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The Effect of Workplace Design

30 November 2018

The Effect of Workplace Design on Quality of Life at Work

The Effect of Workplace Design on Quality of Life at Work

The workplace has undergone revolutionary change in recent years – making workplace design an exciting area of speciality for interior designers. Mobile devices have freed office workers from being deskbound and many corporations have embraced the importance of workplace wellness and creating a healthy and stimulating office environment that not only supports workers in doing their best possible work but makes them happier as well. After all, happy and healthy people are more productive and are less likely to move on to a new job.

Studies have shown that highly engaged workers (ie those who are happy, thriving and loving their jobs) report having a greater degree of control over where and how they work. This has led to a rise in Activity Based Working or ABW. ABW was enabled by the rise of mobile devices. With no need to sit at one desk all day in front of a fixed PC, new ways of working were suddenly possible. Office workers could be freed from their private cubicles and corner offices to work across the office in different zones designed for focussed work, collaborative work, presentations and training and casual interaction.

The concept of ABW was first developed and made widespread by Dutch consulting firm Veldhoen + Company. The first ABW workplace, in 1997, was the head office of Interpolis, a Dutch insurance company. ABW is now constantly evolving as new technologies and work practices emerge, leaders learn from one another, and companies continue to shape the core concept to their own specific needs and company culture.

Effect of Workplace Design

Each day is filled with many tasks to do, but the attention required for each task is not uniform. Some tasks require us to think creatively, for others we need to collaborate, and others are simply mundane daily chores. In an ABW workplace, each person can choose a desk, room or area according to the task at hand. A well-designed ABW workspace is designed to support each individual in doing their particular task.

In an average ABW office, there is typically a mix of team desks, quiet concentration rooms, telephone booths and meeting rooms. More advanced ABW offices may also offer stand up meeting tables, a brainstorming area, multimedia rooms, a lounge area and stand up work stations.

In her book, Create a Thriving Workspace, workplace design specialist Anetta Pizag says that the best ABW workspaces are dynamic environments geared towards teamwork, with collaborative spaces taking up over 30 per cent of the floor area (while in traditional offices this is typically around 10 per cent).

“ABW is a potent strategy,” says Pizag. “If implemented well, the benefits are enormous. It creates a less hierachical workplace that stimulates interaction and knowledge exchange, supports learning and professional development, promotes trust and personal accountability, and makes work more efficient as well as more enjoyable.”

Workplace wellness is another major focus for today's workplace interior designers. Providing ample natural light and fresh air if possible, outdoor spaces, natural materials and living plants all serve to enhance office workers health and wellbeing and improve quality of life in spaces where people spend a large proportion of their lives.

Some companies are incorporating cafes serving healthy food, prayer rooms and meditation rooms, gyms and other facilities into their workplaces to enhance their employees' daily life and overall wellbeing.

The best commercial interior designers are also creating workspaces that are uplifting and inspiring and promote creativity through the use of colour and incorporation of artworks, designer furniture and beautiful finishes.

Great workspaces are not necessarily trendy. They foster community, increase employee morale and synergies, and inspire creativity. They simultaneously lower operating costs, reduce office space rental costs, increase efficiencies and actively embrace green and sustainable materials and technologies. Most importantly, they nourish and delight the human spirit. Companies that have invested in the health and well being of their employees through new approaches to workplace design have seen their investments pay off in spades.

As an interior designer, you have an opportunity to be a part of this revolution in workplace design – and instrumental in creating healthier and happier places where people can thrive and enjoy the space in which they spend a quarter of their lives.