Joakim de Rham of Swiss Bureau offers tips on creating productive work spaces


Joakim de Rham, CEO and Co-Founder of Swiss Bureau Interior Design, shares his insights on the essential office design trends to look for in the near future.

For the past 13 years, Swiss Bureau has participated in commercial projects throughout the region. While we work with a broad range of clientele, ultimately their requirements are the same. They want a functional space that is fit for purpose, a space that reflects their corporate identity, looks great and encourages productivity.

Rham created a sleek and modern interior for diving company TPSMI.

Rham created a sleek and modern interior for diving company TPSMI.


Traditionally, it is thought that privacy encourages concentration and productivity in the workplace. Today, things are different. Even in sectors where perhaps you would not expect such a forward thinking brief, such as finance and law, we are regularly asked to provide a design that incorporates collaborative areas, recreational equipment, and contemplative zones. This is in stark contrast to the traditional office design.

Our challenge is to deliver this new, almost hospitality like environment, within stringent commercial parameters. As an interior architectural firm, it is our role and responsibility to find coherent and innovative solutions, which keep our clients satisfied and more importantly show to their employees that they are taking care of them by investing in their workplace.

An informal meeting room at the  UPL office.

An informal meeting room at the UPL office.

There are certain design requirements that transcend sector and business activity. Time and again we are asked to consider how space allows for collaboration, connectivity, creativity, health and well-being. Some of the key trends include: collaborative spaces, larger breakout areas, greenery, homestyles, pods and acoustics privacy.

1. Collaborative spaces

Space should encourage interaction and collaboration. This can include areas incorporating alternative soft seating, movement, writable walls and alternative desk solutions. We strive to look for design elements and features that bring employees into contact with each other. Promoting a strong team ethos, idea sharing, and enhanced creativity.

UPL headquarters feature a vast open-plan space.

UPL headquarters feature a vast open-plan space.

2. Larger breakout areas

As the commercial interior design evolves, pantries and breakout areas are considered an opportunity to promote interaction and social connection between employees. It’s also seen as a way to dismantle company hierarchy and allow bonds to be formed inter-departmentally. Due to this, more investment is going into these areas and, as designers, we are encouraged to think about ways to make space feel different in contrast to the general office theme. This allows the employee a more fulfilling break and ultimately enhanced productivity throughout their day.

Propertyfinder's office has a large break out area.

Propertyfinder’s office has a large break out area.

3. Greenery

Research has shown that incorporating green features, plant life and natural light into office areas is hugely beneficial to the employee’s state of mind, health, and productivity. Incorporating greenery has been a developing trend; one of the most popular ways to incorporate this has been through living walls.

Acoustic panelling systems for walls and ceilings.

Acoustic panelling systems for walls and ceilings.

4. Homestyle

We all realise that in the modern world a large part of our day is spent in the office. Companies are beginning to catch on and realize it is to their advantage to invest in the office environment. It should be a place where the employee feels at home and comfortable. Again, it is often a challenge to incorporate this without compromising the necessary formality that comes with commercial office interiors.

Emirates REIT office designed by Swiss Bureau.

Emirates REIT office designed by Swiss Bureau.

5. Pods

Whilst an open plan design does successfully encourage collaboration, it also presents us with some problems. Many employees require additional privacy to allow them to focus or carry out confidential activities. We’ve seen the introduction of pods in the last year to counteract this issue. These tend to be small, brightly coloured cubicles to be utilized for short periods of escape. These need to be strategically placed to remove background noise and stop any interruption. Aesthetically they can be used to break up space and incorporate colour.

Glass office partitioning is a versatile option for dividing office space.

Glass office partitioning is a versatile option for dividing office space.

6. Acoustics privacy

Another challenge that presents itself with any open plan space is noise. Swiss Bureau is often tasked with looking at alternative solutions to ensure we control the acoustic properties of the space. Inevitably, some tasks require complete privacy and we look to provide for this without the need for inflexible partitioned space. In many scenarios, we have opted for acoustic panelling on both vertical and horizontal surfaces as an aesthetically pleasing solution. Acoustic materials can also be integrated into the furniture, fixtures and equipment to improve the acoustic performance of the space. For complete privacy many companies are opting to include private phone booths into the plan. In today’s mobile phone age this has proven popular and is extremely cost effective.

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