Innovating the Workplace to Increase Productivity

At the foundation of any successful company or organisation is the productivity of their employees. Traditionally this has been sought after through confining these individuals into extremely close quarters, allowing their workload to consume the entirety of their environment, with means to empower the dire need to complete the tasks at hand. In recent years it has become more and more apparent that such tactics prove to be counter-productive. This comes down to the sheer fact that humans cannot work consistently and at the height of their ability while under the persistence of environmental pressure day by day. At the heart of this issue is the lack of environmental and social comfort. So the question is, how can architecture appeal to the human need for comfort without compromising productivity? The following are a few matters to consider.

 

Issues and Solutions

1/ IMMOBILITY

Whether hunched over a computer or pencil and paper, spending hours working in the same position has proven unhealthy for both posture and eyesight, resulting in issues such as severe head and backaches.

Project: Inteltion Office
Architects: Onion

This design by Onion architects was configured to include spaces for employees to release mental and physical tensions acquired at their place of work. Simple interactive installations allow employees to engage in basic stretching techniques, social activities and more high-intensity workouts. This includes monkey bars lined across the ceiling and a spacious meeting table that can be transformed into a table tennis table.

 

WELL Offices Onion-Intention
High-Intensity boxing/climbing area

 

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Implemented office activities

 

WELL Offices Onion-Inteltion
Meeting to table tennis table

 

2/ STERILE ENVIRONMENTS

It is impossible to deny our connection with nature. The first thought for most when looking for a release from extreme pressure or stress is to go reassert this connection. Whether this is to go for a walk in the park, dive into a swimming pool or step out onto the balcony for a cigarette, there is a consistent pull towards our natural environment when seeking mental ease.

Project: N/A
Architects: Muxin Design

This allocation of workspace and flow of this office by Muxin architects is meant to mimic the landscape and movements of taking a walk through a forest. The curved spaces formed are interweaved with small pockets of growing areas, fitted with suitable plants for indoors, such as a happy tree (Radermachera hainanensis Merr), with relatively low ferns and other small plants among them. In this environment employees fall under the impression of working in a tranquil garden, allowing them to conduct their work with peace of mind, while also effectively improving the indoor micro-climate.

 

WELL Offices
Work and sitting areas within the office

 

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Floor plan showing curved layout of workspaces

 

WELL Offices
Work desk surrounded by natural elements

3/ INFLEXIBILITY

Traditional, designated workspaces can create an overwhelming sense of monotony, causing employees to feel lethargic and to an extent unwilling or uninspired to work. Having your views confined to the same four walls of a cubicle day after day leaves the brain inactive as it is given no new information to process, causing a lull in productivity. No two minds are built the same. Each individual works at their best in their own particular environment. Whether that be at their own personal desk, on a couch, or at a communal table, the increase in mobility through laptops now allows this option to be more feasible than ever.

Project: Google
Architects: Various

Though maybe a bit more on the extreme end of the spectrum, one of the most well-recognised examples of this are the Google offices located worldwide. This company, in particular, makes a point of including a multitude of working, creating and collaborative environments at all their stations, ranging from more traditional desk setups to playfully designed work/living spaces. The drive behind this, as addressed by Google’s Silicon Valley headquarter’s designer, Clive Wilkinson, is to ‘fundamentally try to address psychological issues’, moving towards open, flexible spaces and away from “humiliating, disenfranchising and isolating workers’ cubicles”.

 

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Desktop workspaces

 

WELL googles-zurich-switzerland-office--which-was-designed-by-architecture-firm-camenzind-evolution--has-egg-shaped-pods-that-serve-as-meeting-rooms
Business call booths

 

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Collaborative work and presentation space

 

WELL google-headquarter-working-young-man
Individual work pods

FINAL THOUGHTS

With the uprising of millennials into the workplace, there has been an even greater need to adapt office design to suit the new ideologies that come with them. However, despite the new rage of innovative and creative office configurations, it is also vital to be considerate of the context of each office as its own unique entity. World-renowned architect, Norman foster, insists that ultimately the most enduring workplaces will take into account the deep-rooted desires of the people who spend time there. In other words, there is no one size fits all. The key to a successful workplace lies in each organisation recognising its own culture and core values, and from this, setting up a corresponding brief to allow designers to create work environments that support and encourage this. Just as the ‘Google approach’ fits its own physical infrastructure, it is necessary to start developing the next generation of offices to work hand in hand with their employees.

 

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Michaela Gomes

Graduating class of 2016 from The University of Sheffield’s undergraduate architecture program, Michaela now works as an architectural assistant at MGA inc. with plans of resuming studies for her masters degree in 2018. Her prime interests in the field include humanitarian and social architecture – focusing on the development of communities through people centric design. After obtaining her full qualification she plans on bringing some of these ideas to Barbados in hopes of improving government housing and urbanism in the island.
Contact: michaelaangomes@gmail.com

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