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  • Is your office outdated and no longer reflects your business?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

Should more offices swap stairs for slides?

Playground equipment isn't just for kids.

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.

 

Box.net's office reception slide. Architect: Fennie+Mehl

More and more concerned with wellbeing in the workplace, companies are incorporating 'fun' in the office. Game rooms, ping pong tables and football nets are no strangers to the workplace as forward-looking offices are slowly turning into carefully balanced playgrounds. So why should the staircase not get a fun makeover too?

You might've taken notice of Google and its obsession with slides, but more and more companies around the world are now jumping on the bandwagon and installing slides in their offices. Some are sleek and minimal, others remind us of wild attraction parks but whatever the design, one ride is enough to bring back playful childhood memories – all from the comfort of the office.

Integrating playground apparatus into the workplace is rarely governed by whim. More than fun smooth chutes, slides mean business - they can give an edge to the workplace and increase job satisfaction.

To inspire you, let's look at some companies with slides in their offices. 

Google Zurich
theCHIVE Austin Texas
theCHIVE Austin Texas
Lego Denmark
Google Detroit
Ogilvy & Mather Jakarta
Opening photo: Ticketmaster London

The green wall gains popularity in the workplace

Green wall inside Slack's Vancouver offices

As the green wall becomes more and more present in the workplace, we take a look at some of the most inspiring offices that feature living walls.

Last month, we discussed the benefits of green walls in your workplace. Today, we take a look at 15 offices that have used greenery to their advantage.

Whether it be a creative studio, a co-working space or a law firm, green walls are a surefire way to give your tired office a new lease of life. 

They make for great room dividers in large open plan offices, they can act as a refreshing backdrop in your meeting area or waiting room, and if you lack the space (or budget), you can always replace a poster or two with bright green, wall-mounted planters.

Don't know where to start? Here are four ways to use living walls in the workplace.

1. Uplift the reception area

Office reception area with a living wall
Fuschia pink and natural green blend in inside Microsoft's Building 44 office reception area. By  ZGF Architects
Etsy Brooklin office by Gensler
Etsy's office in Brooklyn, New York features green walls and colourful ceiling decorations. By Gensler
Large green wall in Boston office
The Sonos offices in Boston feature a large green wall in a double-height space. By IA Interior Architects
Waiting area with green wall
Eclectic waiting area with industrial elements and a lush green wall inside Maritime data analytics firm Windward's Tel Aviv office by Roy David Studio

2. Freshen up the office lobby

Large atrium with living wall
Large living wall inside Yoga clothing retailer Lululemon Athletica's office atrium in Vancouver, British Columbia. By Gustavson Wylie Architects
Insurance law firm office with living walls
Sculptural staircase and mini green walls punctuate the waiting area at insurance law firm Wotton + Kearney. By futurespace
Green wall inside Slack's Vancouver offices
Exposed brick walls, contemporary lighting and a bright living wall inside Slack's office Vancouver, British Columbia. By Leckie Studio

3. Infuse character into the breakout area

vistaprint office with a living wall
Contemporary breakout area with a green wall at Cimpress and Vistaprint. By Margulies Perruzzi Architects
Breakout area with green wall inside coworking office Hong Kong
Coworking office The Work Project in Hong Kong boasts an eye-catching green wall. By Bean Buro
Breakout area with green wall
Collaborative space with a green wall divider inside Multinational food and beverage company Mondelez International Madrid office. By Areazero 2.0
Skyscanner Budapest office
Skyscanner's Budapest office is bursting with greenery. By Madilancos Studio

4. Spruce up the common areas

breakout area with a green wall
Colourful furniture and well-lit green walls at Facebook's Tel Aviv headquarters. By Setter Architects
Green walls at BKM headquarters
Green accents add personality inside BKM headquarters by Hollander Design Group
Yandex office replete with living walls
Living walls inside tech company Yandex in Moscow. By Atrium

‘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.