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How a lack of privacy is killing open plan office productivity

Does an office without boundaries create division among workers?

An open-plan office should be a collaborative space, right? A place where workers interact and communicate without hindrance by boundaries such as cubical walls and room dividers. But despite this seemingly obvious statement, the opposite is truer. Open plan office productivity from collaboration is a myth.

A recent study looked at the impact of ‘open’ workspaces on human collaboration. It found that the amount of face-to-face communication dropped by 70% while electronic communication increased by up to 50%.

How was collaboration measured?

Researchers followed two firms during a planned layout change from a cubicle-dominated office to an open plan style. Both firms were Fortune 500 multi-nationals who were about to redesign an office at their head office. The researchers recorded the employee’s behaviours before and after the layout change.

Prior studies looking to measure productivity and collaboration in the workplace have relied upon surveys and activity logging by the workers. This study, by Ethan S. Bernstein and Stephen Turban of Havard University, instead employed a wearable tech device or ‘sociometric badge’.

wearable tech measures open plan office productivity

Sociometric badge measures collaboration in the open-plan office

The badge recorded their face-to-face interactions. The devices worked when they came in close proximity to another badge i.e. when the participants were interacting. The aim of the device was to capture a great deal of data:

  • An infrared sensor captured whom they were facing
  • A microphone captured whether they were talking or listening (without recording what was said for privacy).
  • A movement sensor captured body movement and posture
  • Plus a Bluetooth sensor to record their location within the office

The first study had 52 participants (about 40% of the total workers) and monitored them for 15 working days before the transition. The study used a settling-in period of two months to allow for the changes to become embedded. The monitoring of the participants then continued for another 15 days within their new office environment.

A second study further tested the results from the first study. One hundred employees (roughly 45%) agreed to participate and were monitored using the badges.

This time, monitoring of the participants lasted for eight weeks prior to the redesign and eight weeks after the move. This second study also included the two-month settling-in period.

 

What were the open plan office productivity results?

Both studies saw a fall in face-to-face communication decrease of around 70%. Email and messaging went up by between 20% to 50% and accounts for some of that lost interaction. 

It seems that, when working within an open-plan setting, workers would seek to create their own “privacy” by isolating themselves. For example, people wear large headphones to appear busy. Or they choose to use electronic communication forms instead.

There is a basic human desire for privacy. Evidence supports that acting on that desire can help productivity. In other words, we don’t like feeling observed. This study also touches on how ‘collective intelligence’ works. It’s a new concept but there could be an optimum amount of stimulation that promotes higher levels of this type of ‘hive-mind’ intelligence. And open-place offices may be too stimulating.

The study sums up the findings “In short… open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates…”

How to use plants to create more privacy in your workplace

It seems that the best office layouts include a variety of different working spaces. Here are some ideas to easily adapt an existing workspace for better open plan office productivity:

  • Avoid desks where the worker’s back faces a walkway or corridor. It makes employees feel on-show plus its bad Feng Shui.
  • Read our blog on how to use plants are room dividers.
  • Include comfortable seating areas without any desks that promote conversation.
  • Take advantage of the open-plan design to create collaborative areas away from people’s desks.
  • Create privacy screens from office dividers or plants such as bamboo to help workers feel more enclosed.
  • Make sure any open-plan areas aren’t overfilled with desks. Respect your employee’s sense of personal space.
  • Always include private working stations or pods that allow employees to focus on work undisturbed.

Floresy is always ready to help solve any office layout dilemmas using our years of experience with commercial interiors. 

 

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Can resimmercial design help businesses recruit staff?

A survey of 2000 UK workers by Mindspace (a co-working and collaborative workspace provider), uncovered some disconcerting opinions among employees. A surprising 16% of 18 to 24-year-olds said that they had left a job because of its poor workplace design. A further 31% of workers felt their current work environment was uninspiring, while 28% stated that their workplace is simply outdated and dull.

Another study by Office Genie in 2017, a whacking 45% of employees were frustrated at the lack of collaborative spaces in their place of work. And 20% actually stated that their work environment hindered their ability to do their job.

So how does a modern business attract, and retain, the more discerning generation of employees a.k.a. the millennials? What can office design do to improve worker happiness? Would adopting resimmercial design help with your businesses recruitment challenges?

What is resimmercial design?

The word ‘resimmercial’ is a blend of two words: residential and commercial. And this is exactly what resimmercial design is all about – blending home and work life. By creating spaces that are more home-like and less like a place of work, designers are hoping to make the office a more comfortable place to be.

Resimmercial design follows on from commercial spaces that have introduced more creativity to their premises. Sometimes, that may have been through necessity such as the “hot-desking” concept. Other reasons include wanting to change the atmosphere to make it more productive or relaxed.

Resimmercial design

Workplaces that feel more like home. Resimmercial design.

The main principles are creating spaces that feel warm, welcoming and homely plus flexibility for employees with different working preferences. This is predominantly achieved by opting for non-traditional office furniture, moving away from neutral tones and adding more natural textures into the work environment.

What are the features of resimmercial design?

Communal and casual areas

Think less “open-plan office” and more hotel lobby. These areas are lounge spaces with casual seating arrangements that are conducive to conversation. But likewise, a good resimmercial space also more secluded spots for those times when someone needs a quiet place to work.

Multi-functional spaces

By assigning less purpose to a space you allow it to adapt to the needs of the people working there. A room isn’t a meeting room because it’s just another space that could be used for a meeting. Is that a coffee bar or a standing desk? The user decides.

Soft edges and rich textures

That oh-so-typical modular office furniture is replaced with less ‘officey’ pieces often in vibrant colours or natural materials such as wood, cork or bamboo. There are more fabric coverings in a resimmercial space including tactile velvets, prints and other interesting textures. Just like all the curtains, carpets, cushions and upholstery that you would expect to find in a comfortable home.

Resimmercial design is a relaxing work environment

Resimmercial feels like you could be working whilst sitting on your sofa at home

Closer to nature

Resimmercial design often incorporates biophilic principles too. The use of plants helps to create a healthy and relaxing environment As does other natural materials such as stone and water. There may even be a fish tank (ok, that’s very “dentist’s waiting room” and nothing new but, aw, look at the fishies!).

Why choose resimmercial for your office?

An important factor that influences a millennial’s decision making, whether it is spending money or choosing a company to work for, is the ethics and authenticity of a brand or employer. Creating positive working environments shows a commitment to staff welfare above and beyond what any brochure or HR person can demonstrate. And this will be important for any prospective millennial candidate.

Once you’ve attracted talented people to your business it’s important to retain them. The cost of hiring a new employee can cost as much as what you’re paying them. Offering a flexible work environment will help to keep your employees happy and productive. Of course, flexibility must include options for not working in the office in the first place. Reducing staff turnover helps reduce the overall cost of recruitment.

Stress and the mental health of our colleagues is a serious topic. Ping pong tables and breakout areas aren’t remedies for depression. But sympathetic resimmercial design can, in part, offer a less intense working environment for anyone going through a mental illness.

Get it right and the result is fresh, valued and happy staff. And since happiness is a powerhouse, this can lead to improvements in productivity, better work/life balance and fewer sick days. It’s a win-win.

Happy workers in resimmercial office

Ok, there’s a happy worker and then there’s this guy.

Of course, this flexible, adaptable and spontaneous office design could not exist without the advent of mobile computing. WiFi and other technologies that have freed us from the standard 1.5m power cable “leash” are fueling this office place revolution. But is the idea of a progressive workplace anything new? Read our blog post on the history of office design to find out.

 

A short history of office design: evolution of the workplace

The history of office design reads almost like a history of society.

History of office design: the first office buildings

Administration is probably the second oldest profession in the world. Every ancient civilisation would have needed it and the administrators, no doubt, needed some sort of office (including the obligatory uncomfortable desk chair). The first purpose-built office building in the UK is still in use today. It’s believed to be the iconic Old Admiralty Office that stands on the banks of the River Thames in London. Built in 1726, it’s purpose was to accommodate and process the significant amount of paperwork generated by the Royal Navy. 

East India House, also in London, closely follows The Old Admiralty Office. Embracing the benefits of centralised administration, office buildings began appearing all over the capital and beyond. As you would expect from 18th century Britain, the office class system was immediate. A governmental report on office layout recommended separate rooms for more “intellectual work”. Whilst for the “more mechanical work”, a number of clerks would be housed in the same room (under the proper superintendence, naturally).

Offices of the early twentieth century

Offices were originally part of factory buildings. And they were run like factories too. Many followed the principles created by the mechanical engineer, Frank Taylor. “Taylorism” sort to maximise efficiency by filling vast open-plan offices with rows upon rows of office workers. Needless to say, his methodology lacked the human touch and those offices probably more closely resembled factory-farming than they do a modern day office.

As technology allowed skyscrapers to grow in size in the 1930s, so did the amount of office space. And this allowed for more congenial working conditions. The open plan office began to include private offices for meetings and managers plus communal spaces like kitchens and canteens. Lifts allowed buildings to go higher while electric lighting and air conditioning helped improve the worker’s experience.

Birth of the modern office

Thanks to the Great Depression and a world war, it wasn’t until the 1960s that office design really starts to embrace human interaction, however. Burolandschaft, a concept from Germany, means “office landscape”. It first grew in popularity across northern Europe before spreading to the rest of the world. Layouts were less regimented and the first significant use of office plants was seen. It’s easy to understand how modern office layout design attributes itself to Burolandschaft.

A greater variety of working spaces including communal areas, meeting rooms plus more private individual desks lead the sociable and gregarious Burolandschaft designs to morph into the Action Office(!). Women also began to enter the workforce in greater number during this period. The creation of the desk ‘modesty panel’ quickly followed.

history of office design

So much sexism, so little time

Dark times

However, the addition of autonomous and private working spaces of the Action Office lead the history of office design down a dark alley. As modular office furniture too evolved to meet office trends, the infamous office cubicle was born, nay, spawned. Cubicle farms began to more closely resemble Taylorism than Burolandschaft as the profit-over-people mentality of the 1980s peaked.

Where is office design today?

Despite an uninteresting office design period known as the 1990s, the decade did witness the dawn of the digital revolution. It was this paradigm shift that allowed employees to finally emerge from their cubicle cocoons and see sunlight for the first time in almost two decades. This is perhaps the biggest leap forward in the history of office design.

And technology continues to play the most significant role in office layout evolution. Whilst the concept of a private cubicle desk still exists today, workers are no longer confined to them because of mobile computing. The Cloud, WiFi and decent batteries allow people to work wherever they choose. 

Resimmercial design – when working from home meets open plan office – encourages comfortable and flexible working spaces that feel more like home than the office. Choices of where to work (or where not to work when on a break) can assist a person’s schedule or simply support how they are feeling that day. Collaborate and creative spaces allow teams to work together or hold meetings and presentations. Whilst secluded nooks and pods cater for more quietly productive working.

The future of office design

It’s hard to predict the future but we can learn from the past. Technology has shaped our offices just as much as how an individual’s value within society has. It is likely that a greater respect for people’s health and family life will see a flexible working revolution. In a global society with growing access to virtual and augmented realities and 3D printing, these technologies will no doubt also shape how and when we work. Or the AI overlords will rise up and we’ll back in the cubicle farms where we belong. 

 

What is Interior Landscaping?

Interior landscaping is an expression in use by many interior designers who work exclusively with indoor planting schemes to describe what they do. You’ve probably heard of landscaping – the physical process of reshaping the land. Hard landscaping refers to structures such as walls, pergolas, patios and even follies. Soft landscaping is the term for the planting within the landscaped garden.

So, interior landscaping is a bit of an oxymoron. Afterall, there isn’t any land to be ‘scaped! Instead, it is the process of adding plants and greenery to work with the angles, dimensions and light inside buildings and internal structures. Perhaps ‘plantscaping‘ or ‘interiorscaping‘ are more accurate terms. All three of these expressions are rather interchangeable with businesses and designers using them to describe their own unique services.

Despite sounding trendy, the term has been in popular use within the industry for a considerable amount of time. The terms emerged in the 1970s following the publication of Richard Gain’s book ‘Interior Plantscaping‘. Some people choose to use the term exclusively for interior spaces will others use them to describe gardens within buildings.

Interior landscaping is the design and possible implementation of a planting scheme that compliments an interior space. It isn’t the maintenance of those plants although some companies will offer both these services. It also is less about a potted plant of your desk but more about structural planting that works directly with architectural details of a building. 

Examples of Interior Landscaping

Done properly, you probably won’t notice that an interior has been ‘plantscaped‘. We expect interiors in hotels, shopping centres or business foyers to have a certain look and feel.

A popular interior feature is the Green Wall or Living Walls. Usually imposing and certainly spectacular, green walls are plants grown vertically such as this example from Biotecture for Centrica’s office in Windsor.

Interior landscaping of a green wall

Interior landscaping includes impressive installations like his green wall

For large interior spaces – those with considerable ceiling height – using tall indoor plants, such as trees can be just as spectacular. Trees are ultimately architectural plants due to their size. And trees indoors certainly have the wow-factor.

Interior trees can be difficult to maintain due to how very, very thirsty they can be. Some have extensive roots systems that extend out from the trunk for almost as far as the tree is tall. So the solution is to use certain species that could be grown in containers. Or, the alternative solution to this problem is to use tall artificial plants and artificial trees indoors.

Faux Artificial interior tree

Bespoke artificial trees match your individual requirements

How does Interior Landscaping benefit me?

Interior landscaping offers the same benefits as any interior styling. Without a planting scheme, a room or building may seem off or cold and clinical. But, hey, if cold and clinical is your brand – go with that. Interiorscaping is more obvious when it is missing. Here are some of the benefits of interior landscaping:

Brand

Help define who you are and what you do from the moment someone walks into your shop or lobby. Plants and their containers can add humour, elegance or even a tropical vibe.

Ambience

The atmosphere is important in any setting. A structured, neat and uniform planting scheme will add a professional and serious note to an office or lobby. Softer planting can help people feel more relaxed and less anxious which is a great thing in a dentists waiting room.

Function

Plants can help define a room’s function: Lines of container plants will define doorways or walkways. Add discretion and privacy to areas for seating and talking by using the plants as screens or room dividers.

Wellness

Many studies conclude how important connection to nature is. It has a direct impact on the overall wellness and happiness of people working in any environment. Plants help add the greenery needed for that connection. The wellness experienced by workers leads to increases in productivity and fewer sick days.

Noice reduction

Big open spaces are echoey. You can help improve the acoustics of large spaces by adding a planting to dampen the sounds. This is great for open-plan offices and hotel lobbies. But also for busy restaurants. Less so for libraries.

Interested in learning more? Check out these posts on the benefits of artificial plants in commercial spaces and biophilic design.

Floresy has an interior landscaping offering as part of our bespoke services. By working closely with you, we will use our knowledge and experience to design a scheme that works for and for your space. Contact us today for more information on how we can help.

 

 

Biophilic Design – what is it?

Biophilic design is a concept that strives to incorporate nature into our homes, workplaces and community spaces. It embraces the connection between humans and nature by creating a harmonious space that is fulfilling yet still functional and efficient.

The awareness of biophilic design in the workplace is increasing. It comes as we acknowledge how prevalent mental health disorders and cardiovascular disease are in our western societies. The World Health Organisation predicts that these stress-related conditions will be the two biggest health problems by 2020.

The traditional designs of offices and other workplaces focus more on how cost-effective the floor space can be instead of how well people can exist in the space. Furthermore, the increase in technology-dependence and ‘screen-time’ and we lose our connection with nature for significant proportions of our lives.

Biophilic design puts the human experience and well-being at the centre of any design. It is based on the observed concept of biophilia.

What is biophilia?

Biophilia was first noted by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in his 1973 book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. He described it as “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive”. The term was then popularised in the 1980s by the psychologist, Edward O Wilson, in his book, Biophilia (1984). Wilson proposed that humans innate desire to connect with nature is, in part, genetic. He observed how we were becoming disconnected from the natural world because of increases in urbanisation.

Examples of Biophilic Design

Perhaps the most famous examples of biophilic design are the creative playgrounds that global corporations like Google call ‘offices’. However, biophilic design is not limited to billion-dollar industries. Proponents of biophilic design include designers such as Oliver Heath who’s projects have included a garden school in Hackney, London.

biophilic design in an office

Google’s office in Dublin shows examples of biophilic design in the workplace.

biophilc design healthcare hospital

Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne has a large-scale aquarium in its atrium. Photograph: John Gollings

What is the WELL Building Standard?

The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is a leader in the global wellness movement that focuses on the ‘design, operations and behaviours’ of buildings. The standard is a holistic approach to well-being and is based on seven core concepts:

  • Air – promote clean air and reduce in sources of indoor air pollution
  • Water – provide safe and clean water for various uses
  • Nourishment – encourage better eating habits and food culture
  • Light – protect the body’s circadian system and support good sleep quality
  • Fitness – integrate physical activity into everyday life and reduce sedentary behaviours
  • Comfort – distraction-free, productive and comfortable indoor environments
  • Mind – optimise cognitive and emotional health through design and technology

Any building can apply for the WELL certification. It is a fantastic tool, especially when used to improve the well-being of the building’s occupants.

What is Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)?

Sick building syndrome is a recognised medical condition relating to poor air quality in workplaces such as offices. The symptoms include headaches, dizziness and nausea as well as irration to the eyes, nose and throat. The majority of cases are considered to be linked to flaws in a building’s air conditioning, heating and ventilation. Contamination including microbial and chemical are also factors.

Because of these factors, addressing the main causes of SBS is likely to involve a serious overall of a building’s infrastructure. However, opening windows and giving the building a good clean are the first steps in addressing problems. The introduction of plants into the building will also help with poor air quality.

What can biophilic design do for you?

There are many studies that show that biophilic design can have a positive impact. Commercial, civic and residential buildings in addition to public spaces can benefit:

  • Biophilic workplaces show increases in worker well-being of up to 13% and in productivity of up to 8%.
  • Healthcare spaces see post-operative recovery rates reduce by 8.5% and a 22% reduction in the need for pain medication.
  • Customers are willing to pay up to 12% more for goods or services when a retail unit is situated in an area with vegetation and landscaping.
  • Urban spaces with greater access to nature have less crime by around 8%.
  • Guests staying in hotel rooms with views of nature including greenery or water are willing to pay 23% more than for rooms that don’t.
  • Concentration levels, rates of attendance and test results all increase in educational spaces with biophilic elements. The negative impacts of ADHD decrease.

In a 100% organic nutshell, biophilic design can have a positive impact in so many areas of our lives. Studies have shown that the simple act of adding plants to an office can have a positive measurable effect. The mental well-being of workers improves through reductions in stress, depression and anxiety.

Floresy design services are here to help you provide the right biophilic solution for your building. The addition of the colour green will create more relaxing and calm spaces for your workers.  Plants and greenery will help improve the customer experience for your guests and clients. Contact us here so we can get started today.

Amazing Designs using Interior Trees

The last place you expect to find a tree is indoors. Except of course in stunning interiors! A design that incorporates interior trees will make their guests feel welcome and ever-so-special. The addition of an interior tree will have the wow-factor for the very reasons that they are an unexpected addition to a room. Lavish botanicals will create an atmosphere completely different from the street or climate outside. Use them to set a room apart from the rest of a hotel, restaurant or bar by defining a room’s specific and unique character.

 

Interior Tree Designs

Light bright interior tree design

A light and fresh appeal in contrast to the dark and moody bar area.

Large stone planters on plinths add even greater height to these trees in the Ugly Duckling, Melbourne. The result is a light, bright and fresh feel to the restaurant – a stark comparison to the oak and dark blues of the proceeding bar area (not pictured).

Silver birch interior trees

Ethos uses silver birch trees as a design focal point

Ethos restaurant in London uses silver birch tree trunks to create this amazing interior. The unique bark of the trees echoes the marble table tops. The overall design gives an organic and bountiful-nature aspect that reflects the quality of the produce used on this vegetarian restaurant’s menu. 

Interior trees and decorations

A joyous combination of tree leaves and paper-chain ceiling decorations.

There are several interior trees in play at the Weranda Lunch & Wine restaurant in Pozna, Poland. Combine them with many plants, planters and table flowers plus the extraordinary paper-chain ceiling decorations and the result is magical.

 

Multiple plants and interior trees

Rich and warm interior of the Dishroom in Shoreditch

Whilst there are no actual trees in the Dishroom in Shoreditch, London, the lush ferns on tall plant stands are doing a grand job. The restaurant uses an eclectic mix of the dark-toned wooden furniture, leafy plants, and beige upholstery. Add the ropes-covered pillars, brick and bare plaster walls and the overall effect is kind of hipster-colonialism.

Interior Trees at night

Central interior tree design

Seating around the trunk allows you to site under the canopy.

The wonderfully-named Woolloomooloo Wharf hotel in Sydney has seating area constructed around one of its focal trees (plus compulsory kitsch pink flamingoes). The canopy has fairy lights decorating the branches making it a delightful space to sit and sip.

Interior trees with lights

1920s glamour at the refurbished Refuge in Manchester.

The Refuge, Manchester glamourous refurbishment includes a Winter Garden. Combining classy black and white tiles with a palette of soft greens, it has a decadent yet relaxed feel evocative of the 1920s. A great tip when adding an impressive interior tree is to also add lighting. The room can be transformed once more at night when the lighting is switched on.

Interior tree with lights

Who would have thought Disneyland could be classy?

The Starbucks at Disneyland demonstrates the lighted tree at night. Surprisingly stylish given its theme park location, a bench seat encircles the tree creating seating for multiple tables. Plus the fairy lights are certainly worthy of any Disney princess.

Artifical Tall Trees at Floresy

Floresy offers a bespoke design service for larger-scale artificial trees. Whether it’s oak, acacia or baobab, each tree is custom-made to the customer’s specifications. Suitable for indoor or outdoor use, our trees are durable, weather-proof and fully protected against UV fading and damage.

Faux Artificial interior tree

Floresy artificial trees are custom built to match your requirements

Each tree can be built to match very specific requirements. They can have an exact height, canopy size or even an unusual shape to frame an architectural feature such as a door or window. And once installed they require no additional maintenance and will look fabulous all year round. Our design team are here to help create you the perfect tree.

To speak to one of our design consultants, please call 0208 0770891 or fill out the contact form on our Artificial Tall Tree page.