Time to Design a Workplace Refresh

Spring has sprung. Now is the perfect time of year to do a full office evaluation, de-clutter and refresh. Sound a bit daunting? It’s not. If you’re looking to liven up your workspace with the change of season, there are simple things you can do to create a warm, inviting space that inspires your employees and impresses your visitors without blowing through your design budget.

Here are three simple tips to keep in mind as you spring into workplace design planning:

A Little Change can go a Long Way

Ahead-of-the-curve workspaces go beyond being ‘functional’ and ‘clean’, they also capture the spirit of the company and its brand. By keeping the bare bones of the design space neutral in colour, you make room for swapping in seasonal quirky touches without looking excessive. The good news is, your seasonal changes don’t need to be significant, or expensive. A feature wall with your company logo is one place to start, or mix in some vintage touches, kitschy knick knack’s, something handmade or easily swapped accessories like throw pillows or planting pots (you do have plant life in your workspace right? Because that is the ultimate way to ‘spring your workplace’ to life!).

 Art – Trade in ‘Meh’ for ‘Wow’

Search online and download unique photos or images that create conversation and speak to your brand (or course by acquiring the appropriate licensing). Make the images your own by cropping, zooming, or adding custom effects. Once the images are matted and framed, they become fresh, unexpected and unique art installations that don’t break the bank. Blowing up two to three pieces will create an ambiance that livens up your workspace. By holding onto the frames, you can swap images and photos in and out according to seasonality – keeping your workplace crisp and on trend.

Remember the Fine Line of Being Too Trendy

Remember when fluro and neon were all the rage in design? If so, you probably also remember cringing at the thought a decade later. Instead of putting a heavy investment in design solutions that are incredibly fashionable in the moment, but might come with a short lifecycle, consider integrating materials that will carry you through not only multiple seasons – but multiple years. Materials like timber and laminate for instance create comfortable environments without threatening to come back and haunt your organization’s photo records years down the road.

When it comes to giving your workspace a spring refresh, it’s all about putting the right pieces, in the right places to create an environment that employees, executives and clients enjoy spending time in. A lively space awakens innovation and productivity, allowing your business to grow right along with the season.

 

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Integrated Agile Workspaces

Among the many stereotypes thrust upon millennials is their overwhelming desire to be collaborative. It turns out however, millennials have a lot more in common with the baby boomer generation, and would actually like a little peace and quiet to get their work done. In fact, a recent survey from Oxford Economics found that “the ability to focus and work without interruptions” was ranked #1 most important by 29% of respondents from a pool of 1,200 employees across a wide range of industries. Half of them were bothered by lack

It’s no surprise really. As baby boomers reach retirement and millennials begin stepping into executive positions, they’re taking on the kinds of responsibilities that require in-depth, strategic thinking. Having a quiet workspace allows them to tune out chatter, which in turn increases productivity and overall morale throughout the workplace.

Architects, designers and project managers trying to develop meaningful workspaces to cater a wide range of work styles might want to focus less on ping pong tables and brag worthy breakrooms, and more on creating personal offices or quiet spaces which allow team members to work their best.

For this reason, the future office must really embrace the dynamic, fluid nature of work in today’s business landscape. By creating an agile workplace where employees are flexible in choosing the best type of space for the work at hand, you are making room for them to move seamlessly through individual and group work – fully supporting work flow from a 360 degree perspective.

 

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Sustainable Design is in the Details  

 In today’s business landscape, environmentally designed workspaces are quickly becoming the norm as younger generations step into more managerial roles and begin to transform the business environment to align with their personal ideologies. And what’s often a top priority for our next generation of executives? You’ve got it – green initiatives.

For interior designers, project managers or business leaders looking to stay ahead of the curve and help grow their brand, reputation and bottom line through sustainability, here are some simple tips to consider:

 Integrate Sustainable Wood

 The Australian Government has implemented a Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Australian Forest Standard (AFS) to ensure true sustainable forest management practices to protect the 400,000 hectares of Australian forests.

When considering wood based furniture like desking or common room tables, opting for FSC or AFS certified products ensures you are sourcing your design solutions from a sustainably managed forest. Now that’s a breath of fresh air!

Choose Furniture Solutions with Low VOC Foam

What are VOCs? Good question! Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a family of harmful which can be released into indoor air from a number of sources, including workplace furniture (flame retardants and formaldehyde being quite common). While some VOCs are more toxic than others, the health risks associated will depend on the levels you are exposed to, the length of time you are exposed, and your individual sensitivity to toxicity.

Considering the fact that the workplace has become a second home to employees and executive’s alike, introducing low VOC furniture into your workspace will be an instrumental step towards driving a greener and healthier work environment.

Martindale Count

The Martindale test is a measure of the durability of a fabric. The tests are undertaken on upholstery fabrics to check their suitability for various uses – whether this be to ensure longevity for your home or small-business or commercial furniture solutions. The test is also known as the ‘rub test’ and essentially tests for abrasion resistance.

Essentially, the Martindale test involves rubbing a piece of worsted wool cloth in a circular motion on a flat mounted fabric sample. The number of cycles the test fabric can withstand before showing a change in appearance (such as thread breakage or pilling) is its abrasion rating. At the beginning of the test checks are made every 1,000 cycles, and if no wear is apparent, the fabric is put through another 1,000 rub cycle, and so forth. Here is a basic breakdown of what the Martindale count means in terms of the durability of your furniture solutions:

  • Light use: 6000 – 9000 double rubs
  • Medium use: 9000 – 30,000 double rubs
  • Heavy use: 30,000+ double rubs

Depending on your design needs, a high Martindale count can go a long way in reducing your environmental impact and getting the most out of your budget.

Whether you are own and operate a small business, or manage a major enterprise operation – supporting green initiatives is easier than you think. All it takes is a little information, and a firm commitment to growing a healthier planet, by building a sustainable workplace.

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Workplace Design With the Environment in Mind

Workplace design is one of the most influential tools which can be used to help achieve business goals. The power of space to influence our energy, interaction, health, and drive is tremendous.

Not surprisingly, when we discuss the workplace of the future – sustainable design tools, products and services are quickly identified innovative solutions to help organize and implement a new way of working – with increasingly positive results to an organization’s bottom line.

How exactly do environmentally conscious choices affect your business? We’re glad you asked!

Socially. 

Now that employees (and executives alike) are logging more hours at the office than ever before, they have become more immediately linked to the company they work for. For this reason, employees are more likely to enjoy more job satisfaction when they are working with an organization aligned to their own personal belief systems. Workplace sustainability instills a pride in the workforce and demonstrates an organization’s commitment to “walk the walk”.

Economically. 

Sustainable workplaces help to improve productivity, reduce operational costs (through energy cost savings), and eliminate waste (using renewable and recyclable materials while also integrating actual recycling programs).

Environmentally. 

Sustainable workplaces respect the planet. To ensure you are choosing design solutions that truly take environmental impact seriously, consider the following:

  • Shop Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) Certified

Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) runs Australia’s only independent, not-for-profit, multi-sector ecolabelling program. The organizations certification program has developed standards by which products and services are independently audited to ensure minimal environmental impact while also taking personal health and wellness, and social ramifications into consideration. By choosing GECA certified products, you are making socially and environmentally sustainable choices for your workplace that make a world of difference.

  • Do Good Business With ISO 14001 Certified Companies

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems (EMS) provide an integrated approach to environmental management. Put environmental management at the top of your sustainability goals in order to achieve success while reducing your environmental impact.

At the end of the day, sustainable design in the workplace – is just good business. It allows you to reduce costs, increase employee health and grow your business by building a reputation that positions you as a sustainability champion!

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Colour Your Workplace Happy

Choosing the perfect combination of hues for your workplace can be tricky, as the colours should take into account the personality of your organization, while also appealing to the majority of your employees and clients.

From an ergonomic standpoint, colour might not seem high on your priority list in ensuring employee comfort. In truth, colour is absolutely crucial in promoting a positive, inspiring work culture. Colours elicit emotional and physical responses from people who are exposed to them for extended periods of time. In general, there are two major colour families: warm and cool.

Warm colours include red, orange, yellow and pink and typically appeal to fewer people in a working environment. For instance, vibrant, colours like lime green, fire engine red or fuchsia are described as energetic, power colours — perfect a business thriving on the larger-than-life personalities it employs. Cool colours like blue, green and purple, instill feelings of relaxation and calmness and tend to appeal to a broader base. Cool colours also encourage focus and cause less eye strain, team members to work for longer periods comfortably.

The most commonly used colours for workplace environments, are neutral (black, white, grey and brown). While these might not seem like the most exciting choice, they work well in a professional environment because they have the widest appeal. To create a dynamic, engaging and inspiring work environment, integrate a neutral colour scheme that incorporates pops of warm and cool colours through statement furniture, wall art, area rugs and accent walls.

While workplace functionality often takes centre stage, as a project manager or interior designer, it’s also important to take colour into consideration whether you are creating a workspace from scratch or giving your business a facelift by integrating new design elements. After all, colour and thoughtfully designed spaces have the power to inspire creative, innovative ideas that drive growth and position your business for prosperity and success.

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Ergonomic Seating: The Brass Tacks

As workplace design becomes more sophisticated and inclusive, architects, designers and project managers alike are continuing to learn more about the science behind ergonomic seating. The true objective of an ergonomic seating is to provide not only the proper function, but to ensure all important aspects surrounding user comfort and is not just limited to work chairs but applies to other office chairs and lounges. People who are more comfortable in their seats, are more likely to be able to contribute to workplace productivity for longer durations. Seating that fails to provide effective support and adjustability can significantly increase spinal stresses, resulting in discomfort, increased risk for injury – which can in turn cause a spike in sick days and impact the overall bottom line of an organization.

Here are some of the most important factors to consider when looking to integrate ergonomic seating solutions into the workplace:

Cushioning

How important is cushioning? Very. For instance, contrary to popular belief, a thicker seat cushion does not necessarily equal comfort. While thicker foam may feel softer at first, it could lead to discomfort after extended use. Foam quality and density for instance, should actually be considered critical factors when designing ergonomic seating. Manufacturers of ergonomic seating solutions, will determine the appropriate foam density by using an IFD (initial force deflection) measurement. Proper IFD varies based on the type of foam used, thickness and contouring. In short, long-term comfort is accomplished through the quality and density of the cushioning in your workplace seating.

Design

For project managers and / or interior designers looking to create a truly ergonomic workplace, it’s also crucial to consider the actual design of the seating solutions you are considering for integration. The contours, depth and height of both the seat and back must support the user while at the same time encouraging proper movement. As explored in Universal Design, the best seating can cater for a broad range of user sizes, preferences and needs.

Taking these factors into consideration, should have everyone in your organization – sitting quite comfortably!

 

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Five Quick Ways to Make Your Workspace More Ergonomic!

Considering all the hours you spend logging in at the workplace, it’s easy to forget about your body’s needs when you’re juggling multiple deadlines and projects — that is of course until your body sends you a painful reminder. Save yourself some strain with these quick ergonomically friendly tips! This can also help designers in what to consider when building the perfect workplace for your client.

 

1. Take a step back. It’s great that you’re dedicated to meeting those deadlines, but unless something is due right this second, walk away from your workstation every few hours, even if it’s only for a brief walk about the office. Stretching your body is the only thing that can combat the health issues that arise from prolonged sitting.

2. Get aligned with your computer. Keeping your elbows bent near 90 degrees, with your mouse comfortably within reach of a keyboard. Oh, and stop slouching (you probably just caught yourself doing it while you read this)!

3. Keep your chin up – literally! Elevate your monitor to eye level, approximately 18-28 inches from your face. Your neck will thank you for it.

4. Use a sit – stand workstation. On top of making sure you’re decked with a good ergonomic office chair, consider a sit-stand workstation, which will allow you to take stretch breaks throughout the day, elongating your spine and promoting blood flow.

5. Adjust that chair. Your chair is your best ergonomic friend. It supports your back, your bottom, and your posture. Consider the following:

Shape. To help maintain a healthy posture, choose a chair that offers good lumbar support.

Length. When you sit, there should be a little space between the edge of the chair and the back of your knees. Adjust the seat depth to be able to sit accordingly.

Height. When you are sitting, your feet should be on the floor in front of you, and your thighs should be slightly below your hips. Shorter folks might need to use a footrest, while taller people might need to adjust the height of their desks.

 

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A Healthy Workplace is a Happy Workplace

 In today’s competitive business landscape, employees are logging more hours at the office than ever before. Since so much time is devoted to office work, office design should place a strong emphasis on what makes for a healthy workday. After all, design which takes health and wellness into account not only affects the personal wellbeing of the employees, but also the effectiveness of the business and consequently its productivity. Here are some design solutions you to keep in mind to optimize workplace health and safety:

Ergonomics and usability. The purpose of work place ergonomics is to increase the comfort, safety and efficiency of employees by fitting the environment to be compatible with their needs, abilities and limitations instead of the other way around.

Air quality. Indoor air quality may be one of the most important element in ensuring your office is a healthy and pleasant place to work. When considering design elements, bear in mind physical factors such as air temperature, humidity, and air circulation.

 Lighting.  Appropriate lighting can reduce eye fatigue and headaches, providing for greater comfort and increased productivity. A combination of natural light and well-planned task lighting can prevent eye strain.

Inclusive design. Every design decision has the potential to either include or exclude employees. Inclusive design emphasizes the value of diversity, covering a wide variation of capabilities, needs and aspirations. Organizations should integrate design structure that reduces the need for employees to ask for individual accommodation, and empowers them to feel and work their best in the workplace.

Regulations, legislation and code of practice. Designers and project managers alike, should align themselves with the Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, supported by model WHS regulations, model Codes of Practice and a National Compliance and Enforcement Policy governed through Safe Work Australia.

 

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Transitioning to a Wireless Workplace

The use of mobile in the workspace has become more prevalent in recent years. Offices have evolved to accommodate these changes. What things should you consider when designing an office to be more mobile friendly?

Virtual meetings and cloud storage are both essential if you’d like your office to be wireless and reduce the need for workers to be in the office. Being able to meet with your team from anywhere in the world is a huge advantage and opens up the workforce to great team members that may be outside of your geographical area. Meeting systems such as GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts allow for easy face-to-face meetings anywhere on the globe.

Cloud storage is equally as important, if not more, than virtual meetings. Being able to share files and compare notes from anywhere is a must if you’re trying to make your team more mobile. Widely used apps like Dropbox and Google Drive make sharing files easy and secure.

Now, what things can you implement in your office that foster a more wireless culture? A new trend in office plans called “agile working” allows teams with a limited amount of space to make the most and still be productive. Seats are unassigned but unlike hot desking, there are multiple areas specially catered to different working styles such as private work areas, collaborative spaces and social spaces. Staff can pick the area best for their productivity and change based on project needs.

To accommodate mobile equipment, charging stations for laptops and phones should be implemented where possible and will require cable management systems. Moveable tables are great for social work areas and saving space but can cause issues with cabling. It’s all about finding a balance in flexible physical space and digital space.

A wireless office is great for allowing better communication a more mobile way to work. You may find certain challenges in implementing these changes in your office. We hope that this has given you some ideas on the changes that need to be made to allow your team to be more wireless.

 

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Design That Tells Employees: Make Yourself At Home!

As businesses look to stake their place as industry leaders, team members are logging more hours in the workplace than ever before. The lines between work and home life, are quickly becoming more blurred. For this reason, many organizations are following suite and working overtime to make the office feel like a home away from home for their employees.

This trend is known as the domestication of the workplace, and it’s front and centre in current design trends. While the trend lends itself to creating a more eclectic, comfortable space, it also works as a tool for recruitment and retention of employees while supporting employee performance and enhancing workplace health and wellness.

This is not to say universal design has lost its place in the workplace. For instance, residential furniture does not necessarily have the technological functionality that commercial use requires. To account for this, many interior designers and project managers are opting to merge universal and domestic design for a workplace environment that embodies both practicality and comfortability.

So how can you introduce domestic design without losing the capabilities tied to traditional office design?

Consider introducing sectional couches, mobile side tables and accessories like accent rugs, plant life and contemporary art. You can even go one step further by considering foosball and ping pong tables to engage employees and encourage group play during downtime. Encourage employees to customize their workspaces with personal items that inspire and enable them to work their best.

If you’re looking to continue building an innovative work space that grows around the clock – create an office employees can ‘come home’ to!

 

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