Where do you start when deciding how to design a modern office space? In today’s business world, one of the key factors in modern office design is to create an efficient space that will provide the technology for productive work and encourage satisfaction and mental well-being among employees.
Workplace productivity is tied to both doing a job efficiently and maintaining a sense of health and happiness in modern office design. With the explosion of open office layouts, the modern office space has seen a shift to transparency and collaboration but also has had to reconsider what employees need for focus, motivation, and productivity. As the idea of sustainability in architecture and design-from energy efficiency to reclaimed materials-becomes a standard, the term now takes on a new meaning. Sustainability in modern office spaces is personal, focusing on the human element rather than environmental, or, more specifically, how the environment of a space impacts the body and soul of workers.
This doesn’t mean sacrificing style or design, however—quite the opposite in fact. Companies of all sizes and types, from leading-edge tech companies to financial firms, are creating modern office spaces with consideration to employee well-being, but doing so in a stylish and contemporary manner. From adding in green spaces and lounge areas to central gathering areas and mixing up furniture, elements that improve employee satisfaction also tend to be forefront in design.
Here are a few ideas on how to design a modern office space with an eye towards employee satisfaction and productivity.
SPACE FOR FOCUS
Open office plans have reached all sectors of the office workplace, but the popularity of this trend has also increased an awareness of the needs of employees to have privacy, focus, and quiet time during the day. Today’s modern office space may encourage collaboration, but consideration must be paid to provide an assortment of other areas to support the employee’s mental well being and focus.
Sound can echo and travel in large open spaces. In the construction process, consider materials that are sound-absorbing, from flooring to wall panels or other materials that dampen sound and help mitigate it from traveling across open office spaces.
Next, establish separate work areas that are quiet zones, in which there is no chatting, phone calls, or music, for uninterrupted work time. By designating different spaces, employees can work undisturbed as needed, and are encouraged to move around during the day when issues require discussion with their coworkers.
When dealing with an open, collaborative workspace, it is sometimes hard to have clear cues that someone is involved in a task that needs all of their concentration. One idea is for a company to provide a uniform “status” indicator at each workspace, such as a flag or small note, that allows them to indicate if they are occupied in something that should not be disturbed.
Finally, set up call rooms that allow for work calls to be made in private and without disruption. A common issue in public workspaces is necessary phone time, in which those making the calls deal with issues such as feeling a lack of privacy in their potentially confidential conversation, being distracted from important details in the call, and disrupting their fellow workers.
Modern Elite Aluminum Planters at Monterey County Government offices in Salinas, CA
A PLACE TO TAKE BREAKS
Research has shown that short breaks and mental rest periods throughout the day can improve employees’ productivity and reduce stress levels. In designing a modern office space, create opportunities for employees to step away from work on quick breaks with office places for stretching and moving around. Placing shared machines, such as copiers and printers, a distance from desk areas encourages getting up for tasks, and a break room or water cooler in a central area away from desks will help even short breaks to feel more restful. In work areas, providing the option of stand-to-sit or even treadmill desks will encourage moving and changing positions throughout the day.
Outdoor areas are another way to stimulate movement and mental health breaks throughout the day. If the building site allows, create a furnished terrace or outdoor patio area with comfortable seating and ample greenery for short breathers, phone calls, or even small group discussions. Umbrellas or shaded areas make the space more functional during overly hot or damp days.
NATURE AND NATURAL
Whether or not outdoor spaces are an option, bring the outdoors in with live plants, which not only brighten the space but also provide health benefits for employees. A 2014 study from the United Kingdom confirmed that plants in the workspace increased productivity by 15 percent, as well as improved employee satisfaction. Choose plants that are low on allergens and are fragrance-free. Stylish, modern planters help the plants work in even the most contemporary office. A current trend in designing modern office spaces is living walls or other ways of including greenery into architectural design elements beyond the potted plant.
Take advantage of natural lighting as much as possible in the office space. Sunlight has a great impact on moods and cuts down on eyestrain and headaches that can be caused by poor lighting or only artificial overhead light. With proper shades or filters for harsher sunlight, and adequate atmospheric and task lighting to supplement it, natural light can improve the health and well being of workers.
Finding other ways to have natural and welcoming elements in the space can boost the atmosphere as well, from using reclaimed wood in construction and furniture design to including EcoSpheres, which are self-contained ecosystems.
Modern Elite Cube Planters at The Towers at Emeryville
WORKPLACE FLEXIBILITY AND FUNCTION
When focusing on the actual work areas, flexibility is a major consideration in today’s modern office space. Creating non-permanent layouts will allow for adaptation over time to suit the changing needs of the workplace, as well as let each employee set up a workspace conducive to the needs of their individual job.
There are many stylish options in adaptable furniture and storage products designed to have interchangeable elements and modular pieces that can be mixed and moved around, creating a collaborative and personable workplace. Flexible modular options that have been designed with both form and function in mind will help you design a modern office space that is appealing and productive for workers.
Consider the physical well being of your employees as well, by offering a range of options in chair designs to suit different body sizes and heights. Pieces that are ergonomic and have fully adjustable seat height, arms, back, and recline can still be incredibly stylish and modern, creating both a visual aesthetic for the office and healthy support for employees.
Of course, comfortable furniture goes beyond the office chair. It is also important to make sure that desks and conference tables are at appropriate heights for employees that are also in line with the company brand.
Plan on ways to hide unsightly cords. Technology is both a blessing and a curse in today’s workplace, and keeping cords tidy is an eternal problem in modern office design. When planning spaces, be sure there are convenient outlets near all workspaces and then consider how the cords will be organized, from in-furniture connections or guide holes to accessories such as cord winders, tubing, or organizers. The decrease in clutter in not just individual workspaces but the group and public areas, such as conference rooms, will help the office space appear more organized and professional, and contributes to a greater sense of focus.
One aspect in modern office design that may seem a little cliché is the importance of incorporating clean lines. Favoring strong, functional pieces with little clutter over many a plethora of decor pieces and color is vital in supporting employee mental well-being and productivity. Psychologists are backing this up with findings from recent studies which show that cluttered spaces contribute to poorer mental health and less efficient thinking. So when designing a modern office space, make sure that you are taking care to create a clutter-free space with functional pieces.
PERSONALIZATION IN WORK AREAS
Allow for some personalization in individual work areas—in moderation. A few personal items that inspire and motivate workers and help them feel an emotional connection to the space should be encouraged. Having a personal say in organizational tools that support their productivity also contributes to employee satisfaction.
It is also important to allow employees to bring in low-allergen greenery to have at their individual workspaces. Greenery has proven again and again to contribute to the overall well-being and increased production of office workers. Modern office spaces, in particular, benefit from the look of tabletop planters filled with greenery at individual desks.
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