By Guy Osmond on 8th Jan 2020
As I write this article, Brexit is still an undefined concept, much of Australia is ablaze and hostilities are accelerating in the Middle East. The future of office design therefore seems quite a low priority! However, the reality is, of course, that we all need to get on with our lives and I have never been one to vacillate over expressing an opinion! I have therefore been considering what issues I think will become (or remain) central to our thinking about the workplace, how that might impact our activities over the coming decade and what changes may come as a result.
The connection between mental and physical health is now better understood and common sense is being supported by reliable research and plenty of guidance for good practice. Also gaining recognition is the importance of workplace design in this equation. Employers are now coming to realise that helter-skelters, cable cars and swings may be good for social media attention but not necessarily matched to the needs of an organisation’s people.
Whilst organisational culture is critical in designing workplaces to suit a particular employer, individual personalities must also be accommodated. We see more conversations about how extroverts and introverts respond differently to environments and I anticipate continued growth in the recognition of how important this is. Accommodating this diversity will inform the variety of spaces to be provided. Our 4Cs Core Behaviours concept of workplace layout (Communication, Collaboration, Concentration & Contemplation) should be combined with one more C - Choice. This will provide the flexibility staff need to optimise their productivity and benefit from their work environment rather than have to fight against it.
Biophilia has been gaining traction in recent years but is still a concept largely unknown to those outside the industry. I hope that it continues to get wider recognition beyond the workplace since its relevance to our health applies just as well at home and in our daily lives.
Another issue that is well-known in certain circles but largely ignored elsewhere is sleep deprivation. Anecdotally, I am amazed at the number of people who do not enjoy a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. This obviously impacts health and productivity and I believe this impact is currently dramatically underestimated. At the moment, talking about sleep pods and power naps usually meets a response of raised eyebrows, but I am confident the issue is set to become more mainstream. I am interested in research about the impact of blue light from handheld devices on circadian rhythms and the knock-on effect on sleep but do not yet know enough about it to comment further. Maybe there is a blog there for the future!
Finally, I think the overriding issue for us all to consider, both inside and outside the workplace, is sustainability. Obviously, this is not a new idea but we have certainly seen it given less priority in procurement since the 2008 recession (whatever the customer’s web site professes!). Whether you look at climate events, plastic in the oceans, the emergence of Extension Rebellion or countless other indicators, that priority is changing fast and we owe it to future generations to ensure that proper consideration is given in all purchase decisions.
The furniture industry is innovative and dynamic in this field and we undoubtedly have a part to play in helping employers ‘do the right thing’.
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