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Flexible Workplace Design: Trends, Examples, and Benefits

The world of work is changing. Technology has made it possible – and necessary – to create workplaces which challenge the traditional office design and can adapt to the more diverse needs of today’s population. 

This is something all businesses will need to focus on if they want to remain relevant and desirable places to work, attracting top talent.

So, how do you create an office space fit for the future? We look at the trends and benefits of the flexible workplace and show you how to devise a working environment to meet the challenges of the 2020s and beyond.

What Is Flexible Workplace Design?

Work life has become more mobile as a result of the technology we all use on a daily basis. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops mean that there is no need for an employee to be tied to the same desk, all day, every day. This has led to a realization that there can be greater freedom in the ways office spaces are designed and utilized.

This means offices no longer have rows of desks separated by partitions, with a separate office for the boss. Workplaces are being designed in a more flexible way, with employees no longer having their own desks. 

Mobile devices make “hot desking” much easier, where everyone can sit wherever they want. Offices have become more open-plan, and partitions are largely a thing of the past.

The trend for more flexible office spaces really started to take off in the United States about 10 years ago and has now spread throughout the world. The BBC reports that flexible workspaces are set to grow 30 percent each year in cities throughout Europe, and the global demand has risen by 50 percent over the past five years.

Why Does a Flexible Office Design Matter?

Businesses of all sizes, from startups to major corporations, are realizing the pros of activity-based working. ABW offices enable employees to choose a work environment which suits the nature of the task they’re working on at any given time. 

For example, they might need a communal area where they can brainstorm with colleagues in the morning and then need a quiet, private space for individual work later in the day. A successful workplace will find ways to incorporate a wide variety of workspaces under one roof.

What Are the Benefits of a Flexible Workplace?

1. It reduces your overhead.

Workers at all levels no longer need to be stuck at their desks. This means most office space is currently being underutilized. A flexible office design enables you to get more out of the space you own or lease, so you can still comfortably house the same-sized workforce within a bigger office. This reduces your need to construct conference rooms or private offices. 

2. It makes your employees happier.

People love having more power over where and how they work. Thirteen percent of workers surveyed said they would give up their end-of-year bonuses for increased flexibility, and the same amount would sacrifice five vacation days for more freedom on the job.

You might assume this attitude is being driven by millennials, but, in fact, it’s a major priority for workers of all ages – even 94 percent of Baby Boomers want a more flexible work life! This is one of the few things that all age groups seem to agree on.

3. It improves employee health and well-being.

As increased flexibility makes your employees happier, they are less likely to suffer from stress at work, which is one of the main causes of employee absence. However, activity-based working also has other important health benefits for your workers. 

The fact that they are moving around more during the workday means that they are less likely to suffer from musculoskeletal injuries, they will have better posture, and they will be at a reduced risk of diseases like diabetes.

This means your workers will take fewer sick days and be more productive while they are at work, creating greater output for your business.

4. It helps you attract and retain top talent.

People’s expectations of their working lives have changed in recent years as technology makes it easier to work from home. Seventy percent of professionals now work remotely at least one day a week, and this trend is likely to grow.

This means businesses have to work harder to persuade the best people to come and work in an office environment. The more flexibility you can offer them, the more attracted they will be to your company. In addition, if any of your employees are considering moving on, greater flexibility and freedom in their work conditions might convince them to stay.

This greatly benefits your business as it helps you achieve a highly talented workforce. It also reduces the costs of recruitment and staff retention, saving you money.

Are There Any Downsides to Flexible Workspaces?

Activity-based working has a lot of benefits for businesses and employees, but no office design will suit everyone. There are some problems which you may encounter when implementing a flexible workplace policy.

One of the major issues here is that management is not always quick to buy into the concept. Some managers prefer the idea of being separate from the rest of the workforce. However, office culture has changed, and more transparency in the office is seen as a positive thing. 

Employees no longer expect to be segregated from the management, and they feel more valued when everyone shares an open-plan office space.

However, it is important to remember that workers still need privacy sometimes. Forbes recently reported on the flexible workspace concept and concluded that the most effective offices were those which had a mixture of private and communal spaces.

This made teamwork easy while still facilitating peace and quiet for individual work.

One of the recommendations the article made was the installation of private phone booths in the office. Zenbooths were designed for exactly this purpose – to create some privacy within an open-plan office space.

With different sizes for individual work or meetings, the Zenbooth offers a soundproof room with the comfort of ventilation and natural light, ideal for phone calls or one-to-one collaborations.

The option of working in a private space can deescalate tensions in the workplace and also increase productivity. One of the major problems with open-plan offices is the level of noise, which can be a huge distraction for workers. 

Research by Berlin’s Humboldt University reveals that it can take up to 23 minutes to regain focus after being interrupted, which has a major impact on productivity. Eliminating 50 percent of office sounds by working in a Zenbooth can boost a worker’s concentration by as much as 48 percent.

Trends in Office Design for 2020

1. Comfortable Meeting Areas

Meetings no longer need to be held in stuffy conference rooms. Increasing numbers of offices are now designing huddle rooms with sofas and coffee tables, which allow for a more relaxed and creative atmosphere. 

These spaces are also ideal for freelancers to call in and discuss projects they may be working on remotely.

2. Sit-stand Desks

Sitting in one position all day is bad for you. It harms your posture and can cause injuries over time. This is why businesses are now installing sit-stand desks. These can be adjusted to a variety of heights fitting any member of your staff. 

One of the advantages of a Zenbooth is that it contains a fully electric, height-adjustable desk for increased worker comfort and well-being.

3. Green Spaces

It is now widely recognized that being around nature has a positive, calming effect on people’s moods. This is why businesses are going to greater lengths to bring the outdoors inside. 

More offices are now incorporating plants and water features. Some are even going so far as installing whole green rooms or walls so employees can feel closer to nature.

4. Movable Furniture

The ultimate flexible workplace is one which can be changed up to suit your purposes as often as you need. 

This means there is a trend for furniture and fittings which can easily be moved. For example, some offices have everything on wheels – from desks and chairs to sofas and partition screens, so the office design can be changed completely as needed.

A Comfort Booth fits easily into a completely movable design. Its light weight means it can easily be moved using slider pads.

Find Out More About Zenbooth

With three sizes to comfortably fit anywhere between one and six people, Zenbooths give your office space true flexibility by providing some privacy within an open-plan design. Please contact us for more information, and we’ll be happy to help.

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