The traditional "Open Workspace," featuring spacious workrooms packed with uniform rows of desks, is a lasting artifact of the 1950’s.
The technique served its role in the days of one-size-fits-all uniformity, boasting an environment that promoted (in theory) face-to-face collaboration. Experts believed that people working in close proximity tend to exchange ideas and responsibilities freely - more freely than workers in isolated offices.
A spur of the moment concept can be discussed democratically, rather than saved for the boardroom. The business benefits from the teamwork mentality that pervades the workplace, and the design itself avoids the costs of partitioning the office into individual spaces.
Made popular by tech firms like Google, open work spaces seemed to be the new industry standard and was embraced by many. The latest workplace design trends, however, prove that this concept is not the final word in office layout.
Instead, modern office design is moving forward, and employee welfare is becoming the core concern. The new industry of workplace design places the health of staff first. Open plan offices generally fall short in this regard.
Open Workspace is NOT the Final Answer
If you set up a population of workers in a confined space, expecting each to fulfill their responsibilities unencumbered, then you’re in for an unpleasant outcome.
Employers hope that their teams will diligently work, ignoring the many distractions of loud conversation, fidgeting, noisy snacking, eavesdropping, offensive food odors, and stewing inter-employee conflicts, to name just a few. Reality is, of course, much different.
Research shows that employees, in open office environments, lose an average of 86 minutes a day to random distractions. It takes workers, on average, another 25 minutes to regain focus following distraction.
Personality clashes also fester in environments in which workers are forced into close proximity with limited privacy. In an environment that does not pay due respect to the emotional needs of the individual, conflicts can arise.
These lead to poor productivity, high stress and employee turnover if not managed. In a recent study presented on RobynShort.com it was reported that:
- Eighty-five percent of employees deal with conflict on some level.
- Forty-nine percent of conflict is a result of personality clashes.
- Twenty-seven percent of employees have witnessed conflicts lead to personal attacks.
- Twenty-five percent of employees have seen conflict result in sickness or absence.
In a work environment where seating is prearranged and inflexible, there is often no respite from conflict and stressors.
Modern Office Design Needs to Be Flexible
Another common trait of the open workspace is the dedicated workstation. In the typical scheme, each employee receives his or her assigned desk, and spends several hours a day, accomplishing repetitive tasks, seated before a monitor.
Ergonomic testing and furniture design is a multi-million dollar industry for this very reason. The stress of long periods of sitting and typing result in repetitive motion disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis, and lumbar and cervical spine injury resulting from poor seating posture.
A collection of chronic diseases, including type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, stroke, dementia, and some forms of cancer, have all been linked to a sedentary lifestyle.
The health risks that are born from a sedentary work environment, are seriously costly. They cut the potential of the business workforce, raise healthcare costs and contribute to staff turnover as well.
Modern Office Design Revolves Around a Health Based Approach To Your Workforce
Investing in state-of-the-art office design techniques is investing in the workforce as a whole.
These office formats make for more stimulating work environments and pave the way for technology that tracks employee health, mitigates stress and disengagement, and promotes healthy life practices.
One such conceptual example is the Activity-Based Working (ABW) Environment. Activity-Based Working presents employees with a selection of working environments suited to the needs of their present task and personal preferences.
Rather than being assigned workstations, they are offered the opportunity to work collectively with the group, privately in a secluded space, or enjoy restorative practices, in spaces that encourage physical activity and reflection.
The initial integration of the ABW methods can be costly, but some businesses enjoy a six-fold return on investment in medical costs and costs related to absenteeism.
California-based manufacturing company, Zenbooth, provides privacy on-demand in the form of their easily assembled sound-proof office booths.
Constructed of 3.5-inch-thick acoustic tile, the booths insulate their occupants from the distractions of the workplace, in a well-lit and climate-controlled oasis. They also protect sensitive conversations from being overheard by coworkers.
Zenbooths can be adapted into peaceful ABW brainstorming spaces, or calming safe-spaces for individuals to decompress and destress. They offer various models, from booths sized for private phone calls, to large spaces for 4-6 person meetings. Outfitted with a maple or white exterior they complement multiple office environments.
Incorporate Health Tech In Your Office for Higher Productivity
Workdesign Magazine presents additional opportunities to embrace technology, suggesting the implementation of Fitbit-inspired personal sensors. These sensors, they propose, can assess stress levels and health risks in real-time.
By monitoring vitals, the sensors would strategically suggest employees to take a break, to approach tasks from a new angle, or to modify their behavior in another way. It may sound counterintuitive to reward an underperforming employee with time away from his or her responsibilities, but research shows that refreshed workers attack their to-do list with renewed vigor and more novel ideas.
Why Natural Office Aesthetics Are Becoming More Trendy - The Science Is Real
Other modern office trends include the addition of lighting that mimics the natural transition of sunlight from dawn to dusk.
Science tells us that the brain is attuned to daylight and tells our bodies when they should be active and alert, versus restful.
Electric lights, specifically the blue-spectrum light emitted in the typical office, confound the body’s natural rhythm, impacting melatonin production. Circadian Lighting, as it is termed, stabilizes the employee’s wake/sleep cycle via carefully timed yellow-spectrum light. The health benefits are enormous.
Already implemented in the modern office, and gaining momentum, indoor office gardens and green walls have practical applications beyond beautification. Green walls, or "vertical gardens," introduce flora to unused wall spaces.
The therapeutic effect of this natural art is undeniable. The indoor agricultural additions also improve air quality and acts as a natural heat insulator, reducing the strain on air conditioning systems.
Large scale indoor gardens may play a roll in ABW meditation and invigoration zones, allowing overstimulated workers to retreat and re-energize.
These health preserving measures are among some that modern office design shall invoke, in the near future, to stay relevant and desirable to prospective employees and business partners alike.
To learn more about how you can improve the layout of your office, contact the Zenbooth team today.