There’s a lot of talk about how good office design can influence a company’s work culture. As it has been 3 years since we moved to our new premises in Kings Ride Court, Ascot we thought this anniversary provided us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on how our office design has transformed our way of working.
Collaboration is key
When designing our new office space we wanted a blend of collaborative and more intimate personal spaces within the open-plan office to suit different working styles and requirements. We ensured there was a clever mix of flexible, multi-use spaces, using either acoustic furniture, partitions or high benches and storage items. Our designers managed to fit 7 such spaces into what is really quite a restricted space. These areas have been a great success, especially as we’ve recently employed several tech-savvy “Millennials” who are much more comfortable working in third spaces using tablets and smartphones.
In a creative environment like a Design company, fostering collaboration is crucial. Our Design area has high benches with writeable wipe clean glass tops and Sales Team and Designers are often found gathered round debating the virtues of different swatches or colour palettes. Here they are being used as a mood board.
Most of our desks have pull-outs, mainly for storage but which can also be used for perching on while talking to a colleague. This encourages us to get up and talk to each other, rather than just communicate electronically.
What about Privacy?
However, since the publication of Susan’s Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking many office designers are realising that not everyone is an extrovert and we need to cater for the substantial minority of introverts in our midst. There is also more to being creative than constant collaboration.
Melanie Redman from Steelcase says: “People are social creatures. We don’t like to be ostracized. So when we’re in a group setting, our brains will easily change our minds to agree with others. That’s a danger of constant collaboration. It’s very important to also give people the chance for privacy, so they can form their own ideas to bring to the group.”
How did we solve this conundrum?
Despite incorporating more flexible structures in our design, we didn’t go the whole hog and completely move away from traditional desking and seating. There are 2 offices separated with full height glass partitioning for private meetings as well as our boardroom which is separate to our main office. Although we have bench desking which is quite open, they all have privacy screens so we can get our heads down.
As noise was a potential key issue in our predominantly open plan office, we have acoustic solutions such as high back sofas which although situated in the middle of the room provide a quiet semi enclosed space for taking phone calls, working on your own or having small meetings.
So, it’s not a case of either collaboration or privacy we need both at different times depending on the task. Whilst we want to have a stimulated engaged communicative workforce at CBS we also need our staff have the time and space to develop their own ideas and working style.
Getting away from it all
Our Teapoint is adjacent to our workspace as we believe that breakout areas are a vital part of office life. Eating at your desk and not taking a break is actually quite unhealthy and over time, this can cause employee productivity to fall and can even cause burn-out (www.smallbusiness.chron.com). It’s also really unhygienic as keyboards and computer mice are often covered with more bacteria than toilet seats! (www.huffingtonpost.com).
Our MD Phil has now banned eating at our desks to ensure that our staff get away from their computers and actually feel like they are getting some downtime from work. To entice us away our breakout area is a really relaxed environment in soothing pale green and grey tones. It’s fully enclosed which enhances privacy. As well as a chilled out zone our breakout area doubles as an informal meeting space, for internal meetings and company get-togethers, for celebrations such as birthdays (or just because it’s Friday!).
Don’t Just Sit There!
Subtle design details have had unforeseen health benefits: for example, the removal of waste-bins at our desks, initially planned to reduce paper usage, encouraged us to stand up and move around more often.
In the last few years since these were installed we’re much more aware of the dangers of being too sedentary at work so welcome the opportunity to stand up or go for a walk during the working day. In fact we’re now petitioning Phil to get some sit/stand desks in our office. Our designers chose ergonomic chairs that have health as well as aesthetic benefits. We’ve recently swapped some of our seating for newer models of the Steelcase Think, Reply and Gesture chairs. These offer continuous support for the user, cradling them no matter their position and the arms allow users to be supported while using smartphones, laptops, PCs or tablets.
Our aim was to create a stylish, yet highly functional workspace which reflects cutting edge trends in office design and we definitely fulfilled the brief. Our office design is continually evolving to keep up with new design and furniture trends as well as psychological research into the effects of office design on staff. Phil says “There is no doubt in my mind that ALL staff have benefited from working in such a vibrant and relaxed environment.”
We’re really proud of our office so come over and see it for yourself and discover new ways to unlock the potential of your workspace. Give us a call on 01344 290290 or visit our website for more information.