How to say goodbye to boring office environments

A revolution is underway in island offices. Since the pandemic, many businesses are seeking to make their offices more welcoming and cosy, and more conducive to collaboration. These are more than just design tweaks, it’s a whole new culture.

We asked our JGA interior designer Monique Michel what’s coming next in office design. Her forecast? Say hello to vivid colours, a diversity of textures, and natural materials for furniture and surfaces. Wave farewell to grey walls, beige carpets, blah upholstery, soul-sucking visual sterility, and snooze-enhancing boardrooms.

‘Workplaces are becoming much more health-aligned with staff wanting more access to nature, fresh air, and sunlight. Recently there has been a huge focus on biophilic office design, bringing the outdoors, indoors’ she explained.

‘When an office is designed with wellness from the outset, it means that workers will be happier, healthier, and more productive.

‘An ideal design strategy allows employees to choose their workspace depending on the task, for example, a private workspace with acoustic privacy to do focused work, or a comfortable, engaging communal area for collaborative teamwork.

‘Breakout areas are also a great addition to the workplace, where staff can completely relax and recharge.

‘Fun, creative workplaces have broken down the barriers between different departments.’

The new trend started before the pandemic, but it has accelerated over the last few years. Some employees, having ably performed their duties from home during lockdowns, questioned the need to go into an office at all. Employers have needed to entice them back with new perks.

On top of that, the island’s tight jobs market has meant that workplaces are being used as recruitment and retention tools. Even traditionally buttoned-up employers, such as in law and finance, are learning to let loose.

Here’s a roadmap for office design that gets people energised and engaged:

  • A revamp for open-plan offices

Employees are not always fans of the open-plan configuration because it’s distracting to have lots of people in front, sometimes peering over you, and it can be unsettling when there’s noise behind. If open-plan offices can’t be killed off, they can at least be improved.

Thanks to laptops and mobile phones, workers are no longer tethered to their desks in the way they used to be. Hybrid working means that most offices have more space and can now accommodate different working areas. This can include quiet spots for focused work away from the main hub, breakout zones for collaborative work, and free-standing dividers can create small, intimate areas for close team members.

  • Furniture

Swapping out the old office furniture with more ergonomic furniture could increase employee comfort levels and in turn, increase productivity. Creating more active workplaces by utilising standing desks are becoming more popular because they get the blood flowing to help overcome the mid-afternoon slump. Office chairs don’t need to cost a fortune, the key thing is that they must fit. You wouldn’t spend lots of money on a pair of shoes that was several sizes too big, and it’s the same with chairs.

  • Sshhhhh!

When knowledge workers are interrupted it can take a while for them to get back on track. There are lots of ways to reduce distracting noise, such as fabric and wall partitions, and acoustical baffling on the ceiling. Even rugs, sofas and other soft objects will dampen the noise.

  • Nature

Plants are the best office companions! They absorb noise, improve air quality, and reduce the visual sterility. The reconnection of workers to the natural environment through plants, views, natural materials, sunlight, and clean air, is known as biophilic design.

The concept of bringing the outside inside has long been popular in homes, and now it’s taking off in offices. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural light to flood through, and an outside work patio or terrace gives workers fresh air and a nature boost.

 

Our own JGA design studio near Cobo is the perfect example of an office conversion project. The exposed beams and reclaimed brick tile feature walls give an industrial, loft-style look. On the ground floor we have a drop-in meeting space, sample area, reception, and large boardroom. Upstairs there is an open plan working area. We love it, and the project won the top prize in the Small Projects category of the 2022 Guernsey Design Awards.

Are you planning an office redesign? Contact JGA today for a free, initial on-site consultation.

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