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Design Strategy for a Successful Office

How does the Interior Design of your office directly affect the performance of your staff? Interior Design is used in many commercial businesses to improve the way its users – the staff, visitors and clients – feel while using the space and aims to improve the wellbeing of people in every instance.

Over the last decade too much research was focused on new technologies and on the possibilities, rather than the realities of human communication, ignored the social context of people’s needs, desires and patterns of behaviour, both at work and leisure. At the same time, market needs and customer preferences are changing all the time. Above all, staff are becoming much more astute and challenging. Companies that wish to succeed must respond by continuing to innovate with services that respond to staff needs and new behaviour.

Finance is often the biggest factor obstructing organisations making more use of design. If you think design is expensive, look at how much bad design costs. A few readers may relate to being in an open plan office trying to concentrate on a report while your colleagues are enjoying a five minute banter, or someone is speaking animatedly on a call, resulting in you taking 2-3 times more time to complete your task? Can you remember the last time you felt proud entering your office and wished to fight that little bit harder for your company’s success because of it?

Interior Design is seen as a subjective tool for environmental, financial and behavioural improvement, who’s effect reaches into and improves every corner of our lives. Design represents a minute proportion of the lifetime cost of a building but done well, it has a disproportionate effect on how well the building and its surroundings perform. It is just over two years since the completion of Virgin Atlantic’s main base building and training facility near Gatwick and I still receive feedback of proud employees who love showing off the building to visitors!

Another great example can be found at the recently completed Teenage Care Trust ‘Skylab’ project in Cardiff. Following a study by The Futures Company, it revealed that the success of the facility in improving patient treatment response was due to the environment provided to both patients, parents and staff. When I completed the HQ of Childline near Liverpool Street, the effect it had on the call centre counselling staff was very positive and the children visiting the facility were given a very clear image of a proud and accessible service.

Through a considered use of materials and colour in your interior, you could reduce sick days, improve overall attendance rates and staff retention. Retaining the best staff can be achieved with financial packages for so long but can easily be matched by a competitor. What aspects of their human context needs does your firm meet and are they unique? Do they feel like they work in a team or are they fixed to a desk through lunchtime? Can your staff express part of their personality in their workplace and feel like they contribute to the success of the company? The corporate interior will be used and operated by the staff, which makes them the ideal stewards and flag bearers for the new ideas. This is not suggesting a ‘design by committee’ approach but one that is inclusive of all views and respects all involved.

I have been involved in many corporate projects where staff were allowed or encouraged to offer input and were respected for their knowledge; the response to the change and increase of staff moral was very visible and positive. This experience is not just confirmation to staff that they are respected but it also plays a significant role in social inclusion as it translates values into tangible experiences.

So many of the complexities we deal with in modern life can be simplified though design if we choose to engage our creativity. Complex situations are opportunities to reveal potential, improve the current state and create business growth. Design can and must be used as a tool to facilitate accurate and engaging communication as opposed to creating superficial camouflage.

It is a well-documented fact that businesses which invest in design outperform the competition. In its annual report for 2005 to 2006 the UK Design Council reported that for every £100 a business invested in design, revenues increased by £225.(Design Council, “Design in Britain 2005-06”)

The performance of staff is directly linked to their physical and mental wellbeing. There are specific features which directly or indirectly influence wellbeing; and some of these are:

  • Colour and shape psychology: i.e. red is energising and also aggressive however combined with a mainly pink background and it becomes calming.
  • Healthy materials: toxic wall paints and plastic accessories release harmful fumes throughout their life span that are breathed in repeatedly by occupants.
  • Ergonomically designed spaces, furniture and equipment reduce accidents and improve the user’s pleasure and skill in performing a task.
  • Air comfort: are men always turning the temperature down and women turning it up? Can you be strategic in the location of each employee or can we improve the a/c system?
  • Space analysis: can your management tasks be assisted by the interior design of an office? Are teams wasting time and effort trying to communicate through inappropriate interior layouts, furniture and equipment?
  • Social v Private: providing the appropriate spaces that reflect the various types of working mode enhancing performance of individuals and team tasks.
  • Security v H&S: strangely the aims of each are the same but practically they tend to conflict and require an intelligent design approach for a successful solution.
  • Acoustic quality of spaces: open plan spaces can fluctuate from ‘deadly quiet’ to disturbingly jubilant. Creating quiet zones, booths and ‘hotelling’ cellular offices can provide a workable design solution. Are your meeting room surfaces fit for purpose?
  • Assist the ‘work style’ through design: perceiving textures visually or through the sense of touch can assist users in enhancing our state of being and as such assist in the desired task. Hard flooring can make us move faster, where deep pile carpet gives messages of relaxation and comfort. Cool metal panelling gives different messages to soft creamy velvet – which one is right for which space and the activity taking place in it?
  • Measure the environmental performance of your project: use Ska rating to provide you with the good practice measures that an office fit-out should currently follow. Elina Grigoriou Interiors provides the philosophy and ratings as part of our design services. We believe in benchmarking first where you are and then continuously improving your performance.

And finally, more communication is needed by taking ‘it’ back to the staff! No interior or management change will be successful if it doesn’t have ‘buy-in’ by the people that it relies on to work with it every day and initially aimed to make happy. Informing staff of the philosophy behind the Interior Design provides them with the understanding that is necessary to support it and champion any operational strategy.

– Happy, Healthy and Productive Staff –

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