellbeing and feelings. These two issues have powerful consequences.
Good physical and mental health is a no-brainer. If your workers are feeling crook and/or miserable, you possibly have an absent worker or one who is looking for a new career. You certainly have someone who is not as productive as they could and should be. Why?
The furniture you provide is poorly designed and the atmosphere of your workplace is not exciting, inspiring, rewarding or friendly. That's where gardens play such a big (literally) and important role in your workspace. In some spaces, it's getting to be like a garden in which an office has been established.
Lighting is so important. The environment and your costs are factors but the right lighting makes work easier and certainly has little or no negative impact on your people.
People have rocks as pets
Now that doesn't mean your office chair will become your best buddy but there's certainly been a sea-change when it come to the furniture in your workspace. Design of such furniture is not so much an art form as much as a science. Work study experts test and observe the impact a humble office chair has on the productivity of the worker. The material, the construction, the weight, colour and purpose are all feed into the design mix. Where once a chair was a chair was a chair, now it's a meeting chair and that could be for a long or a short meeting. Oh yes, there's a chair for every occasion. And why? Because it gets back to workspaces and everything in it existing to serve, help and benefit the human. Robots can please themselves.
Open spaces are good and bad
Many companies thrive in open space environments. They give feelings of space and freedom which appeal to people. The opposite is being almost trapped in a confined, even small space where claustrophobia is in the desk behind you. But because of the portability of materials, an open space can have smaller spaces created in seconds and then after the need for smaller areas, the open space returns with a minimum of effort and in a matter of minutes. It's not quite musical chairs but has shades of such an activity.
But open spaces for all their benefits do face challenges in the form of air temperature, noise and lighting. This is where new thinking is needed. You can break up your open planning with temporary dividers. You can use lighting to highlight one small part of your open plan situation. Be flexible. Make your workspace fluid. It makes meetings more productive and a change of scenery is as good as a holiday. Mix things up a bit.
The chameleon office furniture
Office furniture that is easily moved, changes shape and can be put away to free up space is not a dream but a reality. The main table for the meeting can be expanded or reduced according to need. The monitor and whiteboard are easily added or removed. The chairs are inviting and healthy. To have the one-sized table for meetings in a place where it lives forever is old hat. Well, old furniture old hat. Designers understand that variety is the spice of life and create pieces of furniture that not only meet the needs of the people in the workspace but are welcoming as well as flexible and functional.
Table too high? Lower it. Table in the wrong shape or formation? Change it. This is multi-functional furniture. It's the chameleon effect. It changes according to your situation.
Comfort and motivation
These are key ingredients in any workplace. Enthusiastic workers who feel good being a part of your company are productive and far more likely to stay where they are. The grounds in which a building sits and even what happens on its roof are now real reasons for gardening experts to do their stuff. Bringing that growing stuff into your building is a natural progression. The atmosphere of working in a tranquil setting is a plus for everyone. And the cost to achieve that greenery is a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring and paying staff. For peanuts, you give them the Garden of Eden without the snake.
Work/Life balance is the key
There are two topics which are discussed around the water cooler and in bars and homes today. They are the planet and your health. Whole political parties now devote their main thrust to the environment. Whole boards of companies concentrate on the health and wellbeing of their staff.
So we design our buildings to leave a tiny, even minuscule carbon footprint, and we go out of our way to make our workspace friendly, inviting and a great place not just to work but to hang out in. Who would've thunk it?
Your workplace is a cool venue.
People know they spend about 40% of their life at work. That's a large chunk in anyone's language. If you enjoy your job, the place where you work and find it gives you an outlet for relaxation, you're keen to turn up. With special activities in spaces designed especially for that purpose, you have the best of both worlds. You're making money and are happy to do so.
Is your workspace your best marketing tool?
In a word, yes. Because business now understands that its greatest investment is in its people, our whole way of thinking has changed. Of course technology and marketing and promotion in the normal understanding of the terms are important and always will be. But the trend is now well and truly established. Where we work is a top priority. And how we work is influenced massively by our workspace.
Some companies take their workspace so seriously they've upped sticks and moved. They want the best for their people. And they want their people to know that. A holus-bolus move tells the workforce that the company is serious about their people. Their workspace is not a building or venue. It's much more than that. It's a community, a lead magnet, a place where people can feel good about life and what they do. It's a setting you can be proud of and want to share with others.
When members of staff are keen to show others where they work, you know the business is doing the right thing. And the consequence of happy and enthusiastic workers is a strong growth prediction and a booming bottom line. Fancy all that stemming from a snazzy office layout.