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New Ways of Working

The world is constantly evolving – politically, economically, socially, technologically, and demographically – and the landscape of today’s workplace must adapt and transform to support these changes.

For the first time in the history, five generations are working side by side in the office and companies are faced with managing multi-generational working, each with their own style and requirements for their environment.

When speaking about new working environments, the term Generation Y is one of the latest industry catchwords. Defined as those people born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s, Generation Y is the driving force in the on-going development of flexible working. Within the workplace their influence is felt in designs that are more open, relaxed and collaborative. We can expect a transformation of working practices over the next 20 years as Gen Y gain more influence over decision making within organisations and develop into the next generation of managers.

Technology is also redefining our relationship with the idea of ‘space’ as it presents us with an opportunity to design for and manage them better. In the past, an employee might have just used a computer, but now there is the addition of a tablet and a smartphone too. Whether on a break, eating lunch or waiting in a lobby, employees are plugged in and switched on and therefore need to be able to answer a call, check e-mail or browse the Internet at any given moment. A recent study by Manchester Business School found that ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) is on the rise and companies need to ensure they are flexible enough to match this dynamic working style. There are solutions we can apply in the workplace that are based partly on culture and partly on design, with the provision of third spaces, acoustic break out areas and private work that people can move to with their mobile devices.

Whilst technology is having a positive effect on workspaces, it also the workplace environments’ least effectively supported activity in many companies. The physical environment plays a vital role and it falls down to both the design and culture of the workplace to offer an efficient way of working for employees.

A Deloitte report on Global Human Capital Trends surveyed 2,500 organisations from around the world, to provide a broad and comprehensive look at the major challenges facing employers as they seek to attract and retain employees, engage with them their work and organization and enable them to be happy and productive in their work. Results reported that two-thirds of those employees felt ‘overwhelmed’ at work with the need to create time and space to focus.

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Soundproofing never Looked so Good

Normally, when you think of insulation, you think of ugly foam stuffed into the nooks and crannies of old walls. But today we’re seeing blends of wood, wool, cement and water — as graphic wall art that is also insulating and soundproof.

Good design focuses on all of our senses and in particular, those two that are most closely associated with our ability to work more efficiently – sight and hearing. Every day we’re surrounded by sound, which is why the acoustic environment is playing an increasingly important role in the design process of offices and public spaces.

Noise and visual distraction can have a direct impact on staff health and productivity. Providing the optimum level of acoustic performance is never an easy challenge which is why it is important to ‘help’ surfaces and spaces in the best way possible to create a pleasant acoustic environment, in which staff can stay both creative
and focused.

One of our latest obsessions is with Swedish industrial design studio, Form Us With Love. BAUX, their latest venture, explores two of the world’s oldest building materials, combined to create unique acoustic wall panels. The combination is simple and ingenious, resulting in an environment-friendly, recyclable material made from wood wool, cement and water.

The material structure reduces reflection of sound, absorbs sound and dampens noise and contributes to restful acoustics in residential buildings, industrial premises and public spaces. BAUX acoustic panels meet the contemporary expectations of architects, engineers and builders, without compromising on safety and environmental standards and can be combined to create beautiful
patterns that can be mounted magnetically or fixed with glue.

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Productivity in the Workplace

We are all living in a workaholic society, logging longer hours than ever before and taking the office home with us. There is also still a huge culture of lunch-break denial in the UK, as many employers think that taking time out from the office is unproductive.

The average employee in the UK spends just 29 minutes eating their food, most often as they work at their desk, so in essence having no break or rest at all. The problem this creates is that our brains are changing in response to the evolution of work patterns and the technological environment around us. We could all benefit form a positive cultural shift in the workplace. A recent report by one of the world’s largest architectural practices, commissioned a survey of 90,000 people to find out what made them most effective at work. Gensler’s report concluded that the most significant factor in workplace effectiveness is staying focused. A further report from CABE, the then Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, found that the ability of employees to carry out their work increases by an average of 38 percent, if they are able to focus on what they are doing.

NASA sleep researchers have found that a power nap of just 26 minutes can boost performance by 34 percent. Another NASA study found that napping significantly increases working memory, the ability to focus attention on one task while holding other tasks in memory, which is critical when performing complex work.

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Work-Life Balance

The evolution of the office has changed our relationship with the workplace. The current workforce is overwhelmed with challenges that continue to threaten work-life balance. As the twenty-four hour, seven-day working week spirals, the possibility of achieving a work-life balance is proving an elusive goal for us all.

Employees are working more, earning less and have less time for family and activities. But, the workplace is still many things to many people, especially for those for whom the 9 to 5 is no longer the standard. The workplace has become a meeting place, a social space, a source of identity, a source of comfort and a second home for some.

How we work has changed, the places we work in have changed even more. It’s about studio culture, inspiring, informing, living, sharing, breathing, and working all under one roof. It’s about redefining and re-imagining the workspace.

We are all striving for balance. That is why it is so important to understand the culture of a workplace before deciding on its design, the way it is managed and the specification of the products used to help provide this balance.

Some see positive benefits in the blurring boundaries between the office, factory and home life, as new technologies and changes in business structures provide opportunities for greater control over how, when and where our paid work is performed. The struggle is getting employers to see the links between the workplace and the well-being and productivity of the people who work in it and understanding that the relationship between work, rest and play needs to be a focus. The way we use our offices, the way we choose to interact and share with other colleagues and carve out space to focus alone, is pivotal to design trends in the workplace.

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