In 2005 the Gensler Workplace Survey introduced the Work Place Index (WPI). They analysed four key criteria that allow the creative and innovative power of employees to be fully realised: focus, collaboration, learning and socialising. The top performing companies were found to spend on average 23% more time collaborating, 40% more time learning, and 16% more time socialising than their peers. As those scores rise in a company, so too do their profits, market position, innovation capabilities, employee management and brand. For profit alone, the higher WPI scores of top performing companies translated to 7 to 14 percentage point higher profits.
But the most relevant finding for me was that effective workplace design directly correlates to better business performance. It’s not just about aesthetics, but about understanding what employees need to do their job successfully.
I’m massively excited by the new office (see picture above). I’m not on any committees for the new space, the furniture choices or even the lighting, and in many ways the job is so daunting I don’t envy those who have to appease everyone. But still, it’s a subject area that’s always fascinated me.
The building itself has been described as “like the script of a B-movie (which never made it to production, for obvious reasons) in which giant mutant chewy sweets have, following a radioactive accident, invaded the world.” Clearly, not everyone’s going to like its colourful splash on the otherwise dull grey London skyline, but at least it stands out. Did you know it is part owned by Legal & General, and part by Mitsubishi? We all know about the roof terrace, but hearing the ceiling heights are above average, and that Starchitect Renzo Piano has worked to create “a joyful heart” to the area makes me think that the building’s finer details will not be overlooked for those of us lucky enough to work there. It would be a shame if some of his principals did not continue inside the building, and not remain on the outside alone.
Of course, what’s really important is that the new office space promotes productivity and sharing. 86 percent of the “American Society of Interiors Designers 200” respondents say that it is important for a company to appear flexible, adaptable and forward-thinking. However, only 15 percent of respondents believe that their office design currently communicates that image. 67 percent of the respondents say that redesigning their offices would show employees, clients and competitors that their company is flexible, adaptable and forward-thinking.
This article explores some of the considerations our interior designers will be thinking about, including the basics such as access vs privacy, wire and cable management, mobile office solutions…
But what’s exciting for me to think about are things like lighting. Ambient lighting, task lighting, natural light (there’s plenty at CSG!), contrast lighting to concentrate on what’s in front of you and more.
And textures. Textures are really important – carpets and walls with more than just colour. The outside of the building works because it’s not plastic or metal behind the colours, but instead ceramic. The inside walls should be treated similarly – fabric walls, deep grouted tiles, wood panelling. Having furniture and fittings that are different or unexpected will not only encourage participation and interaction with the environment, but actually foster conversation and therefore greater understanding about our clients.
And social spaces. Luckily at Mindshare we don’t have a problem with hierarchy and unapproachable people. We’re all lovely! But it is interesting to think about the cues that the office can give that might put up false barriers – a democratised workspace where everyone shares the same design of chair might run the risk of being anonymous, but having an egalitarian approach makes newcomers feel welcome. Natural materials would contrast the potentially harsh yet striking surroundings of London’s skyline, and bring in the wonderful new terrace we’ll have access to.
It’s important to have a balance between working together or separately too. Social spaces are going to be crucial and it’s great to hear that hot-desking will be the norm in the new place. Frank Duffy understood the need for a “hub”, to meet and converse. The workstation comforts of old have been replaced by laptops and souvenirs, but social spaces lubricate conversation. Cliques will naturally form, but they must not be prohibitive. Having lunch together, eating at single long tables might nurture a collegiate, open culture.
And well-being. Indeed, a fully stocked and manned kitchen is massively important too. Let’s have chefs on rotation, cooking a variety of meals. In this day and age, meal plans could surely be created that maximise concentration, productivity and efficiency… not stodgy meals that send you to Carbo-sleep. This would not only manage the well-being, health and productivity of the staff, but in an era of making Mindshare our clients’ lead business partner, having an excellent kitchen would also do wonders to encourage clients to stay that extra hour or so in the building. The outdoor space is going to be fantastic, and I hope we can offer that as a dining experience too.
Studio Ilse suggests that the notion of a perfectly lit, climate controlled office is actually a hangover from the industrial revolution and no longer suited to the demands of today’s office life. That it actually denies our productivity. Henry Ford said “When we are at work we ought to be at work. And when we are at play we ought to be at play. There is no use trying to mix the two”. But in fact, in order to do well at business we should be masters of empathy, team work and communication. The Well-Being Institue at the University of Cambridge found that “techniques which encourage the mindful awareness of one’s sensations, thoughts and feelings, or techniques which increase the frequency of positive emotions can have beneficial effects on wellbeing, health and productivity.” As an example, Studio Ilse is currently designing an ad agency with outdoor space for movie nights and pizza parties. It’s not a conceit. People rarely succeed at anything if they don’t have fun along the way.
For a few award winning examples of interior designed spaces check out the following:
Wonderwall cater for the likes of Nike and Bathing Ape stores, as well as New York hotels and more, but their own offices are fantastic. Distinctly unique, yet every single space has a sense of Wonder, magic and curiosity.
Clive Wilkinson Architects have designed interior spaces for Mother, JWT and TBWA\Chiat\Day, and technology firms in the Silicon Valley and Nokia in Finland. If you get a chance to visit any of those spaces, you’ll know what they can bring to life. Have a look at their work on the Macquarie Investment Bank – Sydney.
Designed by M Moser and Associates, Ogilvy & Mather’s Guangzhou office has gone all out with the theme “Carnival of Ideas.” Though the staff’s commute has, in some cases, doubled, the environment is so vibrant that they don’t mind. Have a look at the images here.