Office design in the Middle East is still “old school” says X Works

Special report: The XWorks team shares its thoughts on what defines modern office layouts and why it is important that workplace design caters to both analogue and digital collaboration.

Nowadays, smart companies are redefining offices as places that make employees feel happy, comfortable, productive, and engaged, according to Soren Kraen, founder of Dubai-based Xworks Interiors. He has been working in the interior design and fit-out industry in the UAE for more than 25 years, and established his own company in 2009.

The firm now delivers a full-service, including strategic workplace analysis, interior design fit-out, and furniture supply.

Xworks’ portfolio includes projects for Maersk Training, Gilead Sciences, Ernst & Young, Lindt & Spungli, and Pandora. Recently, its team has been involved with the design and building of six offices in Dubai Design District, for clients that include Zaha Hadid, Calatrava, Cracknell, Haworth, and RMJM. The company is currently collaborating with Hyperloop on its first regional hub in d3.

“We see a lot of people in the market are expanding their scope of work, but we believe that there are plenty of opportunities within the office interior design and fit-out market in the region and, with the right approach, there is possibility of further growth,” says Kraen, adding that Xworks intends to maintain its niche focus on employees’ wellbeing, sustainability, and indoor climate.



Kaj Helstrand, who joined the company as managing director two years ago, describes workplace design in the region as “old-school”.

“Workplace design here is still used to communicate status. There is still a drive to have managers’ offices distinguished from those of the rest of the team,” he says. “We are starting to see a desire to spend money differently now.”

Helstrand says that digitalisation and wireless technologies are beginning to free many companies from desk-bound work.

“There are still misconceptions about desk occupancy. When you ask companies how much their workstations and desks are occupied, they will usually say ‘most of the time’, or ‘80 to 90% of the time’, when in reality the desk occupancy is only about 35 or 40%. That’s a global benchmark of successful workplace occupancy today,” says Helstrand.

He adds that it is crucial for design to support both analogue and digital collaboration.

“Technology has become an integral part of the way people work today, however they cannot be innovative with IT alone, because it limits our ability to think freely. Our clients are now asking for writeable surfaces to be placed within their collaborative spaces and we use whiteboard paint quite successfully, which can transform any wall into a working surface.”

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