How does an office fit out affect workplace performance?

What is the secret to good office design? What are the benefits of a commercial office fit out and how does it affect workplace performance?

Fitting out a new office might be the biggest, most expensive project your company will take on so it is important to be prepared and know your strategy and end goal. From function to aesthetics, your new office should reflect your values and take the business forward, focusing on your future needs without neglecting the current ones.

 

Ansarada Sydney offices by Those Architects and End Of Work. Photography: Brett Boardman 

Office fit outs are no easy task, that is why we have created a detailed overview to help you plan and prepare for the big change.

Start with the 'why' behind your office fit out

Do your research early on; what works in your space and what doesn't? What are the biggest obstacles and why are they hindering your growth? How will your business profit from a complete refurbishment?

The more questions you can answer, the more effective your fit out will be. Here are some to get you started:

  • Why the need for refurbishment? Are you looking to expand or are you making concessions?
  • What kind of fit out do you need? Are you refurbishing a new space or your existing office? Are you carrying out a CAT B fit out or going back to basics with a CAT A and CAT B installation?
  • How is your business going to change in the next few years?
  • Are you looking to boost morale and office performance?
  • Is your office outdated and no longer reflects your business?
  • Do you want to boost your environmental rating and promote sustainability to employees, clients and prospects?

 Key benefits of a good office fit out

Design must reflect the practical and aesthetic in business but above all... good design must primarily serve people

Thomas J. Watson
Health sciences company DSM offices by  Studio Niels and BroekBakema architects.

IBM founder Thomas J. Watson knew what he was talking about and Gensler proved it by surveying a panel-based sample of 1,200 UK office workers at all job levels across 11 industries.

Their UK workplace Survey 2016 results reported that over 8 million UK employees are negatively affected by poorly designed open-plan spaces. The key reason behind this dissatisfaction appeared to be the lack of alternative settings and more enclosed spaces for both individual and group work.

Another factor worth noting is that, despite being in a period of economic recovery, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that UK GDP per worker is lower than all other G7 nations barring Japan, thus making it critical for offices to perform at maximum effectiveness.

How can an office fit out help you perform best? What are some benefits you can expect?

Keynsham Civic Centre, by AHR

1. Morale and productivity

Good design affects mood, productivity and wellbeing. A well-thought-out office, complete with a diverse range of working spaces and break-out areas, is bound to increase performance. Simply put, good design makes people happier, thus more productive.

2. Business performance and growth

Design and emotions go hand in hand. A poorly designed office space will likely speak to a poorly-run business, while an office fit out will help retain top employees and attract new prospects.

3. Brand identity and culture

Your office should reflect your motto, values, culture and convey the personality of the brand. It should also be an advertising tool, an extension of your marketing strategy – in other words, a clever physical representation of your website.

Google offices in Milan, by AMA - Albera Monti & Associati

4. Space optimisation

Recent mergers or acquisitions, just like downsizing, often require space reorganisation. An office refurbishment will allow you to upgrade or introduce new facilities and create a balanced working environment.

Your office layout should take into consideration the different departments and their respective needs. The sales department needs privacy (and soundproofed walls for those phone calls) while the creative department may require more collaborative spaces to brainstorm ideas.

5. New or upgraded facilities

Are your conference rooms looking dated? Is your office lacking a breakout space where your workers can relax and exchange ideas in a more informal environment? What about your IT? And how would you rate the quality of your office lighting? Are you getting enough natural light?

We're counting at least five ways you can profit from an office refurbishment and of course, with great benefits comes great responsibility. So how do you tackle a big office fit out?

Photo by Crew on Unsplash

Your office fit out checklist: things to consider

 1. First impressions are key

First impressions are the most lasting, especially if you are a client-facing business. A good office fit out can ensure that your office sells your business as much as your staff do. Common areas are particularly influential and a great way to make a statement while also providing comfort. Some ideas:

  • An engaging reception with striking reception desk and comfortable waiting areas.
  • Architectural and design features like multipurpose staircases, living walls, design lighting, etc.
  • Coffee shop and/or communal spaces open to the public.
  • Atriums, public thoroughfares and amenities that encourage people to walk through your workplace (and notice it).
  • Artwork, commissioned office murals by local artists, sculptural lighting, etc
Trelleborg office reception, Bangalore, by Zyeta Studios

2. Budget counts

Knowing how much you can spend will save you many a headache and hunting for quotes is that much easier when you are in control of your finances. Here are a few factors to consider when calculating your budget:

  • Costs associated with a potential relocation.
  • Duration and costs of equipment and furnishings storage.
  • The fit out itself (including a brief, technical plans, delivery of materials, building assessment and project management)
  • New furniture and equipment.
  • IT and telecommunications infrastructure.

3. Design should be in sync with your brand identity

Everything in your office, from inviting common areas to pristine washrooms, should reflect your company's values. Consider glass manifestation, colour schemes, etc. to highlight brand identity.

Decca Records Project offices by Kim Walter

4. Office trends trend for a reason

What are the latest offices trends? Don't follow the masses blindly but, by all means, draw inspiration from what works and what doesn't, what your target audience is looking for and how you can best provide for it.

Can standing desks or desks on wheels encourage flexibility and productivity? Are natural materials gaining in popularity? Are multipurpose spaces key to efficient offices?

5. Cloud technologies offer flexibility

An increase in cloud-based technologies allows companies to get rid of outdated infrastructure and make room for, say a second conference room. Cloud computing also offers more flexibility as enables some staff to work from home, thus contributing to the overall office performance.

How would cloud-based technologies affect the size or your server or communications room? Could they allow for better document control and contribute to the image of a forward-looking business?

An office fit out should cater to these electronic needs with frequent, well-located powerpoints.

IT consultancy Thoughtworks offices in Soho, London by Morgan Lovell

6. Efficient system designs make life easier

Depending on your future office needs, basic systems like lighting and temperature control can be made smarter and more efficient. To consider:

  • Lighting: From pendant lights to desk lamps and sconces, you're spoilt for choice, but which lighting scheme is best for you? Consider bespoke lighting to set yourself apart.
  • Windows and louvres: Should they be operated manually or remotely?
  • Air conditioners: How will they be controlled and what is the most efficient schedule? Where will they be placed for optimised temperature?
  • Electrical sockets: Are there enough and are they placed according to your staff's needs?
  • Thermostats: Who controls the temperature and from where?

7. Going green saves more than trees

From going paperless to making use of available daylight, adopting a sustainable approach can be very beneficial to your business. Here are some ways you can reduce your carbon footprint while improving your office performance:

  • Investing in solar technology will help slash those electricity bills by powering your lights and heating your water.
  • Taking full advantage of sunlight will improve staff morale and reduce the need for overhead and desk lighting.
  • Going paperless will help you save money on printers and resources and, since less filing cabinets will be required, free up office space. It will help reduce energy usage in the paper industry, reduce fuel consumption and of course, save trees.
Cuningham Group offices in California, United States, by Cuningham Group

 A commercial office fit out should promote a cultured image and a flexible, well thought-out working environment.  It is an excellent opportunity for businesses to rearrange and update certain aspects of the company in an organised, cohesive way.

The result should make for an attractive, efficient workplace that is in tune with the company's needs and plans for the future, not only the present.

Opening photo by Diego Aguilar on Unsplash

Hygge at work – it starts with the landlord!

coworking space with a hygge vibe

 

Somewhere between cosy and sustainable, hygge at work can be fostered by office landlords as early in the process as a Cat A fit out.

What is hygge?

For all we know, you may have lived in a cave for the past year and missed out on the ‘hygge’ craze. That’s okay, welcome to 2019. Let’s fill you in real quick.  First introduced by the Danes, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) can be translated as a blend of “cosiness”, “comfort” and “contentment” all at once. Mindfulness meets carpe diem – hygge is gentle a reminder to slow down and savour the little things, but also a quest for health and wellbeing. It is about a sustainable way of being. And with over 2.5m #hygge Instagram posts shared this year, the popularity of hygge in the U.K. is everything but a coincidence.

Open-plan office with subtle hints of hygge at work
With its muted lighting, acoustic walls and lowered ceilings, the Zendesk San Francisco office was inspired by the Danish concept of “hygge”

Hygge at work  

Initially, the hygge concept belonged to the home. Think crackling fire, woollen throws, a steaming cup of tea, sitting in harmony amidst a rustic Scandinavian interior. Although it may have started as a response to the long and cold Danish winters, hygge doesn’t need cold weather to thrive, though. Nor does it require warm blankets, for it is not material. It is a state of mind.

Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things


The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking

In late 2016, “hygge” was shortlisted as the Oxford word of the year — proof that the Danish definition of happiness has well percolated Western culture, and, incidentally, transcended the home to cosy up with the workplace.

It may seem contradictory at first — how can an office be cosy and relaxing if employees are to remain productive and efficient? It is doubtful that health and safety regulations will ever include a clause for aromatherapy candles and fireplaces at the office. There is, however, a place for hygge at work, and the journey to wellbeing in the workplace starts earlier in the process than you might think.

A resource for employers and landlords alike

The hygge craze may have already entered the workplace scene, but its full potential remains an untapped resource for landlords and property developers who like to think outside the box while staying on trend. While several how-to resources exist to encourage employers and employees to embrace hygge in the workplace, very little has been said to foster hygge from the very beginning of the office design cycle.

Indeed, the comforting health-imbued influence of hygge can be brought into the office well before the hunt for tenants begins. It may even help. So how can landlords and property agents make the workplace hygge-ready at the stage of a Cat A office fit out, while still offering a flexible environment ready for personnalisation?

How can the Danish state of mind be fostered in a Cat A fit out?

Think light and warmth

Cat A fit out with warm timber flooring
Cat A office fit out with an industrial yet warm feel

While flexibility and a “blank canvas” look are key in  Cat A fit outs, knowing your audience can often help you stand out. And with wellbeing in the workplace being in the forefront of office trends, you might want to take a stand and position yourself as an advocate of wellbeing, or hygge at work, from the get-go.

Needless to say, this should be done in subtle ways. Think warm textures, wooden flooring. energy-saving lighting, sustainably sourced materials that will appeal to the green customer. Location and natural lighting are also worth taking into consideration.

Tap into the cycle-to-work scheme

The Alphabeta cycle-in office in London has a ramp for bike commuters
Bike commuters can cycle into the Alphabeta office and ride to basement and bike storage via a ramp

End-of-trip facilities are becoming more and more important to the modern-day tenant. Very much in line with the Danish reminder to live healthily, cycling is a crucial part of the London commute. And although the numbers remain static, reports show that more commuters would cycle to work if they were provided with adequate end-of-trip facilities.

Incorporating bike storage, locker rooms and shower facilities in the common area of the office building will not only hygge-up the workplace, it will also attract tenants willing to pay higher rent for a more sustainable lifestyle.

Pave the way for hyggelig common areas

momondo office inner courtyard for socialising

Work-life balance is key to Danish culture and an essential element to hygge. While employers can promote a more relaxed company culture by offering wellness incentives and creating socialising spaces, landlords can pave the way for a hyggelig office by focusing on the common areas of said workplace.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office will know – most interactions happen in shared spaces. In other words, landlords who go above and beyond to cater to those shared spaces show a clear understanding of the Millennials’ need for interaction and collaboration. If office reception areas, lift lobbies and washrooms all reflect this understanding at the early stage of a Cat A fit out, offices may well command higher rent and landlords will find it easier to attract (and retain) tenants.