Office design 2012

officedesign

I recently wrote an article called ‘The 2012 Activity Based Office Environment’ on new principles that are making their way in the corporate world.

As president of the Asia Pacific Design Centre (APDC) in Shanghai I can see several changes making their way into the office environment. Our concerns are no longer about the demographic situation, technological changes or the need to be sustainable but ways of working in what becomes a more activity-based office environment that encompasses all these factors.

Interior architects who develop workplaces today must take into account how a team works together. The way clients interact, how they share work processes and the technologies involved in these projects. They must act ethically in their practices and select responsible products throughout the supply chain at every stage.

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We are not only turning the corporate community inside-out, but outside-in, to integrate all functions of the company and create a structure that is comprehensive to team members but benefits external clients. Today’s office environment must not only take care of demographic and technological changes but all sustainable issues that ensures the safety, quality, and social responsibility of consumer products.

The physical environment in which decisions are made contributes to this creative decision making. But while workers have the means to converse in both a professional and social context, people need more than virtual interaction and the facility design is there to respond to that need.

The evolution of the physical and social context, including large dot com distributors such as Facebook, Linkedin, Google and Amazon has had a massive effect on the way we work today.

With this changing workforce, come new ways of working in several places at once and a situation to reconsider when planning office design and product use. This is far from being a temporary phenomenon. More and more of the world’s largest corporations believe a creative workplace can keep the workforce happy, attract talented candidates and have a major impact on creating a competent corporation.

In order for the Activity Based Office Environment to be a reality, the designer must succeed in getting buy-in not only from the management of the company but from the employees through a variety of ways, such as focus group meetings and individual interviews.

Unfortunately, an alternative workplace programme can fail for many reasons, but in most cases it will have something to do with the failure to understand at a corporate level.

Today, more than ever, a management’s objective is to improve productivity, reduce sick leave, co-ordinate business projects with workforce needs, improve customer satisfaction, increase sales and reduce office accommodation costs. A new generation of office workers are telling us that “work should be fun and the office environment should be conductive to creative thinking”.

This new generation of office staff is looking for an objective-centred organisation with a common vision, customer-focused behaviour and happy employees.

Our office should enable us to do our work, at best by providing us with not only the most efficient set-up in terms of information-communication technology support and furniture systems but with the right creative ambience.

Suddenly, the designer’s greatest challenge is to plan not only aesthetic, but creative, efficient interiors that support a company’s range of business objectives and to go beyond the scope of cutting operational costs by creating happiness at work.

To meet the challenge of planning intelligent buildings, designers of Activity-Based Working Environments and space managers must offer responsive, effective and supportive workplaces within which people and the organisation can achieve their objectives.

I believe that in the years to come, interior designers will take a pro-active role in the research for the best ways of working, while the information communication technologists will be searching for the perfect way to fill the gap and synchronise all the floating systems in and out of the office. Our interaction will become more and more important.

Claude Bérubé, Nanocore Technology, president APDC, and former president of the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI). Email: claude@berube.com

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