Forget the rubber plant in the corner of the room, British offices need an injection of life and design to inspire, writes Opportunity Peterborough director Neil Darwin.
Forget the rubber plant in the corner of the room, British offices need an injection of life and design to inspire staff, writes Opportunity Peterborough director Neil Darwin.
In austerity Britain, many companies have cut costs in all areas including designing their offices. Yet the drive to squeeze maximum possible usage out of every nook and cranny could be stifling progress.
Company directors shouldn’t forget about office feng shui when planning or renovating offices. While maximising space, a well-designed workplace can also improve productivity and spark creativity.
A recent YouGov survey of 2,300 adults, which questioned respondents on happiness at work, finds that most see room for improvement when it comes to their working environment.
The research finds 22 per cent of workers want a nicer office or building, the same number want a better canteen, 17 per cent think transport links could be better, 16 per cent would prefer to work from home and 12 per cent believe more green spaces are needed.
A successful office has much in common with a newsroom: busy offices with TV screens and a creative atmosphere. Different industries have different needs but many workspaces – whatever the sector – can benefit from key principles.
These following include keeping privacy while having an open and integrated environment, ensuring there is enough practical space for meetings, and maintaining a sense of community through message boards, coffee and reading spots and communal areas such as kitchens.
Technology also plays a part. Providing smartphones and lightweight wireless computing technology, which can be used anywhere, gives staff the feeling of not feeling chained to their desks. A variety of lights and colours can also work to keep staff interested and motivated.
Chinese inspiration for office design
In office design, there’s plenty to be learnt from the Chinese art of feng shui, which aims to ensure all living or working spaces create positive energy.
The first act should be to remove clutter and organise offices. According to the principles of feng shui, unnecessary clutter stimulates negative chi (energy) so any unnecessary materials, such as papers, folders and books, should be cleared away from the office.
If possible, position desks in a commanding way where the door or a view out the window can be seen while sitting. Also, ensure a wall is behind the desk because that position provides stability.
Also, desk shapes can affect staff mood and level of productivity. Rounded curves help the flow of positive energy and encourage creativity. Greenery too helps teams feel connected to the natural world and the colour is said to encourage growth, new ideas and creativity.
The American model
For far too long, the British approach has been to simply install a water cooler and keep a kettle handy. American technology companies like Microsoft and Google spearheaded the playful, ‘‘buzzy’’ office space, with everything from slides, rooms full of fish tanks and areas dedicated to creativity.
In the modern era, where remote and mobile working means many executives are ‘’always on’’ at work, the office needs to be thought of as an extension of the home.
Enhancing space, incorporating wireless technology and ensuring people have access to the right communal areas is not a nice-to-have but an absolute essential in keeping and motivating the best talent.