Innovation

The power of office design – 10 major trends to watch

Helen Alexander /

Setting up an office in 2014 is not as simple as a creating an imposing front entrance, nice boardroom, rows of desks and glassed-off rooms for the managers.

Do this, and your workplace will be viewed as mediocre – sending the wrong message about your capabilities to clients and also to potential and current staff, who could feel less valued and connected to the company as a result, experts say.

To avoid this, many top businesses are investing extensive time and money into creating an environment that is cutting edge. Collaboration hubs, areas to hold functions, flexible workspaces and café-style kitchens are just scratching the surface of possibilities.

While SMEs may have small budgets to work with when it comes to creating a dynamic, future-focused workspace, it is possible to take some ideas from the corporate or creative worlds and adopt elements within your financial reach.

For inspiration, SmartCompany spoke to two leading experts in the field of office design, HASSELL principal Steve Coster and Schiavello workspace planner Nick Tennant.

“The good thing we are seeing, particularly for SMEs is that these themes are applicable to businesses regardless of their size,” Tennant says.

Here are 10 of their hot tips.

Above: The entry to the Savill’s office in Brisbane is grand but has a sense of being open – designed by Carr Design.

1. Let the outside world in

A grand entrance and reception space hiding the work environment may serve some organisations, but today it is more about letting the outside world in, according to Coster.

“Now work is a much more collaborative process, where you may be working with another firm, so your space needs to allow you to do that,” he says.

“You may have an external firm in your office more often, or freelancers working as part of your project team. It is a more complex population of people that are just as likely to be from outside your organisation as in it.”

Coster also says this means office spaces can become a marketing tool to show clients how you work and the strength of your team. He says the ANZ Centre in Melbourne’s Docklands is a good example of an open environment, as visitors can walk right into the middle of the building into an atrium, without going through security.

Above: This Schiavello design uses a Krossi sit/stand workstation to enable flexible work options.

2. Attract staff with style and culture

If you want good staff, create an appealing workplace, suggests Tennant.

“Top performing businesses are in a war for talent, and to get the best talent they are using the workplace as a tool to retain staff,” Tennant says. “It is also about making them happy to give their best.”

He says the “bells and whistles” offered in some workplaces range from simple things like free food, to café-style lunch areas, or ping pong tables and sleeping pods.

“We are seeing residential and hospitality design influencing the more informal areas of an office, such as a lounge or a break area. As people spend more time in the office, it is becoming a home away from home,” he says.

“It could be a sit/stand workstation to provide comfort and control to an individual as a trade-off to perhaps a smaller desk.”

Coster agrees, citing researching that shows the more extra facilities an employee offers, the greater chance staff will find the workplace an attractive office.

“It might be gym facilities, wellness facilities, or classes such as yoga. Or childcare to show support of diversity,” Coster says.

“Also there is a broader atmosphere dynamic which is about people perceiving it as the kind of organisation they want to work for – the social capital of an organisation, not just being a number.”

“It is the opposite of anonymity – the big buildings with repeated rows of workstations is not going to cut it.”

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