Picture this. It’s 1970. A suited and booted individual arrives at the office in a Vauxhall Cavalier, parks diligently in his dedicated parking space, does a full 9-5 day in his box of an office, only venturing out for lunch at 1pm. Back then, the more you achieved, the more prestigious your personal enclosed box became and the bigger your status symbols appeared.
Some companies still operate like this, but move forward to the 21st century and the status symbols are less important. Whether you like it or not, legislation requires us to consider irritating low-level topics such as the environment and staff welfare. I jest. Today the top companies highlight their environmental credentials and staff retention figures as proof that they are the best at what they do.
Flexible Working Regulations 2014 gave staff the right to work in a less rigid way, and so working from home or on a part-time basis to take account of life outside work started to become the norm. Often regarded as unnecessary, regulations around Health & Safety and environmental issues – such as energy efficiency (required under Building Regulations) – has made the job of fitting out an office a pain in the proverbial or a welcome challenge depending on your stance. I fall into the latter category, always embracing the task of finding a way to achieve the apparently impossible. That’s what designers do. This, in my opinion, is progress. An agile, flexible or Smart way of working is the way forward.
So how much has it cost industry to comply with this heap of endless regulation? Well, my honest answer is I have no idea, but from my viewpoint, if we can reduce the amount of waste we produce by using recycled materials in our working environment, or save resources by fitting energy saving lights, this has to be a good thing.
If our nation is healthier because we have a better work-life balance thanks to the introduction of flexible working, this must be good. Plenty of research indicates that the happier our staff are, the better they will feel and the more productive they will be. The UK productivity rates are 16.3% lower than the rest of the G7 nations overall and 26.2% lower than Germany. Any initiatives to improve worker productivity must surely be considered if we are to compete on a global level.
Taken from ONS 2015-2016 (released 06.04.18)
So as designers, what can we do?
Adjusting the way we work to allocate space more wisely, sharing space and making the space a more enjoyable environment to spend your working day, can all contribute to improved productivity. The Smart office does exactly that. Research carried out by Hop Associates (source Smart Flexibility by Andy Lake) shows that desk space can be unused up to 60% of the time.
Sharing space and providing the technology to create your personal work space wherever it is best for the job, makes absolute sense, be it in any number of locations within the office, your home, with a client or even in your favourite café.
Meeting pod or informal group working spaces
This requires a completely different approach to the way work is processed. Some activities could be carried out at the conventional desk; informal meetings can take place in a group workspace, break out area or meeting pod; confidential meetings can still be held in enclosed spaces, but there would be less of them; break out areas for refuelling during time out would be in spaces that bear no resemblance to the staff rooms of the past and should be a mix of relaxing and energising areas to meet the mood of the person concerned.
Energising or relaxing break-out spaces
Positively promoting a healthy lifestyle with the provision of ample cycle parking and shower rooms to encourage an alternative journey to work, will tick the environmental box too.
The interior and the design of the interior is, therefore, an important ingredient for enabling the Smart office to succeed. Sourcing materials that have great environmental credentials, or lighting that is energy saving but also varied, is the job of the designer.
Ensuring the space allocation meets the needs of the staff is the job of work place and change consultants who would work with us to provide the space audit and assess the technology requirements and in turn allow us to deliver a cradle to grave approach to developing a Smart organisation.
If you find yourself trapped in the 1970s and feel the need to enter the 21st century, then the first step is to believe this way of working is for the better. No-one is saying it is easy to change the way we work but it is possible with the right help. And for any smaller enterprises thinking of growing, the task is easier because you can adopt the agile or Smart way from day one.
To understand more, come and meet the Yellow and Peter Green team at the next free networking event on 23rd April 2018, 4pm-7.30pm, organised by Act-On Business Solutions