Workspace design has seen huge innovation in recent years, and much of this is because of changing ideas about what it means to go to work. Alan Stevens, of international office designer CBS (www.cbs-plc.co.uk), tells in.Design that it’s no longer simply about providing a desk, a chair and a computer so that your employees can do their job.

Companies are waking up to the idea that their employees are their company and that means putting people at the heart of office design.

In the past we’ve talked about productivity and how the right workplace environment can increase performance, allowing employees to work more efficiently. While this is obviously very important for profitability, what about creating workspaces that people want to jump out of bed to go to on a Monday morning?

We think happy employees are equally as important as productive employees. In fact, the two things go hand-in-hand. Happy employees want to turn up, will put the effort in, and are much less likely to leave, than employees that view work as a slog.

While we can’t always change the nature of a job, we can change the workspace and create an environment that people really love working in – whatever they do.

So what design features help to create happy, fun (and productive) workplaces? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Welcome your staff every day

Most reception areas are designed with visitors in mind; but what about the people who work in your company, don’t they deserve a great welcome when they get to work?

We love designing spaces that welcome visitors and employees alike. Simple techniques such as using colours that lift the spirits in your reception areas have a noticeable impact on employees’ wellbeing. They can also help other visitors feel energised and positive when they visit your company.

We’ve even completely redesigned another company’s open space to work and collaborate in.

Personalised greetings are quite cool too. Could a digital display be used to welcome staff as they arrive – perhaps using their ID passes or near field tech?

The coffee break

Do you need a coffee to get your day started? Breakout areas are a really important feature of happy workplaces. We think they should be easily accessible for all employees. Staffrooms that involve a lengthy trip down corridors or flights of stairs, send the message that the employer doesn’t really want their staff to take a break and leave their desks.

In our experience when breakout areas are integrated into the overall office design, they become a really important place for promoting wellbeing, collaboration and creativity. As well as offering employees somewhere to get their morning coffee, they are also a place to catch up with each other, build relationships among the team, and for informal collaboration where remarkable ideas happen.

Designing paths to happiness

If your employees spend large amounts of time in front of a screen, they can very easily become isolated. Yes, of course they may be in constant communication with the rest of the office via email, internal chat apps etc., but we also need proper face-to-face interactions to feel happy. These interactions are what build great support networks within a company and team spirit.

So when we design a workspace for a client, we look for opportunities for interaction and human contact. These are commonly walked pathways, such as routes from reception to different departments, or the path an employee takes from their desk to the coffee machine. By mapping the office, we can find ways of taking employees from one place to another that ensures they meet other employees along the way. For example, by locating a hotdesk area near to the café, or siting the printer in a place that ensures movement around the office.

Give employees privacy

As well as providing opportunities for contact with other members of staff, we also need to provide spaces where people can talk privately. Whether it’s sharing something personal or brainstorming a confidential new idea, not everyone wants to conduct their business in front of the entire office!

Therefore we incorporate informal meeting areas in high traffic areas. Alcoves, high-backed seating, and meeting pods are great for providing just enough privacy without having to book a meeting room; affording more impromptu conversations and support.

Let them have fun!

There are countless articles about ‘fun’ equipment, although they are a great way to encourage employees to socialise, let off steam, and collaborate in the office environment.

Fun can also be about providing a communal table where everyone can sit for lunch, or even upbeat wall graphics or design features that make a space fun to be in. What is ‘fun’ for your company will be depend a lot on your brand and your people. That’s why when we talk to clients about their projects we start with the people – what they want and need to feel happy – rather than the practicalities of your space.

CBS’s white paper on designing offices to increase productivity can be downloaded from the website.

For further information please visit www.cbs-plc.co.uk

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