• Akshita Mehra

How important is design in workspace environments?

Workspace design is essential because it affects the way people work. Inhabitants of the space are the best people to understand what flaws the design has. As designers, we need to look outside of our traditional comfort zone and create zones where people enjoy working. When you create such spaces, the people working in that environment feel like they have a purpose and are able to reach their maximum potential.

Workspaces affect productivity, business processes, strategies and employee satisfaction. This in turn affects the business growth. It is also important for the space to reflect the culture of the company.

A designer’s job is not only to make spatial changes but also to understand organisational functions and design the space accordingly. Understanding how different people work best in a specific environment is the basis of thoughtful design. Studies show that employees in better workspace environments are 20% more productive.

Small things are of paramount importance to create a safe and comfortable environment. Open plans have become a trend in the last decade as they allow free movement, can be modular in nature and serve as multi-functional spaces.

When you work in a specific environment, it is important to ask these questions - Do you feel good in the space? Is the space comfortable? Do you enjoy working in the space? Is it a clean working environment or is there too much clutter? Is there constant chaos in the office? When you think of the answers to these basic questions, you can start assessing the finer details of the space.

Factors such as sizes and type of furniture, lighting, temperature, acoustics, air quality, colour and ergonomics have a huge impact on productivity. For example, fresh air and sunlight can energise the workforce. We are going to delve a little deeper into how these factors play an important role.

Workspace Work in today’s times involves many transitions and workspaces need to adapt to that, instead of clusters of workstations. Nowadays we are seeing a shift in workspace design, as there is a higher utilization rate for small meeting spaces versus large meeting/conference rooms.

Workspaces require different zones such as: - A zone for an individual to carry out his or her tasks and ideate/work in peace. - A zone where a smaller group can get together to collaborate. - A zone where meetings can be held for a larger group of people.

In 2016, a Google For Work Study showed that 73% of employees think their organization would be more successful if they were able to work in a more flexible and collaborative way.

Furniture Flexible and modular furniture is largely effective in spatial design. Standing desks are also gaining popularity but they have their own sets of pro and cons. Employees should have an option to stand and sit. Crowd and clutter in the space restricts movement and important functions such as communication and concentration. The right type of furniture encourages a healthy posture. Basic things such as space for the legs under the desk, desk height and distance from computer monitor are crucial to design. Adjustability and access to furniture is important.

Lighting This is one of the most important factors yet the most overlooked. Natural lighting and views of the outside have a positive effect on productivity versus poorly lit spaces, which can cause eye-strain, fatigue, irritability and eventually depression. Instead of creating solid walls, the use of glass allows more light in the space. In terms of artificial lighting, it is always a good idea to pick warm lighting over luminescent tubes.

Acoustics Noise can have a positive and negative impact on an employee. Noise from equipment and people’s conversations can affect an employee’s concentration. Too much noise can be distracting and raise stress levels. Soft instrumental music can be helpful to an employee’s performance. Sound absorbing materials and layout planning can drastically help in the acoustics of the space.

Colour Colour plays a huge role in productivity and wellness due to its psychological impact. Most people pay attention to the physical effect of colour versus the impact it has on our brains and how its affects our mood. Colours evoke a physical and emotional response. Too much of colour can be overwhelming and so it needs to be used in the right places in the right quantities.

Ergonomics Ergonomics is the study of the relationship between people, the equipment they use and the physical environment in which they work. Spaces with less clutter and ample working space and storage solutions lead to proficient working. The study and implementation of ergonomics in the workspace can have positive short-term and long-term effects on a person’s safety and health and productivity.

In conclusion, it is important to reinvent the workspace. With a change in the attitude of the employees and new work patterns, they are becoming increasingly social, collaborative and dynamic. Businesses need to invest in their office spaces as that helps strengthen the brand, improve employee productivity in totality and adds to the overall gain of the firm. With a massive change in work styles, the entire concept of workspace design needs fundamental rethinking. It is said that workspace design is like mathematics, the more data you have, the closer you are to the solution. The bottom line therefore is to create happier workspaces.

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