In the last decade, the world has been taken over by an incessantly growing swarm of steel and glass boxes which house hordes and hordes of busy corporate workers who have in many ways lost all sense of time and space in the context that they belong to or sometimes are forced into. I say this after having spent a thousand hours sitting on the drawing board trying to understand what would be the best possible design solution to help these corporates attain optimum productivity in the most comfortable work space that they could be created to work in.
The work culture and work spaces today are constantly evolving and no one can really say that a solution or maybe a process that could guarantee the creation of such optimal spaces exists. I do feel though that there are some important aspects that affect the creation of these spaces and there are some don’ts that hold imperative importance to the very basis of office design. I am highlighting some of these here for everyone who in one way or the other is involved with the corporate work system. As this is a subject that can really not be put into one small post or is limited to a specific number of factors, I might continue with this post at some point in the future.
- It’s not about the size of the workstation, it’s about the quality.When I say this, I don’t mean the quality of materials used or the products used. The materials specifications are of importance too, but what plays a much larger role in the quality of the space is the planning of the space and the organization of the units. As a trend, when the information technology wave hit the world, it also managed to let the prices of real estate shoot through the roof. This in turn caused the corporate employers to increase the density of workers that worked in these expensive work spaces. That was in the past though, today, as the concerns have shifted towards the comfort of the workers, offices have started allotting larger work stations to their employees in order to allow them a clutter free working environment. What seems to have been ignored here has been the basic necessity of creating a space that was optimal and not large, a space that allowed the employee to work in a stress free environment. It is important to analyze and understand the working methodology of the employee. This would provide with the optimal dimensions that an employee would need to perform efficiently. A larger work space than the optimal would only mean wastage of precious space.
- A particular job requires a particular type of workstation.It is imperative to study the available options and choose the right type and size of workstation based on the specific needs of the office. Options like the straight desks, the 90° and the 120° are commonly used workstation types that are easily available in the market and these are available in a set of standard sizes which to a large extent are globally accepted. Certain standards have been set for workstation typologies and dimensions and these are almost blindly followed across the world. What most offices fail to understand is that a lot of these sizes stem from either standards that were set a decade back or from the manufacturing comforts and limitations of the companies that are into the workstation manufacturing business.
But then it is also true that there are many leading manufactures that have been constantly researching and creating workstations that are more in-sync with today’s work space requirements. Herman Miller, Steelcase, Vitra and Haworth are some international office furniture manufacturers who have led the market when it comes to providing intelligent work space solutions. Customizing may be at times more expensive than choosing from the available standard options but this difference of cost per unit can be negated or significantly reduced if the number of units required is high. This difference also becomes insignificant when compared to the almost assured increase in productivity.
- Flexible work spaces are the need of the day.Offices today require their employees to work on projects where the team sizes can change dramatically from one project to the other. The level of interaction and communication needed between the team members also varies. Static or regimental workstations can be seen as a major deterrent in the proper functioning of teams. There are options available where workstations can be clubbed or separated based on the need of the project. Mobile discussion tables, projection screens and writing surfaces that can be easily moved to facilitate interaction and discussions have become a must in offices where productivity depends on interaction within teams and the ability of teams to work efficiently and communicate.
- Planned storage prevents clutter in the office.
Most corporate establishments have very specific requirements when it comes to the number of workstations, cabins, meeting rooms, etc. but the requirement for storage is almost always a grey area which is tackled as an afterthought. In a lot of cases, the only word in the design brief that defines the storage needs of a work space is “substantial” or “as much of space as possible”. As a result of this, corridors, fire escapes and other such spaces have become storage rooms in many offices. This has time and again been the cause of many accidents. Moreover, offices that are new manage to look uncluttered for a few months and then the papers and the files start falling out of the storage units which are in most cases insufficient, unusable or unplanned. Analyzing and defining the storage requirements of a work space help in maintaining the organized feel of an office and this in many ways increases the productivity.
- The office space defines the work culture to be cultivated.The days of having typical layouts are gone. It’s time to think different. Offices today need ‘attitude’! It has become important to let the employees enjoy and relax when at work and this would translate into them enjoying their work and their work space. Productivity naturally goes up in a happy work space. Work spaces that mimic lounges, cafes, gaming parlours and even gardens have replaced the offices that were stuffed with claustrophobic cubicles that only strive to keep people from communicating with each other and somehow look like contemporary versions of the government offices of the 80s. This doesn’t in any way imply that going completely against the norm would create an interesting office space, but these extreme examples display to what extent one can go when designing an office space. There are plenty of subtler methods or design solutions that allow for a dramatic shift in the feel of a work space. The necessity is to put in that extra bit to choose the less trodden path when it comes to visualizing the space.
If any of you know about other examples of flexible workstation systems, creatively designed office spaces or anything related to work spaces that might be interesting, please do mention the link/product name/project details in the comments.
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