The changing nature of office design

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Four years ago, the right to request flexible working became UK law. Since then, flexible working has become more prevalent, to the point that half of the UK workforce is predicted to work remotely by 2020. This year PWC introduced a ‘work when you want’ policy, giving new recruits the opportunity to choose their hours worked. This action was taken following a study the firm commissioned which found 46% of workers prioritise flexible working and a work-life balance when searching for a job. 

Evidentiary support as to why flexible and agile working benefits the company and the employee has since been built by The Agile Future Forum (AFF). Founded in 2014, this is a collaboration of different sized businesses that established itself to propagate agile working practices among UK organisations. They describe workforce agility as:

Workforce agility allows an organisation to establish the optimal workforce to support an organisation’s objectives.’ 

Empowering employees to be flexible with how they work, is mutually beneficial. It makes them more productive, but also makes for happier staff – and it’s proven a key driver in attracting and retaining the best talent in many firms. This huge shift in working culture has also meant office design trends are changing. With more employees working remotely, businesses are finding new ways to utilise their office space to facilitate modern working practices, such as hot desking and video calls.

While many people consider this sort of setup to be part of start-up culture, we are increasingly seeing large enterprises embrace new-age office design. For example, UBS recently commissioned WeWork to redesign their New Jersey office, as the banking giant looks to move away from the usual aesthetic that financial institutions tend to adopt. London-based fund managers are also starting to move to more open, collaborative spaces to facilitate agile working, accompanied by music rooms and restaurants. 

More companies are looking to redesign their spaces, and so it’s important office managers are on top of trends and aware of the latest technologies that can help with any desired change in office layout. Companies may also find that they are able to save on office costs too. For example, Lloyds Banking Group (a member of AFF) found one of their head office functions able to reduce office costs by 23% through ‘multi-site’ practices. 

The impact of technology on design

Advancements in technology and changing corporate cultures have helped the flexible working revolution. The advent of cloud technology means that workers can access their files online from virtually anywhere, across all their devices. Collaboration software has made communication between employees effortless, even if they aren’t working in the same building. As a result, we are seeing more employees working away from the office, whether that be at home, a coffee shop, or on the road.

Research from Gensler has shown that in the average workplace individual workstations are only occupied 55% of the time, likely due to the introduction of flexible working. It’s a clear indicator that half of the time, employees are flexible in how, where and when they work. Because of this, many companies are reluctant to move into large office spaces, and instead actively plan for a reduced desk to employee ratio looking for smaller spaces that can facilitate flexible working practices. With this comes open plan offices, huddle rooms and hot desking policies, all with the aim of making more efficient use of space and meeting the need of an agile, mobile workforce.

Spaces are evolving

One example of changing spaces in modern offices are meeting rooms, due to the shift to video calls. According to a recent survey by research firm Frost & Sullivan, most C-level executives prefer video calls to audio-only, finding that they boost productivity, accelerate decision making, and improve customer experience. Video meetings are becoming increasingly common, and so companies are investing in huddle rooms optimised for video calls rather than just large meeting rooms designed for face-to-face meetings. 

There are a wide range of different conference cameras available for these spaces, so it’s important office managers and IT buyers know which type is appropriate for each room. A smaller, portable conference camera like Logitech’s Connect could be shared between huddle rooms, whereas a large meeting room may need a more advanced fixed conference camera, with additional microphones and speakers depending on the size of the room.

Portable peripherals are having a big impact on office design trends too. For example, the deployment of tablets can completely change the customer experience. A customer of ours in the financial sector replaced all desktop PCs with tablets on their customer service floor, so that their consultants could better interact with customers when talking about loan or mortgage applications. Considering the kind of cases and keyboards you use is important with this type of deployment, and products like the Folio case, with an integrated keyboard, can be a good bet. Feedback from the bank has been positive, who report a better, slicker experience for its customers.

More employees want to be able to work away from their desks, and so companies are investing in transforming different areas of their offices into breakout areas suitable for both work and meetings. For example, Alphabet’s offices in London use its reception area as a workspace, with the large reception desk doubling up as a desk for workers in the building, and other large tables and chairs available for use.   

The benefits of new office design

Many of the new office layouts also help to bring about increased collaboration between employees. Open plan offices and break out areas are designed to promote discussion between workers, while rooms designed specifically for video calls can boost productivity in meetings.

When office design is done well, it improves employee satisfaction, which in turn helps to boost employee productivity. As a result, it is also beginning to play an important role in employee recruitment, where a great office layout can be the difference between hiring an outstanding candidate and losing them to another company.

Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration at Logitech EMEA

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