Now, more than ever, employers and corporate heads are recognising the need to provide a comfortable, nurturing and inspiring workspace for their employees. It’s no secret (and certainly no myth) that a worker who feels valued at their place of work will be more productive and happy, and it stands to reason that a large part of feeling valued comes from the place they spend a large portion of their waking hours.
While the global pandemic turned the traditional office-based working model on its head, now that life is getting back to a ‘new normal’, many companies are having to work hard to try to entice their workers back to the office. But the flipside of trying to get back a semblance of our old working lives is that, in some cases, it’s proving difficult to convince employees that climbing back on the treadmill of commuting is worth it. After all – as many have found out, there are certain advantages to working from home.
Of course, many positives have emerged from businesses having to ‘pivot’ and work out a way to remain operationally functional without being together physically, but in reality nothing beats the spirit of camaraderie between a strong and connected team – and the office environment plays a vital role in that. However, in order for a team culture to thrive, and for individual employees to feel comfortable and inspired to do their best, there are certain aspects that need to be addressed in order to create the ‘perfect office space’.
What is a Good Office Environment?
Although the answer to that question will be different in the details for everyone, there is certainly a basic framework from which to begin effective office design planning. Our experience has shown us that it’s no easy feat creating a concept that suits every employee and guarantees maximum productivity in the workplace – but we do know that every successful design starts with the basics.
A ‘good’ environment is one where staff feel comfortable, inspired and, quite simply, happy. From deciding on the most suitable layout (open plan, private offices, cubicles, zoned), to ensuring that the furnishings, decor, colour scheme, seating plans and lighting are right, every aspect needs to be given careful consideration – in its own right and also how it fits within the overarching design – before a bespoke concept can be created to suit an individual business’s requirements, be it in a corporate or retail setting.
When it comes to effective office space planning, the right concept, design and fitout will be different for every business – which is where we come in. As a holistic design and build firm, buildgen brings together a vast range of expertise in order to create the ideal design and fit outs. We also specialise in re-occupancy solutions to help get employees enthused about returning to the office, post-pandemic.
Lighting: should a desk face a window?
Lighting is an absolutely critical element in office design planning. Bad or inadequate lighting can have a huge effect on a person’s energy levels, mood and, therefore, their productivity at work.
Natural light is a proven mood-enhancer (through the stimulation and release of serotonin), and in a perfect world everyone would get a prime seat by a window that overlooks a leafy view; but of course that’s not always realistic or even possible to try to achieve. In that case it’s important to ensure there is sufficient overhead lighting; however, bear in mind that the over-use of fluorescent lighting can cause issues with eye-strain, so it’s important to strike the perfect balance.
While it can be an expensive investment, ensuring the comfort and well-being of staff through the provision of ergonomic furniture is a vital part of a fit-out. High quality, fully-adjustable chairs and desks (so they suit everyone’s needs) will help prevent staff injuries and reduce health issues like lower back problems and RSI.
Buildgen’s project for Red Place comprised a detailed design and build proposal that encompassed multiple floors and included the procurement and installation of ergonomic furniture. Based on our detailed knowledge of the employer’s and employees’ requirements, we won the highly competitive tender process and completed the project on time and within budget.
Up to date technology
There are myriad ways in which technology can be incorporated at the conceptual stage of office space planning, in order to improve operational tasks and make an employee’s life easier – from the most basic considerations, like cabling and power outlets, to making use of hi-tech temperature sensors and air-purifiers.
Buildgen’s project for Alaco, a growing private investment and securities firm, involved a huge undertaking, which required a relocation to new premises. Alongside the design and building works, we tailored and upgraded the existing electrical, plumbing, mechanical and fire emergency services to suit the new commercial environment.
Some people need a quieter place in which to get their work done; too much noise can cause them to become stressed and/or distracted. Others, however, will thrive in busy, open plan spaces that invite engagement with colleagues, while being able to remain productive and focused.
The best way to achieve the perfect balance is to have options by maintaining a level of flexibility through a combination of private offices or quiet zones, and breakout spaces or common areas where staff can come together.
The ability to facilitate easy and accessible communication within a workplace is vital, particularly within a creative environment. This is a factor we needed to give careful consideration to when we undertook our design and build project for Merlin, a client in the music licensing industry. Due to rapid growth, the company needed to relocate to a much larger 9,000 sq ft premises (for which buildgen introduced a trusted property agent to assist with the acquisition). The stellar results achieved by our team not only reflect the company’s branding and provide an inspiring and aesthetic environment, but also allow for closer team collaboration.
Access and location
One of the most basic (but often very difficult) elements of an office space planning project is choosing a location that will provide the perfect space for a business in terms of functionality, lifestyle and brand ethos. So many factors go into selecting the most appropriate site, including (but not limited to):
What other kind of businesses are in the area
Nearby leisure facilities
Local bylaws and council regulations
Buildgen is there for our clients from the beginning to the end of every project we take on, and this means helping identify and procure the most appropriate space (including feasibility reports), when required. We have many years of experience in commercial property in London and we are very familiar with what the various boroughs and districts within them can offer.
Indoor greenery and plant life has been shown to have a positive effect on employees’ mood, stress levels and well-being – particularly if the workplace doesn’t have an outlook or many windows. This aspect of office design planning is called biophilia – and bringing the outside in through the use of indoor gardens, vertical plant walls or even just some strategically positioned potted live plants can have a hugely beneficial effect on productivity and air quality. Considering a biophilic design can offer a great addition to the overall aesthetics of a space.
How do you Choose an Office Layout?
Ensuring the right layout is integral to a successful office design. Planning the most relaxing and appropriate space will depend not only on the type of industry or sector the business falls into, but also the needs of individual employees. The environment needs to be not only functional, in terms of productivity, operational requirement and communication, but also inspirational and nurturing for the staff.
While for some businesses an open plan layout can encourage creativity and allow for teams to work collaboratively, for others there will be a need for privacy (dealing with sensitive information or face-to-face client meetings) or quiet in order to function effectively and get the work done free from distractions.
In some cases the solution is to provide options, by creating work zones suited to particular tasks such as private pods, cubicles or offices, alongside ‘breakout spaces’ like meeting rooms, lounges, games rooms or canteens, where employees can gather for discussions, creative collaborations or break times.
As a specialist, full-service design and build firm, this kind of intelligent office space planning is what we’re so good at. Buildgen’s team of designers, project directors and project managers bring together their experience and expertise to deliver a one-stop service to our clients – meaning they only have to deal with one person from start to finish, and not multiple contractors.
What do Employees Want in an Office?
It’s extremely important to consider employees’ wants as well as their needs when it comes to office space planning – particularly when negotiating their return to the workplace. We always consult very closely with clients to find out what their staff want, and in many cases we’re able to welcome staff input into the concept and design.
While preferences will vary between corporate environments, some of the most common things that employees cite as important are comfort (including heating/lighting and ergonomics), connectivity (tech), lighting, the ability for communication, and inviting and inspiring decor.
Another element that may help to entice employees back to work while also promoting team spirit and inclusivity, is to provide common areas – these can come in the form of a lounge area with comfortable furniture, a well-appointed kitchen and spacious, creative conference and meeting rooms.
How buildgen collaborates with clients’ employees
One fantastic example of where collaboration with staff yielded outstanding results is the work we did with Finn Partners, a client in the public relations/financial sector. Having worked with them previously, we were excited to be asked to create their new office space – a testament to our successful partnership and the relationships we’d established with them over the years.
Despite undertaking the fit-out during lockdown, we were able to consult with many of the Finn Partners’ staff via remote workshops and, through that valuable input, the concept was greatly enhanced. As well as ensuring we understood the needs and challenges faced within the particular workplace, giving staff the agency of being involved in the fit-out of their own workplace environment creates a sense of ownership and contributes hugely to productivity.
Have a look at our portfolio to see the superb results we achieved for Finn Partners.
Buildgen: get in touch
As a renowned specialist design company, buildgen has many years of experience in bespoke office design and renovation in the London area. Our integrated approach to design and construction allows us to deliver on our promise of innovative, high-quality concepts. Taking a professional and holistic approach, our functional and aesthetic office interior designs will inspire and promote the well-being, productivity and profitability of your staff. Please get in touch with us and allow us to help you create the perfect work environment.