‘Workplace Wellbeing Special’ – 10 steps for a happy office in 2019

 

Wellbeing is becoming a buzzword in the workplace industry, and with reason – it is an essential component of the modern office and a real focus point for most businesses in 2019!

The workplace is not always a well-oiled machine, but studies have shown a clear correlation between wellbeing in the workplace and increased productivity. In other words, the way to a company’s success is a happy office.

Now, this is all well and good for business owners looking to boost profits, but what about landlords and property managers? Do the cogs start turning even before the lease is signed?

The answer is yes. And wellbeing in the workplace is no accident. Just a carefully constructed puzzle where everyone in the industry – from the designer, through the landlord, to the end-user – plays a role.

All it takes a pinch of modern thinking, a great deal of commitment, and about 10 elements to get right.

1. Naturally lit

You can’t always break a hole through the wall to let the sunshine in, but think about ways you can optimise your office layout so as to take maximum advantage of natural light.

A 2014 study from the Northwestern University of Chicago (one of many,) shows that daylight in the office boosts health and morale. As a result, employees with windows in the workplace report higher wellbeing.

Where possible, workstations should be located within 20 to 25 feet of side windows. Any further than that and daylight almost vanishes. And if your office space, or parts of it, is lacking windows, you can always opt for integrated lighting systems like Ketra to mimic natural light. 

RTKL London office. © Photobanks Ltd. / Jonathan Banks

2. Adaptive

Gone are the days of the sedentary office. Flexibility is key in today’s work environment. Employees like standing desks. They like having control over the layout of their workstations.

So how can the workplace adapt to its users’ needs? Modular furniture is a place to start: breakout furniture that doubles up as an informal meeting space, portable furniture and reconfigurable systems to facilitate the process if a company changes location.

The office layout can be adaptive as well. Big hangar-like offices, for example, can benefit from mobile partition screens to be used according to the users’ needs. Demountable partitions or folding walls are the perfect way to temporarily break up the space, or open it up for a large conference.

The more flexible the office is, the easier to implement changes it is. Anticipation is the watchword of the modern office.

Tree House modular furniture. Designer: Dymitr Malcew

3. Finely tuned

Bad acoustics are a by-product of busy open-plan offices. Unsurprisingly, noise is distracting and harmful to productivity.

What can you do?

Using sound absorbing materials in the workplace can provide significant acoustic relief; solutions vary from partitions and acoustic baffles to absorbent furniture and flooring. You can also go for decorative wall-mounted acoustic panels that come in every shape or form imaginable.

Beyond functionality, many decorative acoustic panels are designed with flexibility in mind: modular units, wall tiles in varying colours, shapes and sizes, and if the walls in your office are too busy, you can always opt for ceiling-mounted baffles a freestanding unit to double up as a divider.

Gaia acoustic panels. Designed by Stone Designs for Blå Station

4. Branded

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a good office branding is the opportunity to tell your story.

But strong branding can also make a real difference to a company’s image. It is the face of a business. It makes it recognisable to clients and employees. And it boosts wellbeing in the workplace by making for an inspiring work environment where employees feel an emotional connection with their surroundings.

Glass manifestation inside Tuango’s Montreal office. Designer: Anna Sophie Goneau

So much more than slapping a logo on a wall, strong office branding should reflect the corporate culture of the company and portray its values and identity.

A well-thought-out branding strategy also helps organisations stand out from the crowd and, if used in key spaces like the reception area, it can help make a great first impression upon clients and prospects.

5. Close to nature

Wellbeing in the workplace would hardly exist without the fresh use of greenery. Being close to nature has proven to have a positive impact on our mood, and with 35% of our total waking hours spent at work, a positive mindset sure is important.

So, what can you do to add greenery to your office? A simple living wall in the workplace can improve air quality and acoustic levels as well as promote a sustainable image that will speak to your green customer. If a living wall sounds too big an investment, evenly spread-out planters will help too.

Another way to bring the office closer to nature is by growing vegetables in the breakout area. Outlandish as it may seem, innovative products like Herbert make this very possible and effective.

Skyscanner’s office in Budapest. Architect: Madilancos Studio

6. Sustainable

From wind turbines and CO2 monitors to foam flushing toilets and treadmill desks, office buildings around the world are raising the bar for sustainability and innovation.

Billed as the most sustainable office building in the world  – a good standard to match, we thought – The Edge (pictured below) boasts a sophisticated design which, coupled with the use of innovative technologies, resulted in an astonishing 98.36% BREEAM score.

Home to Deloitte’s headquarters, the office building harvests rainwater to flush toilets and water its gardens. It also gives staff full control over temperature and light, both regulable via a smartphone app.

What’s more, The Edge also produces its own energy through the use of 800 solar panels and its roof boasts a floor-to-floor scanner that detects when rooms are not being used, thus helping reduce electricity consumption.

If you hadn’t guessed it, sustainably viable offices are not only good for morale, they’re also good for business. Oh, and the environment, too.

The Edge, Amsterdam. Photograph: Ronald Tilleman/PLP architecture

7. Healthy

We’ve talked about the importance of bringing the outside in. We’ve also seen how sustainable office design contributes to the general wellbeing of employees. But a happy office goes beyond green and eco-friendly – it must also promote a healthy way of working.

Developers can make a big impact here; it all starts with the relevant facilities. How about a gym at the office? If you include a gym, you will have to include showers. And locker rooms. And what about the increasing number of workers who cycle to work every day? They might need bike storage facilities indoors.

Smaller offices could negotiate memberships with local gyms or personal trainers. They can also join forces with other companies to chase a better deal with a larger fitness supplier.

Thumbtack San Francisco HQ. Boor Bridges Architecture

8. Wired

The modern office needs technology to thrive. This can translate in the use of automation systems that allow users to control lighting, HVAC and even outdoor shutters for optimum lighting conditions.

High technology also shines through the integration of personalised lighting systems that challenge the one-light-for-all principle. In this instance, employees can control the overhead lighting in their immediate environment. All they would need for this is, you guessed it, a smartphone.

In large offices, gathering location data of all employees can help you determine which areas are more used than others. This information can be gathered through the use of tiny devices called beacons, and shared with the lighting department to help you run a ‘greener’ office.

For everyone’s comfort, office furniture must be wired too. Plug-and-play workstations are trending in offices with limited space. Meeting rooms are equipped with built-in outlets. You get the gist.

After all, millenials don’t have time to run out of power!

Estimote beacons

9. Filled with art

Art is a conversation starter. Made to engage with those who notice it, it is an intellectual asset that fosters interaction and critical thinking.

According to a 2013 research by the British Council for Offices, 61% of workers agree that artwork inspires them to think and work more creatively.

Corporate art is more than a socialising tool, however. It is also a strategic device that offers businesses financial benefits and marketing opportunities.

12 Harmonics by Keith Tyson in Deutsche Bank London. Photograph: Deutsche Bank

10. Fun!

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In recent years, this old proverb has weaved its way into the work culture where the importance of downtime has not only been recognised but also promoted.

More and more concerned with wellbeing in the workplace, companies are incorporating ‘fun’ in the office. Game rooms, ping pong tables and slides in lieu of stairs are no strangers to the work environment as forward-looking offices are slowly turning into carefully balanced playgrounds.

Unsurprisingly, breakout areas are also a key part of the fun. More than a simple room where staff can take five, breakout spaces are becoming fully integrated little hubs designed to foster creativity and collaboration while offering a space away from the screen. From relaxed, shared workspaces to impromptu meeting points, dedicated breakout spaces can also double as scenes for catered lunches, thus allowing companies to save on venue hire. Quite a few perks for one space!

Ticketmaster’s London office. TSK Group

Bonus: Future-proof

A ‘Workplace Wellbeing Special’ would be incomplete without the mention or two about the future. While catering to the employees’ present needs, a successful office space must also be able to anticipate their future needs. This means dynamic space planning, leaving room to grow and embrace change.

Embedding flexibility in the workspace is key. As previously mentioned, this can refer to adaptive furniture but it is also a reminder that people move too. And they should be encouraged to work in different settings.

Cycling facilities at work: 5 factors to consider

in-office bike storage facilities

Cycling facilities at work are becoming increasingly necessary. Here are 5 factors to help landlords and developers cater for a sustainable, profitable future.

Together with company culture, office standards are changing, and with incentives like the Cycle To Work Scheme in place, tenants are now turning to office landlords and developers for cycle provision in the workplace

So, what are the factors to consider when developing a bike-friendly office? 

1. Indoor cycling facilities

in-office bike storage facilities

According to the  BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 manual, "cycling facilities may be located anywhere on site. However, the total route that cyclists must take to access the nearest cycle storage, cyclists' facilities and building entrances must be no greater than 500m via a safe and convenient route." 

Including cycle provision at the shell and core stages of office development, of course, much easier than retrofitting an existing office building. If, however, you fall into the second category and find yourself with restricted space for indoor cycling facilities, think about moving internal refuse stores outside the office building. This will free up some space for your much-wanted in-office bike storage. 

2. Number of cycle spaces

London areas where higher cycle parking standards apply. Source: Transport for London (TFL) 2017

The New London Plan plans aims to increase the minimum standards for cycle parking in B1 offices developments from 1 space per 90 sqm to 1 space per 75 sqm. This applies to areas with higher cycle parking standards (highlighted in red in the map above).

It goes without saying that these figures are only a minimum requirement, but let's put this into context. An office building like The Leandenhall Building, aka. The Cheesegrater, totals 56.671 m2 of office space and includes parking spaces for 400 bicycles and 129 motorcycles.  

Now, The Leadenhall Building is home to 24 companies, one of which is AON with its 500+ employees spread over 10 floors. Following the 1 space per 90 sqm. rule, it should offer 630 parking spaces; but still, compared to its City neighbours, The Cheesgrater scores considerably above average. 

“compared to five years ago, cycling provision is increasingly becoming accepted as an integral component of Grade A office specification”,

Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the British Council for Offices

Of course, not every single occupant is a cyclist, but let's turn to leading sustainability assessment method BREEAM and make predictions a little more realistic. BREEAM ‘Tra 03 Cyclist facilities’ states that landlords and developers should provide 1 bicycle parking space for every 10 occupants. 

Forward-looking companies may also want to think about opportunities for expansion, should more employees opt for a two-wheel commute in the future.

3. Lockers & storage units

office washrooms fitted with ample locker space

Providing bicycle parking is only half the battle of developing a bike-friendly office. Cycle provision also includes convenient storage units and lockers designed to help create a better working environment. 

Anyone who has ever ridden a bike through peak-time London can imagine the challenges of storing wet clothes in an office that does not have appropriate storage facilities. Together with bike parking, lockers are an advantage for tenants and can, therefore, raise the leasing potential of your office development. 

4. Showers

Taking a line from our much-loved BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 manual: 

Compliant cyclist facilities (showers, changing areas etc.) can be provided in shell and core areas of the building as part of the base build. Alternatively, compliance can be demonstrated where the shell and core building is designed to facilitate future installation of the compliant number and type of cyclist facilities by the tenant/owner-occupier through the provision of an appropriately sized and dedicated space in the base building, including either the installation of the appropriate services (for showers) or infrastructure to allow the future installation of the relevant services e.g. capped water supply, service or ventilation ducts, drainage etc.

Shower facilities should be located near the bike parking and ideally, profit from naturally ventilation. Direct access to the core lobby should also be provided. In order for your office development to be BREEAM-compliant, it should include one shower for every 10 cycle storage spaces. Also worth noting that any building comprising eight showers or more is considered compliant, regardless of the number of parking spaces provided.

5. Specifications

Your office can be fit for cyclists as early as the shell & core stage. There is, therefore, no requirement for office cycling facilities to be finished to a high standard. However, here are a few tips to take away with you. 

  • Keep it well-lit.
  • Use slip-resistant flooring.
  • Keep room heights equal or higher than 2.2m. 

What will the office of the future look like?

Ljubljana chamber of commerce boasts biophilic design

From energy-saving to family-conscious, the office of the future will be greener, smarter, and undoubtedly more high-tech.

Office design is changing fast. Designed to adapt to the workers' needs, the office today wants to be open yet flexible. But what about tomorrow? What trends are bound to shape the office of the future? 

Hot-desking

Hot desking inside Air bnb's Tokyo office
Hot-desking area inside Airbnb's Tokyo Office. Suppose Design Office

A recent CBRE report has found that, of the 400 multinationals surveyed, two-thirds plan on embracing the shared-desk concept by 2020.  As versatility becomes the new status quo in the workplace, traditional open-plan offices are already giving way to activity-based working solutions where flexibility is key and the price of a desk has to be justified. 

Energy-saving buildings

bloomberg hq in London is billed the most sustainable office in the world
European Headquarters for Bloomberg, London. Foster + Partners'

With concerns over climate change growing stronger every day, sustainable design is becoming a key practice for developers, architects and engineers alike. 

Anecdotally, Foster + Partners' recently completed European Headquarters for Bloomberg in London was recently voted as the most sustainable building in the world, and it serves as a great example for the future of commercial properties and green building. 

With a BREEAM score of 98.5, the office building features bronze louvres that adapt to changing weather conditions, sensors that adjust airflow according to occupancy, rainwater and water from basins and showers harvesting technologies, and of course, an indoor green wall. Combined with that, Bloomberg's employees will profit from sit-stand workstations, two on-site cycle centres as well as a wellness centre, accentuating the importance of wellbeing in the workplace

Wearables for office workers

don't slouch wearable for work
Anti-slouch wearable by Upright

From activity-trackers, through real-time translation devices, to posture-correcting wearables, high technology is creeping up in the workplace, whether you like it or not. As staff wellbeing becomes increasingly important for productivity and business, will the employer be responsible for providing health-tracking wearables at the office? 

Some American companies like IBM, Time Warner and Target have already partnered with activity-trackers like Fitbit and implemented their own corporate wellness initiatives.

Health insurance giant Vitality has set in place incentives for their employees: hit your step goal and get a discounted Apple Watch!

On-site nurseries

Office nursery visualisation for Second Home in London
On-site nursery proposal, inside London's Second Home Spitalfields. José Selgas and Lucía Cano

In 2003, Goldman Sachs London office opened the first (and to this date only) on-site nursery in the Square Mile.

According to the latest figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Goldman Sachs is one of only 5% of businesses in the UK to offer childcare in the workplace.

Unsurprisingly, that 5 % is exclusively made up of large organisations with funds that match the financial requirements for an on-site creche in the workplace, but the benefits for companies are not insignificant. 

For starters, companies get tax breaks and relief for the day-to-day running and capital costs such as lighting, heating and the premise. On-site nurseries also have an impact on staff retention, making for an easier transition from maternity leave to work.

on-site nursery inside Goldman Sachs London
On-site nursery inside Goldman Sachs London office on Fleet Street

Despite their evident appeal, on-site nurseries at the office still pose significant challenges, as pointed out by Rohan Silva, former government adviser who now runs creative workspace Second Home in East London. These include a costly Ofsted accreditation process and frequent inspections, a chronic shortage of trained staff, strict regulations around designing and building childcare facilities and the need to shift the property developer's mindset. 

All things considered, on-site nurseries in the workplace are a profitable market for landlords and property agents to tap into. 

Biophilic design

Ljubljana chamber of commerce boasts biophilic design
The Ljubljana Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Slovenia. Sadar+Vuga Architects

In line with a more sustainable environment, the office of the future is set to embrace biophilic design. From planting living walls to maximising natural light and improving air quality, offices will pay more importance to staff wellbeing, health and productivity. 

3D printing

3D-printed office in Dubai
The world's first 3D-printed office in Dubai

The use of 3D printing in architecture has yet to reach its full potential and yet, Dubai has already unveiled a proof of concept set to redefine our expectations. 

The world's first 3D-printed office was built in 17 days and cost £110,000. It took a team effort of eighteen people only to oversee the process from start to finish. 

Technology research company Gartner expects 75% of companies to use 3D printing to increase manufacturing by 2020

Remote working

husk coffee and creative space in East London
Husk Coffee And Creative Space, East London

Having said all that, the office of the future might not be an office after all. Ever since the internet infiltrated the workplace in the late 1990s, remote working has been gaining momentum. Industry experts have even started to question the need for an office space

Coffee shops and hotel lobbies already double as informal office spaces, highlighting the possibility of an altogether barrier-free office.

So, how important is the need for an office space? Have we missed a crucial trend? Tweet us your thoughts - we love to be challenged. 

Opening image: Ljubljana Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Slovenia. Sadar+Vuga Architects

Infographic: the evolution of office design

From a linear office layout concerned with rank and manufacturing, to the human-centred workplace we know today, office design has evolved drastically in the past century.

The office wasn't always open-plan, nor was it always focused on collaboration and wellbeing. Heavily influenced by the manufacturing sector in the 1900s, office design has, indeed, jumped through several hoops to become the smart and agile workplace we strive for today. 

From Taylorism, through the infamous Cubicle Farm, all the way to the advent of technology and the office of the future, our infographic of the evolution of office design covers it all. 

 

Infographic of the evolution of office design

Unscripted: modular furniture for a smarter open-plan office

Rockwell's unscripted furniture for Knoll

Designed with the open-plan office in mind, Knoll's Rockwell Unscripted Furniture is the epitome of modular furniture.

Drawing inspiration from his background in theatre and set design, architect and designer David Rockwell recently created Unscripted furniture – a broad collection of modular furniture that promotes a community culture and activity-based working. 

Designed for US brand Knoll, Rockwell Unscripted furniture gives companies the freedom to reconfigure their workspace ad infinitum, converting the open-plan office into stage sets. 

modular furniture for Knoll

Knoll's Rockwell Unscripted furniture collection includes over 30 items in six product categories. From acoustic dividers and tables, through soft seating and modular storage units, to steps and accessories, Knoll's largest launch to date offers everything you might need for your upcoming office fit-out

Rockwell telly screen office dividers

What sets Knoll's Unscripted collection apart from other modular furniture brands is the sheer speed with which employees can divide up their open-plan office to create workspaces for focus work, small gatherings or conference meetings. 

rockwell's unscripted office furniture

The modular furniture collection includes freestanding units as well as pieces that can be wheeled where needed.  It also provides a range of multipurpose furniture elements that help delineate the space.

For example, Rockwell Unscripted modular storage units can serve as functional room dividers as well as creative tool boxes and even conversation board holders. Fully customizable, the A-frame units can also become coat racks and lockers. 

modular unit with an integrated desk
Office with an A-frame modular storage unit

Similarly, Rockwell Unscripted Steps can be used to outline impromptu breakout areas and informal meeting spaces. They can even accommodate whole-group presentations or projections. 

Composed of tiered boxes of varying shapes, these wooden steps can be arranged and moved on the spot according to the users' needs. 

Rockwell's unscripted furniture for breakout area

Knoll's Rockwell Unscripted furniture launch coincides with the demise of the traditional open-plan office and the rise of activity-based working. Very much in line with the needs and aspirations of Generation Y, the smart office furniture collection allows for a versatile office where privacy isn't compromised for collaboration. 

Rethinking the open-plan office – pros, cons, solutions

apple park open-plan office

Collaborative hive or disruptive arena? The open-plan office has long been at the heart of a heated debate.

Strange as it may seem, there was a time when 'open-plan' wasn't the norm. Although the first workspace to resemble an open-plan layout dates back to 1904, the open office as we know it truly boomed in the 1990s.

Designed to blur the lines between people and space, but also between work and play, the wall-less layout has caused controversy ever since. Is it a collaborative hive that fosters human interactions? Or is it a disruptive, unproductive arena where privacy is hard to get by?

open-plan-office-open-source-farm-tables
Open-plan office in Austin, Texas, designed to promote openness

Open-plan office: pros

Fosters collaboration

Naturally, the absence of walls makes communication and interaction that much easier. For millennial-dominated organisations that favour teamwork over isolated enclosed offices, open-plan spaces yield clear benefits. 

By virtue of their openness, such offices also help with team building. And although, as Susan Cain points out, it is often a challenge for introverts, sharing a workspace often brings people together, which contributes to an overall positive work atmosphere. 

Allows for more flexibility

The open-plan layout may well be the most suited to future-proof offices. Indeed, the unrestricted nature of open-plan offices makes structural changes easy to implement. If a business wanted to expand, restructure, or merge with another business, accommodating such changes would be much easier if there were no walls to tear down. 

Reduces costs

An open-plan office can benefit the business economically by reducing costs tied to construction, utilities and office equipment. For example, fewer walls mean less time and materials required to create the office space. Having a single work space also may reduce heating/cooling and electricity expenses thanks to an improved flow of air and light. Businesses can save on equipment investment as well, since communal spaces promote shared use of resources, such as printers, copiers and staplers.

apple park open-plan office
Apple park employees have voiced contempt over having to work in an open-plan office

Open-plan office: cons

Despite its popularity, the open-plan trend has long been suffering from a backlash, particularly from millennials entering the work scene. 

In 2016, Gensler's sought feedback from 1,210 employees at all job levels across 11 industries. The resulting UK Workplace Survey showed that “over 8 million UK employees work in open-plan environments and many of these environments are not designed to promote creativity and innovation.”   

So, why is the open-plan office bad for business and staff wellbeing? 

Bad acoustics

One of the most obvious obstacles to overcome in open offices is ambient noise, which leads to constant distractions that hurt productivity. Overlooking acoustics in the workplace can, therefore, affect not only wellbeing but also the business. 

Distractions

Coupled with poor acoustics, the misleading transparency of open office layouts also means that employees are more likely to be interrupted. This may result in emotional distress, a strong desire for isolation and higher absenteeism rates. 

Lack of privacy

Lack of privacy was one of the main precipitators of the infamous cubicle farm in the 1980s, and it is still a big concern today. Frustrating for both manager and employee, an all-too open layout hinders rather than fosters productivity.

The lack of boundaries translates into an ever-increasing need to get away. Managers take over meeting rooms, staff can only handle private matters away from supervision, even phone calls become a challenge. 

Hygiene

Just like a group of passengers squeezed into a chockful tube are more susceptible to a cold on their morning commute, sick co-workers are more likely to spread the germs in an office with no physical barriers. This may cause productivity to wane and, in worst-case scenarios, lead employees to take more sick days. 

Flexible open-plan office
Knoll Rockwell's unscripted furniture allows for flexibility and freedom of movement

Rethinking the open-plan office

Successful collaboration requires both group efforts and individual focused work

Designing for Focus Work, Haworth

In its 2016 UK Workplace Survey, Gensler highlighted a strong correlation between innovation and private spaces, favouring individual work over collaboration. The study revealed that innovators spend more time working alone than they do in face-to-face collaboration. 

That same year, another survey run by real estate advisor Savills and the British Council for Offices reported a clear dissatisfaction with the number of quiet spaces in their workplace. The What Workers Want survey highlights the discrepancy that exists between offer and demand for "focus workspaces."

As workplace needs evolve, how, then, can office landlords and designers reshape the open-plan office to meet end-user needs?

Habita coworking office in Istanbul
Breakout area doubles up as informal meeting space away from the main workstations

Activity-based working

The main principle behind activity-based working (ABW) is to give employees several options as to how and where they work at the office. This can be achieved by creating pocket areas of activity, each designed for the task at hand. 

The perfect activity-based office will include workstations, collaborative spaces in the shape of informal meeting spaces and conference rooms, as well as quiet focus areas. Striking that balance between open, semi-open, semi-private and private may be challenging, but it is very much in line with what millennials want. 

Cisco's San Francisco office is organised around semi-open pods for informal meetings

Breakout areas for socialising

The 'all work and no play' proverb first entered the workplace scene in the '00s. Today, breakout areas have become ubiquitous among modern organisations keen on blurring the line between work and play.

The socialising element associated with breakout areas also bears fruit from a business standpoint: it isn't outlandish for a coffee break to evolve into an informal yet productive brainstorming session. 

Google Dublin office breakout area
Coworkers socialise inside Google's unmistakably-coloured, sculptural 'O'

Acoustics

Fine-tuning the open-plan office helps significantly improve staff wellbeing and boost the overall prosperity of an organisation. This can be done with decorative acoustic panels, sound masking, or a carefully developed combination of both. 

Acoustic office furniture is another way to provide acoustic relief as well as a quiet environment suitable for focus work. 

office with aircone acoustic panels
Aircone acoustic panels form a sound and visual barrier inside RTR/Emerson Gothernburg's office

Open desks and reduced open-back visibility

Shared workstations with central charging points are gaining popularity in open offices where collaboration is valued. This kind of layout is focused inward, thus minimising open-back visibility and encouraging staff to interact. 

Most open desks can also be mounted with low partitions for an extra layer of privacy.

open plan office with Kano Opendesk
Open-plan office organised around open desks

Privacy screens

Privacy screens are a cost-effective solution to enhancing privacy without putting up rigid walls. Whether it be acoustic panels, glass manifestation or plant screens, such dividers allow for a flexible layout. 

And for those companies that don't want to sacrifice sensitive information for openness, there is always Casper Privacy Film - a high-tech obscuring film that makes screens inside a glazed conference room look black. 

In a nutshell...

Versatility is of the essence in modern open-plan offices.

Once billed as the ultimate office layout, traditional open-plan offices are now losing steam. In order to thrive, office design must do away with the fast-decaying open layout and embrace versatility by offering multiple pockets of activity tailored to specific tasks. 

Eco-friendly carpet 101: the right choice for your office

Landlords looking to up the value of their commercial properties should pay close attention to the green factor when choosing an eco-friendly carpet for their offices.

'Eco-friendly' is on everyone's lips these days. Fierce competition among designers and manufacturers has placed carpet design in the forefront of sustainable flooring innovations. Whether it be area rugs, wall-to-wall installations or fully customizable carpet tiles, carpet manufacturers in the UK are putting an emphasis on recycling and natural materials with limited environmental impact, and the beneficiaries of this green endeavour don't stop at the planet.

Landlords and property agents looking to up the value of their commercial properties and attract carbon-conscious tenants should pay close attention to the green factor when choosing a carpet for their offices.

What to look for in an eco-friendly carpet? 

The most environmentally friendly carpets are made from natural, renewable fibres; this includes organic wool and cotton, jute, bamboo, sisal, seagrass and coir. That being said, looking at the 'made of' list doesn't guarantee a 100% eco-friendly carpet. Indeed, some carpets have been treated with insect and flame repellents that will cause some of the worst (dangerously invisible) off-gassings.

These off-gassings usually come from the carpet backing, so be sure to look for backings that have been sewn or glued using non-toxic adhesives low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs.) Some of the best carpet backings or pads are made from non-synthetic latex, camel hair felt, or untreated wool. A CRI Indoor Air Quality label is what you want.

Tessera loop pile carpet, Forbo

If your carpet isn't made from sustainable materials, it can still be eco-friendly if it is recycled. Some are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles - you'll find them under the name of PET carpets, or P.E.T carpets  (polyethylene terephthalate.) Some advantages to PET fibres include stain and abrasion resistance and low moisture absorption. Other rugs are made by recycling old, used carpets, provided they are in suitable condition to be recycled.

Who manufactures eco-friendly carpets?

Interface

In 1994, Interface started the first carpet tile recycling initiative. Known as ReEntry, the program now involves separating the carpet from its backing and recycling more product into new Nylon fibre. Interface is also on a 'Mission Zero' to completely eliminate the company's environmental impact by 2020.

On-line, off-line carpet collection, Interface

Desso

Desso's innovative Take Back™ programme ensures that worn-out carpet tiles are recycled into new carpet products. Defying the cradle to grave model, Desso's ambitious initiative follows the Cradle to Cradle® approach pioneered by Professor Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough. 

In addition to its carpet manufacturing, Desso is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by increasing its use of green electricity and covering its roof by 25,000 m2 of solar panels.

Take Back™ programme, Desso

Milliken

Specialised in minimising waste during its manufacturing process, Milliken focuses on the use of recycled materials in lieu of petroleum and other oil-based components. Milliken's eco-friendly carpet uses an ECONYL® nylon yarn made from equal parts post-industrial and post-consumer recycled fibres. In addition, the company uses 90% recycled polyurethane for its Comfort Plus® range of lightweight, carpet tile backing.

Arctic Survey commercial carpet, Milliken

Forbo

Forbo recycles old carpet, fishing nets and plastic bottles to manufacture innovative eco-friendly carpets such as the Coral entrance flooring collection. Forbo's Tessera tiles contain over 58% recycled content by weight, while their Westbond tiles have a minimum of 70% recycled content in their backing. Forbo's carpets are also easy to clean thanks to a system called Dry Fusion which requires less water and fewer chemicals to perform.

Coral entrance flooring, Forbo

Recycling is one of several other factors to take into consideration when choosing the right flooring for your office. An invaluable tool in the landlord's toolbox, office flooring is an important decision.

Choosing your office flooring: 6 factors at play

When it comes to office flooring, looking beyond the cost of your initial purchase can mean considerable savings in the long run.

Comparing office flooring solutions for your business can sound like a chore, but weighing up the pros and cons is key in avoiding later headaches. 

Factors to consider vary from traffic, through maintenance, to budget, but what exactly should you look out for before you take your pick? Let's have a closer look.

1. Traffic  

Concrete flooring at Saatchi Saatchi 's New York office. Architect: M Moser

The reception area, very much like the corridors in your office, is considered a high-traffic area: it receives so much foot traffic that it needs a highly durable floor.

Good examples of low-maintenance, durable floors include polished concrete – one of the most heavy-duty options out there – and vinyl. Slip-resistant finishes are also a good idea, particularly in busy reception areas where accidents might occur in wet weather.You can also opt for a thin-pile carpet, especially in offices in need of noise insulation. 

To prolong the lifespan of your carpet, you can install an entrance barrier system designed to resist the transfer of dirt and moisture from the outside onto the carpet inside.

Terrazzo, marble and granite are some other durable flooring solutions since their hard surfaces are made to withstand heavy traffic.

2. Ease of repair 

CBRE Sydney's office features the elegant Otta parquet by Tongue N Groove. WMK Architecture

If you think about it, ease of repair should be an obvious factor to consider when choosing your office flooring. Landlords, however, often get sidetracked by other factors such as aesthetics and, let's be honest, budget. It just so happens that budget highly correlates with ease of repair.  

What happens when my flooring starts to wear out? Can I get it fixed or will it need replacement? How easy will it be to replace and how long will it take? 

Unsurprisingly, reception areas and hallways are usually the first ones to take the hit and wear out. Think about flooring options that offer flexibility. Carpet tiles and concrete are great ideas; laminate and hardwood, not so much.

3. Maintenance

Woven vinyl flooring by Jean Nouvel for Bolon 

You can't get away without at least some maintenance. The easiest to look after is probably concrete, but even that can come with cracks in need of patching. Carpets will suffer from spills,  vinyl composite tiles (VCT) often have to be stripped and replaced with new ones, terrazzo tiles need regular buffing, marble has to be polished... You get the gist.

Be sure to know your maintenance costs as you are likely to spend more money on looking after your floor than you did on the initial purchase.

4. Life-cycle costing

The general belief behind life-cycle costing is one we have all experienced in our personal lives: the cheapest option always ends up costing more. 

Life expectancy of any flooring depends on issues such as traffic and level of maintenance, both hard to predict by manufacturers. A well-maintained floor may last longer than the rated life expectancy period. Conversely, a poorly maintained floor may wear out sooner than expected. When choosing your flooring, be sure to analyze the kind of work your occupants will be doing in the space, how often they will do it and how each flooring will cope.

5. Recycling 

Desso's TakeBack™ programme  ensures that every carpet  they is recycled according to the Cradle to Cradle® principles.

Some floors have higher levels of volatile organic compounds than others. What does that mean? Simply that the elements in your flooring will have a direct impact on the air quality in your office. 

Ecofriendly flooring can mean "made from sustainable materials" and it can mean "recycled from previous projects." In that regard, one of the most sustainable flooring options is the carpet, as it allows for recycled elements to be incorporated into the material. Brands that manufacture sustainable carpets for the workplace include MillikenDessoForbo and Interface

If carpet does not suit your business, you may want to consider other sustainable flooring options, such as bamboo and cork floors, linoleum or luxury vinyl tile.

6. Budget

We're finally here. The million-dollar question.  How much will it cost me? 

Choosing the cheaper flooring option is the wrong approach and the wrong attitude, but deep down, you already knew that. Instead, consider the life-cycle cost of the flooring in parallel with your budget. Strategise long-term. Align your choice with your business values, not only with current trends. And of course, consult with experts who will help you determine which option best fits your budget.

 
Skype Stockholm offices. pS Arkitektur

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Opening image: woven vinyl flooring by Jean Nouvel for Bolon 

What flooring is best for your office?

Office flooring, like designer furniture and workplace innovations, is becoming an invaluable tool in the commercial landlord's toolbox.

In recent years, the floor has seen some of the most innovative materials and designs in creative workplaces. From warm to industrial, from sleek monochrome to bursting with colour, from stylish vinyl tiles to hipster concrete, office flooring has become an invaluable tool in the commercial landlord's toolbox.

Useful in brand-carrying, flooring can also be brought into play when defining areas of your office with different functions: you might, for example, use concrete throughout the space but highlight the breakout area with a hardwood flooring. 

The growing trend to specify contrasting materials and textures means that some unlikely flooring combinations may arise in the future, but what about the basics?

What is the best flooring option for your office? 

Vinyl flooring – stylish and affordable

Forbo’s Tessera Alignment carpet tiles inside Data solution company Qlik, at Tower 42, London. Designers: Crisp Design

Pros:

  • Its long-lasting performance makes it popular for commercial flooring.
  • Ideal for big offices with high traffic
  • Resistant to damage, like dents and scratches
  • Available in countless colours and designs
  • Easy to clean and with minimal maintenance

Cons:

  • Not biodegradable
  • Susceptible to discolouration when it comes in contact with rubber such as in mats or rubber shoe heels

Hardwood flooring – the classic

E&O Singapore's office boasts Hakwood Delft herringbone flooring

Pros: 

  • Has been a stylish look year after year
  • Durable and easy to clean

Cons: 

  • Costly
  • Soft wood will scratch and blemish easily
  • Can be noisy when walking across it
  • Choose a pre-finished floor to prevent damage from moisture

Laminate – versatile and inexpensive

Kronoswiss white oak laminate flooring

Pros:

  • More inexpensive alternative to wood flooring, tiles or stone
  • Simple to install and does not scratch or dent easily
  • Durable and easy to clean and maintain
  • Also comes in a variety of options from smooth and embossed to patina and wood grain laminate.

Cons:

  • Excessive water can seep into the seams between boards and cause swelling, so special laminate floor cleaner is required
  • As a result, buckling or warping can appear as a result of moisture. 
  • If heavily worn, scratched, or grooved, it cannot be sanded or refinished like solid hardwood: it must be replaced.

Carpet – hardwearing and cost-effective

Artistic Liberties carpet, by Milliken Carpet 

Pros: 

  • Suitable for businesses in need of noise insulation
  • Carpet tiles provide more flexibility and come in different styles and patterns, allowing for a wide range of choices to match the brand and aesthetic of an office.

Cons: 

  • Can easily get stained
  • May require close attention over time. 

Concrete – trendy and brimming with potential

Stylish zoning inside Saatchi & Saatchi's New York office. Architect: M Moser

Pros:

  • Low-maintenance: properly sealed concrete floors minimise the appearance of dirt, grit, stains and spills. A little damp mopping is all it needs to look new
  • Can be dyed to produce a wide range of earthy colours
  • Allows for surface treatments such as acid stains, concrete stains for unique finishes.
  • Can also be stamped with rubber stencils for more texture.
  • Can be made to mimic ceramic tile, natural stone, or brick.
  • When poured over an existing slab, can be embedded with  electrical cables or hot water tubes for added radiant heat 

 Cons:

  • Undeniably hard underfoot
  • Even expertly installed concrete may develop cracks over time. That’s due to inevitable changes in temperature, moisture and settling. Opt for coloured cement paste and patching materials to help disguise cracks.
  • Although concrete itself is biodegradable, the process of making cement requires a lot of energy and produces carbon dioxide.

 

Opening image: Whale Song, by Milliken Carpet