The Design Criteria for Today's Office

Ashish Jauhri, Director - Design, DSP Design Associates Pvt LtdDesign plays a vital role in the way employees perform and has proved to have direct benefit on the performance and hence the productivity of the company. A new approach is already making way in the corporate architecture and design philosophy, be it a start-up, an established multinational, an Indian corporate or even a speculative commercial office developer, which is redefining the way office spaces are perceived and are undoubtedly challenging the global office design approach for its own space in terms of function, context and aspiration.

Gone are the days of perimeter executive offices, repetitive cubicles and rigid office layouts. Today’s office spaces, whether created through renovation, adaptive reuse or a brand new building space, are a notable departure from the past. A study by Forbes projects that 75% of our workforce by 2025 will be millennials. This breed of ambitious, tech-savvy, creative workforce’s lifestyle and preferences would be quite different. For instance, they may find themselves more productive in a café cum lounge environment as compared to a traditional office confine. Today, work from anywhere using mobile technology, enables them to work in that fashion. The technology we use today has a direct impact on the workspaces allocated for an individual. The flat screen monitors allow shallower work surfaces, which means less square feet per work station. Most of the physical storage spaces have given way to soft storage systems there by reducing pressure on physical space per employee

Also factoring in that, remote location working is a trend more acceptable in many organizations now more than ever, this practice has contributed to reduced employee to work station ratio. To improve office space utilization, many organizations are bringing down their employees to work station ratios to even less than one. Some offices, where a large percentage of employees travel or work at a client’s location, meet only once a week or month, have experimented with hot desking where there are no dedicated or assigned desks for employees. Office hierarchy also defines the layout and space utilization.
New age office is now being perceived as a shared, collaborative, community space which caters to a life within the workplace and focus on providing the same comfortable home like environment to their employees. More and more companies, specially companies that serve a variety of clients in geographical locations, time zones and employ a workforce that is more aware, demanding, well-travelled and of not compromising nature are seeking to evolve themselves and hire designers that take them through a change management process while they reorganize themselves at the same location or more to a newer better facility hence trending towards consolidation of their workforce, instead of a more fragmented locational approach.

Efficient designs are not about decreasing square footage but about increased utilization of the same office space

Efficient designs are not about decreasing square footage but about increased utilization of the same office space. A lot of new designs use strategies such as desk sharing, free desking, benching and hoteling. Unassigned touch down spaces, that may be fully or partially open, offers visual and acoustic privacy and can support one to one meeting or just as a private individual space.

Flexibility in both layout of furniture and the design of furniture can bring an element of duality if not multiplicity in the usage of the same space. Workspaces are being coupled with semi-fixed power/ data splines that support movable components, which also enable configurations with more collaboration and interactions. Employees, especially millennials, don’t want to be closed up in an office or tied to a desk. They desire the flexibility to work in a variety of modes—sitting, standing, or interacting with their peers. Also, companies are looking for flexible spaces that can accommodate additional workforce as it grows or more collaboration space for various projects. Colour schemes tend to be bold and patterns oversized. Furniture is innovative and multi-functional, and the technology is state of the art, of course, with an emphasis on mobile devices.

Collaboration and neighbourhood concepts are been given heed to whereby there is a paradigm shift seen from “my space” to “our space”, in order to provide staff a feeling of community as opposed to a feeling of desk ownership in the past. Visual identity of each neighbourhood can also be achieved by the use of various design elements and content depending upon various priorities. Many argue that employees need acoustical privacy in order to be productive, while others seem to be more comfortable being surrounded by colleagues, stimulated by the energy around. The designers must assess each organization’s unique needs based on industry, market, culture, demography etc.

Eventually certifications like LEED & WELL building standards may not be enough while designing and adhering to them. Designers must be watchful of creating healthy and people centric office spaces. They need to be well aware of physical and psychological benefits of connect with nature and outdoors. These non-traditional designs boost employee productivity as well as employee satisfaction, both of which directly affect the company’s bottom line.