New trends in office design…

From Bangalore Mirror

Have you looked around your office lately? Those stiff-straight chairs, patterned cubicles, grey scale interiors, innumerable white LED lights fading out the daylight outside; the windows that do nothing to bring that cool breeze of rains to you. It may all drain the energy out of you and make you run back home as soon as possible. But entrepreneurs, who were once employees, are fuelling a trend where the workplace is as much a home as home itself.

A lane shaded by trees brings you to a quiet and serene neighbourhood in Whitefield. At the end of the road is a pastel peach bungalow with Victorian style windows and doors. Step inside and you see a set of people sitting by the poolside, with their laptops, with trees towering over them. Walk into another room, and you will see some more people, again with their laptops, but this time chatting over a cup of tea, sitting on an wooden couch. The walls around have beautiful murals and paintings of Malgudi days, and Pac-man graffiti in another room. This is the “office/home” of Hector Beverages, which retails the popular juice brand Paperboat.

“I always look for a balcony and big windows when I am looking for a house, and when we started looking for office space our requirements were the same. We didn’t want to work in a boxed environment. I needed peace and quiet, with squirrels going about me,” says Parvesh Debuka, head marketing, Hector Beverages. With an in-house cook, who delivers on-demand for a particular dish for 33-odd employees, the Paperboat office is such that one “feels like we are leaving home 1 to go to home 2.”

Today, companies are looking at office designs not just to attract and retain talent but also as a means to strengthen collaboration and enhance employee satisfaction.

At Coverfox.com, an online integrator of insurance policies, which has an employee strength of 200, the trees grow not only outside the office, but inside the premises too. “We were very clear from the beginning that we didn’t want ramp seating. Personally I hate it when I am mandated to sit at a particular place. Here no one has a dedicated workstation. We work from anywhere — even the toilet,” says Jaimit Doshi, head of marketing, Coverfox. To take the culture of flexibility a step forward, the employees are also allowed to join in a meeting from anywhere, even when they are in the office. “If you don’t feel like being present in a meeting in person, you can just log in,” Doshi says.

Lookup.com’s assembly area for meetings called ‘The Pitch’

Good office design directly influences employee morale and engagement with the business. Gaurav Saini director, people practice & head L&D/ wellness engagements at Happiest Minds says the focus has changed from money-making to employee satisfaction. Therefore there is a greater need to build both hard and soft infrastructure accordingly. “The hierarchy of boss and subordinate doesn’t exist now. Everyone is a colleague. And when we spend on office design, it’s not an expenditure but an investment,” Saini says. Employees need to feel motivated and willing to come to office, which in turn will increase productivity, and the business. “When we love the work, we work the best,” he adds.

Today, companies are forced to look harder at what influences their results, to optimise every process and to make the most of their resources.

“There are a lot of changes in the corporate world, a change in the lifestyle, working hours, sitting habits, eating habits etc. Ways of working are changing and so are the tools used around the workspace area. Even with the best infrastructure and office furniture, users might face issues due to bad lighting or non-user friendly set-up,” says Dr Reena Valecha, Ergonomic Cell, Godrej Interio.

Godrej Interio has been closely associated with ergonomics through Wellness@Work initiative i.e. understanding the dynamics of the behaviour of a human being with reference to working.

Experts in this field confirm that office design directly affects employee health, well-being and productivity within the workforce. Although many people may consider that an office is a simple space where we perform certain tasks, there are many factors influencing the optimal performance of this area. An integrated, well-planned office design and work space significantly affects the productivity of employees. Aspects such as the architecture, lighting or furniture or even the position of an employee’s desktop are essential to the performance of the varying job functions that every employee carries out on a daily basis. This is where the science of ergonomics comes in.

The aim of ergonomics is to improve the conditions under which everyday activities are performed in the workplace. This helps to minimise potential associated health risks. It plays a key role in business as it increases employee engagement by allowing the development of tasks under optimum conditions as well as preventing future injuries and reducing fatigue.

In a sense, the office design is essential to allow a perfect integration of the employee into the workplace. Poorly designed working conditions can affect the hands, wrists, joints and/or back which can then lead to absence and its associated costs. Office design can be used to enhance moods, speed up task completion and encourage interaction between employees. On the other hand, they become frustrated and annoyed when their office isn’t designed to support them in carrying out their job efficiently.

The design of the conference room of Hector Beverages, housed in a colonial bungalow, has colourful art and murals on the wall allowing employees to innovate and ideate better

Ashok Kularia, managing director of ANJ Turnkey Projects, a design and build firm says that the boundaries of the workspace have tumbled down, and a multi-purpose space is being created where the cafeteria becomes the meeting room, and workstations become more relaxed. “The trend is fuelled largely by start-ups, because they are the new breed of entrepreneurs who do not look at work as a burden. They want to have fun with what they do. Seeing this trend catch up, even companies like Vodafone, Citibank, and Mphasis are also exploring the path,” Kularia says.

Lookup, a messaging app connecting local merchants has brought in the vintage telephones booths which were popular in London. This space, bang in the middle of their office , is where employees make their skype calls. A semi-circular amphitheatre, commonly seen in star hotels, (fondly nicknamed “The Pitch”) has become a brainstorming arena by day and a recreational hub by night at this office. The workstations in the 5,000 sq ft space range from standing desks (which encourages a more active workplace), to tables you can write on, to cozy cubbyholes, where you can sit with a cup of tea, for some “me-time”. Who wouldn’t love going to work, now?

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