As organisations are embracing new technologies and welcoming more millennials, workspaces are taking on a new hue, defined as they are by people’s changing habits and preferences. Their design language and character of their space is hugely driven by demographic shift. Today’s workplaces are more space-efficient and flexible; they are designed to provide the right mix of work style choices (formal vs informal) and cater to a diverse workforce (introvert vs extrovert), giving employees options for collaborative and focused working in order to enhance their productivity. There is now a conscious effort to cater to wellness and well-being of employees.
Technology is playing a huge role in the workplace now, as the workforce is particularly tech-savvy and seeks flexibility in the workplace. Right integration of technology into these spaces helps enhance functional convenience and usage factor, making the office agile and future-proof. Another factor is the demographics of the workplace; as demographics shift, so do mindsets and working styles. Millennials are bringing their strong likes and dislikes with them, and office design reflects preferences such as affinity to digital technologies, aversion to rigidity and hierarchy, and love for sharing and collaborating.
In view of these realities, here are some key trends in office space design that can help achieve business efficiency.
Tech-driven Design: Digital technologies have revolutionised the way we use office space, and have impacted businesses across industries. Until a few years ago offices looked quite different, but now conventional ideas are going out of the window. Technology has reduced the need for employees to stick to a single workstation, and is making agile work set-ups popular. Baxter India, for example, wanted to offer a new experience to its employees by giving them a collaborative, technology-enabled office space. We created a next-generation workspace that engages the tech-savvy and also takes forward the company’s core values of ‘collaboration and innovation’. With enhanced security, employees now have access to Wi-Fi and can work from anywhere in the office. Walls can be converted into multiple video screens, with content controlled remotely.
Wellness-inspired Design: Organisations are creating work environments with basic aspects of wellness like thermal comfort, ambient lighting and biophilia, and are looking at making employees’ time in the office pleasant and relaxing, while ultimately making them more productive and happier. Perfect lighting, natural elements, comfortable corners, well-designed kitchen or cafeteria, and clean and green solutions are being incorporated into the design.
Data-backed Design: Today we can understand what a client requires, from the client’s own data. Employees in the same company have different working styles, depending on the nature of their work, their culture or age. From available data we can unearth these patterns and adapt the design solution accordingly. While working on the LinkedIn office in Bengaluru, our analysis showed that the requirement of employees across departments varied. While employees of some departments needed quiet zones, some needed mobile and flexible solutions, and some departments needed spaces to collaborate and brainstorm. So, we provided them height adjustable desks and cubicle panels that users can, at the push of a button, raise for more privacy or lower for a brainstorming or stand-up meeting.
Culture Takes Centre Stage: As multinationals set up campuses and large all-inclusive facilities in India, design has become a critical unifying aspect between the company’s global ethos and its local culture. These projects require deep research in order to determine the unique attributes that define the company globally, and what local features it would need to enhance that further. When an American healthcare giant in Mumbai decided to build an office space of over 560,000sft, it wanted it to reflect its global values besides bringing in some India-ness. We used the ‘seven chakras of the human body’ from traditional Indian medicine to reinforce the company’s focus on health and also gave it a local flavour.
The Hospitality Theme: Companies have a preference for spaces with a hospitality feel, where the layout is open, pantries look more like coffee shops, and where bold and bright interiors dominate. The push for the hospitality theme is coming from millennial workers who prefer open, flexible, and collaborative and a more connected workspace. Piramal’s new Mumbai office is a fine example. Designed by us, it radiates cosy nurturing vibes with a luxury hospitality ambience in the lobby and a homely feel in the office space. Most of our recent projects are outcomes of incorporation of these approaches, wherein the workplace design itself creates and fosters an environment which caters to complex business problems and helps achieve overall business growth.
The author is regional managing director at Space Matrix