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Office Balance and Ergonomics

“Design is a balance between form and function…it takes two” Unknown

“Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future” Robert L. Peters

“Everything is designed. Few things are designed well.” Brian Reed 

 

The Balanced Office

It’s no surprise that today’s workforce is different to that of the past. With advances in technology and a workforce with a new mindset like Millennials, the office design has changed and become more open plan, a stark contrast to the cubicles commonly found in the 80’s. However, there is great debate as to whether these open plan offices are beneficial given the lack of privacy and the potential for increased employee distraction.   

This is the biggest problem designers, architects and corporate decision makers face –the balance between closed and open office environments.  Concentration versus collaboration.  There are several varying factors that come into play when picking an office design, which includes:

Open vs private work environments

At the time open plan offices seemed like a great idea as it was believed to encourage creativity, discussion, team building and collaboration. They are also less costly to implement and more flexible to accommodate change.  However, issues of privacy and concentration emerge counteracting productivity. Therefore both private and open office spaces are necessary to create a perfect balance of collaboration and idea-flow with concentration and efficiency. This can be achieved through the use of huddle rooms and unassigned private spaces.

Hot Desking

Due to the global interconnectivity and collaboration of employees, especially within larger organisations, the need for travel has grown which has resulted in the increased use in hot desking. The range of hot desks usually available in an office enables employees to choose where they want to sit whilst they can come and go as they please fostering productivity for specific individuals.

Overall, the office design space is constantly changing but an office that acknowledges the balance between open and private space is one that creates a flexible environment where employees can make a choice as to where, when and how they work, thus facilitating in continuous productivity. Essentially, variety is key.

 

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The Positive Workplace

The Positive Workplace was created by Blue Jelly and is a result of our commitment to promoting workplace wellbeing; it involves four holistic elements including planning, nature, mobility and health. These combined with Truly seamless technology are what makes a great working environment. Features of the positive workplace include:

Havens –these are hidden areas within the workplace where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the office to have ad-hoc conversations and catch ups. Havens are ideal for quick medium length informal conversation where you can relax in the typically upholstered and comfortable environment.

Brand Integration –this is key for every business; ensuring that the workplace successfully integrates the business culture, ethics and ideals in order to promote ownerships and belonging amongst the workforce. In turn, it helps organisations to attract and retain its talent.

Storage/Libraries –With digital archiving becoming more prominent, storage solutions aren’t overbearing spaces in the office anymore. Therefore, it may be worth considering consolidating the storage area into dark high-density areas thus leaving the main office landscape open and light.

Refreshment Hub –It’s in our human nature to want to interact with other people and have some variety in our lives, this is why it’s great to have a refreshment hub where colleagues can “collide”, chat, generate ideas, talk about the news and gossip. This brings a ‘buzz’ to the office that should be embraced.

Review –This is the bridge between the traditional “closed door” meeting room, they provide areas with space, versatility and integrated technology to carry out group gathering of a non-confidential nature

Concentration/Study –Places where employees can go for periods of deeper concentration are equally important as lively meeting areas. They tend to accommodate 1-2 people and can intentionally devoid of distracting technology e.g. smartphones.

Meeting room –These areas are still vital to an organisation for confidential meetings, formal presentations and business reviews. It’s all about balance.

Dedicated Workstation –With teams becoming ever mobile the need for hot desking or desk sharing increases and is a viable approach for many organisation, however, this doesn’t apply to everyone and if the nature of your work and office attendance is static and consistent then a dedicated space is very much relevant.

Acoustics –Decades ago “Knowledge Sharing” was all the rave, however, this only works when distraction and noise can be intelligently managed, but today there are many products that oblige in this request.

Touchdown Hub –A defined zone, or “neighbourhood”, for nomadic workers and visitors to use.

Landing –With the increased reduction of desk sizes, landing spaces have become more popular as they allow teams to use already built furniture spaces that cater for their needs. They are simply planned, with power and often height adjustable to suit all.

Bench Desking –A standard modern interpretation of desk clusters, they typically have shared components, recessed legs and ingenious accessories; it’s also capable of natural ‘flex’ that suits business change. 

Manager Settings –Traditional managerial areas can be arranged and enhanced by a wealth of secluded and stylish furnishings. A variety of products can be used to create footprints to suit any requirement whilst still maintaining team collaboration.

For more information about the positive workplace take a look at our blog post here: http://bluejelly.net/blog/introducing-the-positive-workplace/

 

A Feng Shui Office

Now we’ve looked at how to find that perfect balance, let’s move on to the office design. Although there are several ways to design an office one type of design sticks out whenever it comes to balances interior design.

Feng Shui is a phrase that gets thrown around when designing and finding the right balance with interiors, people try to utilise however not everyone succeeds. When done correctly, especially in an office environment, it can help individuals feel inspired, productive and powerful as well as enhance creativity, discipline and success. Here are 6 essential guidelines to create the most effective Feng Shui office:

  1. Clear clutter and organise
  2. Ensure your desk is in the right place to create a ‘power position’:

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 Photo credit: http://www.feng-shui-and-beyond.com/

 

  1. Use appropriate artwork and imagery –use imagery and aesthetics to inspire creativity and productivity
  2. Balance and harmonise the space –either through yin and yang elements or through Feng Shui elements e.g. wood, earth, metal, fire and water
  3. Choose suitable Feng Shui office colours –these can include soft yellow, sandstone, pale gold, pale orange, pale green and blue-green. White increases mental focus and clarity whereas browns and earth tones stabilise the office.
  4. Incorporate stress relievers – Choose furniture with rounded edges, avoid using harsh lighting. Music, running water or mist with essential oils helps to reduce stress levels.

Ultimately, your workplace represents your business and therefore as soon as someone walks in they should instantly recognise that this is your office. For example, if you ever found yourself at Google’s offices you’d immediately know where you are. Your office is an extension of your brand and so it should reflect this.  

 

Top ergonomic design tips for your office

Once you have found the perfect balance between office layout and design, the next stage is to incorporate ergonomically friendly features that can boost creativity, productivity and efficiency –what’s not to like?!

Lighting

As many people spend several hours a day in an office it’s important to utilise as much natural light as possible otherwise it can negatively impact morale and productivity. Similarly, artificial lighting can cause stress, fatigue and eye strain. According to 2014 study at Northwestern medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that employees who had more exposure to natural light slept better and longer at night and also did more physical activity.

Break Out Spaces

These informal spaces allow for a change of scenery as well as breaking down barriers to communication whilst increasing the opportunity for spontaneity. Conversations made in these areas can lead to great ideas that may affect the future of the business positively. Break out areas needn’t be in another room, a table with chairs in an area of the office will suffice.

Scott says: In your breakout area have a bowl of items people can ‘fidget’ with, I like to use Lego, this has been proven to improve focus, ease anxiety and boost creative thinking.

Temperature

Believe it or the temperature of a workplace really affects employee performance. Research from Cornell University found that increasing office temperature to 25 degrees Celsius meant employees were able to type 150% and typing errors reduced by 44%.

Colour

Colour plays a huge part in office balance and design, each colour represents something different and has a big impact on our psychological well-being. Here is a selection of colours and what they make us feel, think and act:

  • Red is seen as energising and warming, stimulating and can be perceived as aggressive
  • Blue stimulates thought processes, communication and concentration but can be seen as cold and unemotional
  • Orange is a fun colour but can be overwhelming
  • Green helps to relax and reassure individuals
  • Black is perceived as serious and sophisticated
  • White heightens the perception of space but can be a strain to look at

 

Plants

Did you know if you can see a plant from your desk you are likely to experience a 15% increase in productivity? It also increases happiness and enhances the ‘natural’ environment of the offices; they help prevent fatigue, can be restorative and maintain focus.

Scott says: Buy a peace lily, these plants are great for offices, they need little sunlight and attention. Alternatively, cacti and aloe plants are great too.

Furniture

Remember being sat at schools on uncomfortable hard chairs that would make it hard to focus on your ‘what I did on my holiday’ piece of work? The same goes for the office, investing in good furniture will save you more in the long run through the reduction of absenteeism and employees will thank you for not having any back problems. Additionally, the use of a good desk and monitor will help reduce the potential for neck and eye strain.

Here is a handy guide on how to set up your desk for productivity and ergonomics highlighting the key factors mentioned above: 

 Desk design for productivity and ergonomics.png

Photo credit: zapier.com

 

Ultimately the perfectly balanced and ergonomically friendly office comes down to three things, finding out what office environment best suits your culture whether it be fully open plan, private cubicles or a combination of both. Secondly, your office is an extension of your brand and therefore the design should reflect this. Finally, it’s important to ensure good levels of creativity and productivity are maintained; to achieve this ergonomic factors such as furniture, lighting and temperature are important to consider and implement into the design.

Take a look at your office and see if it follows our tips –What’s missing or what would you like to see more of in your office? Tweet us a picture of your office and we’ll see if we can offer some suggestions. Alternatively, if you’re looking to refurbish your office, get in touch we’d love to hear from you!

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