Sanjay Srivastava, VP & Head of Architecture –Design, Reliance
The truly new millennials are yet to truly set foot in the office environment and the crossover generation is still finding its own ideology and behavioral patterns. Hence designing an office for the millennials by the established interior designer itself is full of holes in our understanding and belief.
As designers we tend to do a lot of studies in behavioral science, organizational design, change management, performance metrics, demographics and technological advances – and claim it is with an eye toward how they affect the workplace.
Open offices today are the new Fad ! Why ?
The number 1. Reason is that Open offices are about 15 to 20 percent more efficient on floor plate utilization.
The number 2. Reason is that are less dense in the use of materials required for making cabins and partitions.
Google’s open office spreading over 1 million sq.ft. has been a major trend setter and many have styled themselves along the lines . Some have analyzed and adapted in a more specific manner than others who have merely copied. Needless to say that those who have thoughtfully adopted are more successful and functional than those who have resorted to tokenism and copying.
The corporate offices in open space format have a couple of issues like: Noise , Air quality, lack of natural light, spaces that feel crowded, stress & social pressure leading to reduced work output but they can also be grounds for great team building, team spirit.
On the other hand, Emotional health issues vary by the personality type and nature of jobs. Routine data process in seamless workflows with a lot of automation are ideally suited for open work environment.
Open offices have a higher noise levels and workers have to resort to headphones to cancel out the noise because some people are blessed with a naturally large vocal system and there is nothing much they can do about it, while others are similarly cursed with a high temper.
Do I, therefore, mean that the “open office” is a total design disaster?
Far from it! The open office is here to stay but we need to move away from tokenism or mindless adaptation and make it work for the task appropriate to the setting of people and place.
“Engaged employees” are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations. However, in a survey across 142 countries, only 13 percent of employees reported feeling engaged in their jobs. (ref: Thought Leadership HOK).
Whereas “Disengaged workers” outnumber greater turnover in employees is observed.
Not all employees work full time from the office as they are on move. But when they do come in to file reports, take assignments, briefings & what have you; they need a place where they can be productive and efficient and not feel like an outsider. Their spaces need to mingle in the overall layout of the full time office worker.
Creating vibrant offices as a tactic to recruit and retain talent.
Providing flexibility and choices for where, when and how work happens is also critical for attracting the best and brightest people.
Corporate interiors through a “sense of place” and “wow” help in stemming this trend, to some extent, if it is adequately supplemented with people policies and appropriate training and grooming for the specific job roles.
The workplace can engage employees by acting as a communication tool that aids in celebrating individual or team contributions, broadcasting organizational goals or objectives, and providing spaces for effective collaboration.
While the ability to have planned or spontaneous interactions without disturbing others is important for teamwork; untreated acoustics in office is the single most reason for falling productivity and costly errors.
To support complex work, many people seek out quieter places.
In environments with white noise, or sound masking, employees report improvements of up to 38 percent for the performance of simple tasks and 27 percent for complex tasks.
Better workplace lighting (both natural daylight and artificial light) has been linked to a 15 percent reduction in absenteeism in office environments. Other studies have reported productivity increases ranging from 2.8 to 20 percent attributed to optimum lighting levels. The presence of ample daylight and windows, as well as opportunities for active and passive contact with nature, sensory change and variability, all have a positive impact on people’s well-being.
And last but not the least “Change management” works.
Benchmarking studies by research company Prosci have found that workplace projects with an effective change management component are six times more likely to meet their objectives and succeed.
When employees are experiencing new furniture, adjusting to a renovated office or moving into a different building, they need help learning how their new “tool” is supposed to work. The better they understand their space, the technologies and how they need to behave in it, the more likely they are to get the most out of their work experience.
So Design With the People Because People Matter
Workplace design and strategy can play a huge role in helping to maximize the comfort and performance of occupants.
Engaging with employees on how the workplace can best support them is a great way to start and probably the only way.