Designing a workable workplace

Workable workplaces: Addressing the design demands of the modern office

  • 9 Aug 2017

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In the August issue of ABC&D Magazine, Philippe Paré, principal design director at Gensler, discusses the demands of the modern office and the benefits of personality-driven design…

In the workplace today, more than ever before, there is a strong correlation between employee performance and the workplace environment. Designers and architects have shifted their focus to creating an environment adaptable to differing personality types, resulting in a more productive and efficient workplace.

Designers should work with employees who are looking to make this change to create a vision for their workplace that will, ultimately, improve workplace performance and productivity.

Activity-based and personality-driven design

Gensler provides environments that allow individuals to accelerate, increase collaboration and do the best work they possibly can; in other words, by creating places that play to people’s strengths, it fundamentally builds a high-performance work environment.

Activity-based models are now the norm. Designers and architects have paid attention to exploring how different personality types can be productive in distinct working environments, and creating areas that can be applicable to both introvert and extrovert personalities.

This means that people are given a choice to work in the setting that best suits the task at hand. 

Subsequently, if an individual is more extroverted, there is the choice to sit in an exposed environment whereas, for the more introvert characters, there will also be the option for more focused booths that will allow them to have their own space, ensuring they get the uninterrupted peace and quiet they require.

Creating individual spaces 

Designing a workable workplaceAnother design attribute is the ability to move to different work settings; the ability for individuals to modify their work environment. 

In Gensler’s own office, there are panels on wheels, which can be moved and changed to create close-knit working spaces or large collaborative spaces. The advantage of this is that it provides the ability to create individual spaces, whatever the environment required.

This creates spaces that are not so defined. By paying attention to spaces that have an unscripted quality, and using a kit of moveable parts-and-pieces to make it suit the task at hand, means the workplace becomes extremely flexible and adaptable.

Emphasis on wellbeing

Previously, spaces have been defined by the function they support. However, with the rise of the trend around wellbeing, we are now really starting to place users at the front and centre. 

The ability to create spaces is what actually starts to challenge the notion that they have to be based on function only. It is also about setting a mood or an emotion that spaces can elicit or support.

Some people may think that a flexible, personality-centric model is suited to some companies more than others. However, the truth is (although we must be cautious of generalising) there are no obvious setbacks for any individual company to take on this approach, regardless of the industry they are in.

Preparing for the future workforce

This shift in workplace environments reflects wider business and workforce trends, and will support companies in preparing for the future. 

Designing a workable workplaceRecent research has shown that one in two workers in the UK will be freelancers by 2030. A greater number of companies are looking to hire based on project, meaning that we need to think differently about what the permanent workplace is. 

Businesses will need to accommodate fluctuations in the workforce, anticipate five or ten years ahead where, often, sudden increases and decreases in employees based on projects may take place. This idea, again, echoes the need for the workplace to become much more flexible. 

The only way this can successfully happen is by accommodating permanent employees and externals, and making the latter feel they are part of the company. This creates challenges in terms of confidentiality and security – and at the same time, it is necessary to consider how you allow freelancers to be comfortable and feel part of a business. These sorts of issues are likely to transform and change workplaces.

Essentially, what we are seeing happening right now is activity-based workplace design. The open plan will evolve – we are still at a point where we are just now realising its limitations.

As we transition into more personality-driven parameters, we are starting to realise the importance of scale; providing environments that are open but also accommodating of people who want to retrench and create their own, defined spaces.

Read more in the August issue of ABC&D Magazine

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