Workplace designs have moved away from being claustrophobic and dire. Progressively newer and more prestigious venues are being built to become the cornerstones for many establishments that formulate and uphold the human capital adequately. More importantly, these office spaces are built to prioritise the wellness of employees as well as provide an environment which is instrumental in spurring innovation and productivity.
“We believe in a strong visual idea. The first is to show and not tell and secondly, we want to tell a story, to tell the clients who you are through the design,” explains Masahiki Kanaya the senior designer at Okamura International (Singapore), a Japanese office furniture and design company during the recent XTRA Furniture talk in Kuala Lumpur.
“We also have to think about well-being. The environment plays a very important role in office designs today,” he continues.
There cannot be further arguments about the influences of work spaces which help produce better productivity. Through research, global architect and design firm, Gensler had found that deplorable workspace designs have caused poor productivity, costing businesses in the US about US$330 million (RM1.3 Billion) a year.
Progressively, many companies are coming up with exhilarating designs for their workspaces, providing areas for relaxation in view of the necessity for employees’ work- life balance. Non-work related activities and facilities such as foosball, table tennis, yoga and board games are provided in lounge areas while wellness rooms, daycare amenities and outdoor areas for breaks have also been some of the initiatives in doing so. Pantries and office kitchens are also given prominence with better supplies and appliances, all as a means by companies to demonstrate that the wellness of employees matter to them.
One of the emerging trends of workspace design is to create a working environment which is also close to nature, in line with biologist, E.O Wilson’s theory of biophilia, which holds the view that humans are inertly drawn to nature.
Online retailer, Amazon, has undertaken such initiatives in the construction of their new Seattle headquarters, as report by Bloomberg. The colossal feat will include three 100ft tall orbs, or as they are called, Biospheres, where approximately 300 species of plants sourced from around the globe are to be planted. Employees who need seek some relaxation can just take a walk along the suspension bridge surrounded by greenery, which provides a quiet place to think while discussions and problem-solving gatherings can be held at the bird-nest inspired spaces nestled amongst the branches of mature trees.
John Schoettler, Amazon’s global real estate director, explained the inspiration for such a concept, stating that “they were inspired by Amazon research indicating that a key thing missing from typical work environments is the link to the natural world,” as quoted by the Bloomberg article.
Apple’s new centre of operations in Cupertino is also undergoing construction, blueprinted to be a rounded, spacecraft-like form which encircles an expansive outdoor garden. When completed, the building will also feature jogging paths and walking trails circumnavigating the building while 1,000 bicycles will be provided for use by Apple’s staff.
Kono Designs a New York- based firm, has also brought to life the biophallic concept of workspace design with their work on recruitment firm, Pasona’s office building in Tokyo, Japan. The out-of-the-box concept merges a rooftop terrace and metropolitan garden with 4,000 sq m of space for the cultivation of over 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, plants and even rice. Backed by a group of agricultural professionals, workers are fostered to play a part in maintaining and harvesting efforts of the produce.
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Acknowledging the diverse cultures and individuals who make up the workforce, companies are working towards the creation of accommodative workspaces for all individuals, as Kanaya puts it, “Offices today consist of people with different cultures, different abilities and various working styles. People today need to communicate and collaborate more. But sometimes we also need to focus. We have to create a space that allows that flexibility.”
Spaces with unyielding purposes are becoming a thing of the past as even office spaces begin to adopt the concept of multi-functional spaces. This direction in design is associated with the open office approach which syncs teamwork and social synergy amongst colleagues while also allowing employees to escape to their private cubicles for some privacy and serenity when needed. Okamura's modular system, Muffle, is exemplary of the increasing need for mobility and fluidity within the workspace.
The essential representation of a great workstation these days does not only evolve around salaries and benefits. Rather it also demands a physically encouraging work environment with a myriad of amenities as well.