It’s hard to keep up in the world of workplace fitout. Times have moved on rapidly from last year when we thought that collaboration had moved back towards silo workstations, and health and safety was at the forefront of all fitout planning. The days of one-way systems and hand sani stations are thankfully, long gone, and we’re seeing a huge and rapid shift back towards collaboration and a ‘culture first’ ideology.
We spoke to Ben Ingamells, owner of STOiCA, a London based workplace design and build company, about the key trends currently dominating client briefs. New trends, which are perhaps led by the desire to make workplaces as attractive as possible to lure workers back from spending the majority of time working from home. It’s also fair to say parallel issues such as the climate crisis are having an impact on businesses wanting to reduce carbon footprints and incorporate sustainable thinking into office design.
1. Smart spaces
Digitisation is now at the centre of everything we do and as a result we have seen technology and innovation become intrinsic to smart space planning. New technology development has made it cheaper and more accessible than ever before, and there are some seriously fun things you can add to your fitout cost effectively.
In the modern office fitout, you have the ability to control and automate your space right down to linking up a desk booking app to the furniture itself, a nice touch which ensures the desk automatically adjusts to the desired height of the user prior to arrival.
From installing a virtual receptionist, to having personalised digital locker locks, everything can be managed from a central location which not only provides a seamless experience to employees and clients but can also be more cost-effective for the business.
Many fitout companies are also using sensors to analyse behaviours in the space and will adjust the heating and air con based on how many people are in one area at a time.
2. Eco technology
According to NatWest research, two thirds of medium sized companies have invested in new technology for energy efficiency, known as Eco Technology.
An example of this is eco lighting. Eco lighting aims for lights to be switched off as much as possible through the use of motion sensors to detect when people are in the area. Fitout firms are also relying on the technology of light sensors to make spaces feel more natural, take a rectangular office – the lighting will be brighter in the middle and dimmer on the outside based on sensing how much natural light is coming in through the windows.
Cooling and heating technology can also have a huge impact on your carbon footprint. If it’s set a little less cool in summer and a little less warm in winter, even a couple of degrees either way, it can make a big difference.
Using technology such as a desk or meeting room booking app allows you to pre-plan for how the workplace will be used that day. On less busy days, workers can be confined to certain areas or zones, which will allow you to completely switch off heating, lighting, digital screens and air con in unused zones. Resulting in both energy and cost savings for the day.
3. Culture first, fluid spaces
Offices have changed in a post-pandemic world, according to STOiCA, clients are requesting much more flexibility in the space based on how they perceive they’re going to work. Clients are thinking about culture first and how people are moving around the space, as opposed to a fixed workstation model.
Business decision makers are accepting hybrid working is here to stay and are reducing square footage as a result. What we are seeing though, is that they are willing to invest in making a smaller space as attractive as possible to workers, in a bid to drive the return of in person collaboration and support the need for improved technology. Technology is critical to making the hybrid office successful, with many recognising the need for better video conferencing tools and more quiet, private areas to make calls, such as phone booths or pods. Microsoft and Google have incorporated video technology as a main driver for the layout of their conference rooms, developing built in mics and cameras and large wall screens to make hybrid meetings as seamless as possible.
There is also a big focus currently on adding more workplace benefits such as breakout space, cafes, and entertainment areas. The shift in attitude is certainly keeping STOiCA busy with a lot of design and build client briefs. STOiCA’s, Ben Ingamells says, “Within our new project design briefs, we are seeing a much greater emphasis on improving employee collaboration, encouragement of more flexible working practices and integrating tech and zoning to provide more flexible work spaces. I do think things have been heading this way for some time, but this has been accelerated over Covid and employers are becoming much more open minded to alternative ways of working and investing in the office as a platform for engagement. Inevitably this looks different from business to business but there has been a notable shift in design approach to achieve optimum arrangements that reflect and support the culture of an organisation and their goals and employees changing working patterns.”
4. Technology to boost wellness measures
Employee needs have shifted since the pandemic, with mental and physical wellbeing moving to the forefront of people’s priorities. As a result, introducing wellness measures in the workplace has become key when planning a new office fitout.
There are some great wellness technologies you can incorporate to ensure employees can keep active physically and mentally throughout the working week, for example sit/stand desks encourage activity rather than remaining sedentary at a desk all day.
Employers can encourage teams to exercise during the working day by providing the space and tools to make it easy for them, with the addition of a virtual fitness studio. Physical exercise generates more energy physically and mentally, which leads to a more productive and alert workforce. Ultimately increasing business productivity.
Mental wellbeing has been building momentum over the past few years and a great employer will look to incorporate this into their place of work. Providing reflection rooms, yoga spaces or a private space for employees to take part in virtual therapy sessions are all ways to enrich the workplace to benefit mental health.
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