While I was looking through a client’s case study the other week, I came across Kontor. It’s a network for workplace design, letting you browse real projects, the products used and interior designers that created them.
It got me considering how much of an impact our work environment has on us; in terms of productivity and innovation. Would a clean and pleasant environment suffice or do elaborate designs really stimulate further creativity. Are they over-stimulating? Are they not really for the workers at all but about brand image? It’s an interesting topic, and one I considered for my dissertation. Don’t fear, this blog post won’t be several thousand words long (or so throughly researched, I’m afraid).
Let’s start with the brand image they display to outsiders. Throughout my job search I visited a good number of agencies and, by extension, design workspaces. It is fair to say that both their immediate location and interior design did influence how much I wanted to work at each one. After seeing only their online presence, it either changed or reinforced my perception of them. As well as giving me an insight into their culture. For example, in one place I had a small dog sniffing around my ankles while I was being interviewed. (Not a sniffer dog I might add). This coupled with the homey interior told me they were a friendly and tight-knit group.
However, it is worth saying that the staff themselves had much more of an influence on my perception. It’s all very well having a retro mahogany desk if the woman sitting at it is a moody cow. I interviewed at another agency in London, with dark stylish rooms and a company bar. It was undeniably cool. However, I was left alone in one of said rooms for about 15 minutes before finally meeting my interviewer. Didn’t leave me with the best impression and was rather telling of how I’d be treated as an employee.
Workplace and creativity/innovation
A quick google search will give you an endless list of ‘trendy’ ways to design a workspace that promotes creativity. These are fun to look through and would likely enliven workers for a short time. Your agency may also be seen as current which is important in the creative industries. Promoting creativity though? I’m not entirely convinced. I think a lot is for purely aesthetic appeal and brand image.
“…a good team will help each other be productive in a cave. A bad team will make each other miserable in the fanciest building in the world.”
I can agree with the above quote from author Scott Berken to a large extent. He points to historical innovations to back up his claim. For example, the Apollo Moon Landing which was orchestrated in a normal office space and companies like Apple which had their inception in a humble garage.
While I don’t think thrivolous amounts of money should be spent on the latest trends, I do think a workspace can assist the creative process. If you can afford to make your worker’s lives easier – do it. Perhaps with basic things such as an open space for ideas sharing or whiteboards to jot down ideas as they hit. Speak to your workers, hear potential problems and find personalised solutions. With workspace design I don’t think there is one solution to fit all. Also, if it aint broke don’t try to fix it.
What do we need in a workplace?
HOK’s list of design considerations for enhanced performance and health in the workplace is the one that makes most sense to me. He tells us that performance is made up of three factors; ability, motivation and opportunity. Ability links back to what was discussed earlier, motivation and opportunity are the elements that can be influenced by interior design.
His ten considerations are as follows:
- Thermal Comfort and Temperature
- Access to Nature, Views and Daylight
- Sensory Change and Variability
- Noise Control
- Human Factors and Ergonomics
- Indoor Air Quality
- Employee Engagement
I wont re-iterate everything, so go over to the article to see how you they suggest adapting your workspace to meet each criteria. As well as why each of them are important in increasing performance.
I’ll finish off with my workplace. I think it does rather well according to HOK’s list, especially in terms of access to nature and views!