Head of Furniture Sales Operations at Office Depot, Paula Marshall, describes how the workplace is making a comeback.
While recent years may well have seen a growth in remote working, fuelled by advanced digital communications and a desire for flexible working practices, the tide appears to be turning as more and more employers are seeking to attract staff back into the office environment.
The key drivers for such a change in working practices are a desire for greater collaboration, closer communication and an increase in productivity. However, to make the transition to office-based working successful, facilities managers must create carefully-planned workspaces that can be adapted to meet the multiple needs of the modern workforce.
Effective space management is critical at a time of rising office rents. The result has been the creation of clever and easily adaptable working spaces. These workplaces can be adjusted quickly and easily to suit a wide range of office activities, while also offering areas for members of staff who still need to combine home or mobile working with part-time office attendance.
For example, by combining hot-desking facilities with movable partitions and mobile desks, you can increase the amount of usable space and allow layouts to be adjusted according to the needs of individual employees. Simply by reconfiguring modular and mobile furniture, you can develop areas suited to working in a collaborative style as well as private spaces that are ideal for individual work and tasks requiring personal concentration.
Facilities managers can also now promote a successful business culture by design. After all, greater interaction with colleagues not only boosts job satisfaction, but also enhances creative thinking as it is so much easier to share ideas in a welcoming social environment. The installation of a workplace break room for example can encourage staff communication and generate fresh thinking, as well as promoting greater well-being.
In the same way, providing a separate space that offers employees an occasional mental and physical departure from their everyday working activities, allows them to enjoy casual conversations and light refreshments with colleagues and ultimately improves levels of concentration and workplace productivity.
Many larger businesses are keen to create working environments that promote a greater sense of identity and stronger cohesion for the various teams operating within their organisation. However, this desire is particularly challenging when dealing with vast office areas where, while it might seem cost-effective to buy furniture en masse, such an approach can create featureless landscapes that lack personality and visual appeal.
One way to avoid such standardised and unappealing office environments is to make use of ‘zonal layouts’. With this approach, you can pick out individual departments, teams or ‘zones’ by making fine adjustments to colour schemes and through the use of subtle design features. For example, you can adjust the colour of each team’s chairs and/or screens, or issue standard desks and workstations across the entire office and yet distinguish each particular team or group by using separate colours for desk tops or legs.
Such subtle adjustments can be surprisingly effective in promoting strong workplace identities and securing an individual’s place in the overall office environment. This innovative approach also makes it a lot easier when it comes to reconfiguring an office workspace, while also offering a longer useful life-span at a lower cost than individually-tailored items that are likely to become rapidly outmoded.
To achieve greater cost savings, facilities managers can select solutions that make use of subtle design features, rather than sticking too rigidly to a company’s current branding that might require harsh colourways and which may also prevent long-term usage when a company’s visual identity is updated.
Another major advantage for zonal layouts is that they can be extremely useful in terms of helping employees find the right department or specific contact point within larger office spaces as the subtly varied colours and design features will quickly direct the eye to the right location.
By using clever design solutions such as zonal layouts, adjustable office spaces and workplace break rooms, today’s facilities managers have a central role to play in enticing employees back into the office workplace. Used effectively, these subtle techniques can boost productivity and deliver major cost-savings while maximising the use of space and boosting staff retention among valuable skilled employees.