Social distancing in the ‘new normal’ office

furniture & interiors

As more employers plan for the return of staff to the workplace, how can they adapt their office layout and furniture to ensure the safety of employees and alleviate any anxieties about busy offices? Here we look at effective ways to pandemic-proof offices and maintain social distancing without compromising on good overall design. Shielding, not …

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As more employers plan for the return of staff to the workplace, how can they adapt their office layout and furniture to ensure the safety of employees and alleviate any anxieties about busy offices? Here we look at effective ways to pandemic-proof offices and maintain social distancing without compromising on good overall design.

Shielding, not separating

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, most of us will naturally feel uncomfortable sitting too close to colleagues, which no doubt explains why, in a recent survey of UK workers by insurance provider Protectivity, only 31% said they felt safe at the prospect of being back in the workplace. Whether desk mounted or floorstanding, screens or sneeze guards are proving to be a successful solution, creating a physical barrier in high density spaces – and there’s a vast choice available, including upholstered, clear and printed options, straight, with return or three-sided, framed or unframed, with sizes and mounting to suit any requirements.

A new product category pretty much born out of the pandemic, clear acrylic panels which can be fitted on top of existing fabric screens are in high demand; not only can they be installed with very little disruption, they also provide that all essential protection without visual separation. Beyond plastic, upholstered screens will re-introduce some of the privacy and acoustic insulation that have been lost in large, open plan offices; mobile screens offer the flexibility to reconfigure spaces quickly and easily, while write-on screens are the ideal, dual-purpose backdrop for informal brainstorming and meeting spaces. With such variety of screens available, it is possible to achieve social distancing and shielding from germ spreading whilst promoting collaboration and communication.

Re-inventing spaces

Screens may be a great short-term fix to reassure concerned employees, however workplaces should also adopt a more long term, strategic approach to office design to facilitate social distancing. Think embracing the growing trend for ‘space within a space’ solutions, from the now well-established booth to newer concepts such as modular pods or curtain enclosures. Likewise, a clever use of storage walls or less obtrusive shelving, decorative hanging or freestanding acoustic panels, planters and living walls will result in natural distancing, zoning spaces rather than dividing too harshly.

Let’s not forget that Covid-proofing the workplace can come from re-configuring existing furniture too, be it a new layout to create wider or one-way walkways or splitting up clusters of desks. Our design and space planning team is here to provide personalised, expert advice and solutions.

Informing & educating

The pandemic has impacted how we work and where we work in so many ways that you’d be forgiven for overlooking the need to inform and educate if distancing and hygiene protocols are to be adhered to. With that in mind, the ‘new normal’ workplace should incorporate clear, informative displays and signage, including sanitisation stations, desk hygiene policies, floor markings etc.

Whether your staff have already started returning to the office or you are looking at how to do so safely in the future, make sure you contact our team to discuss how we can support you.

Inclusive Design

furniture & interiors

Despite the growing inclusion of disability access in office interior design making workspaces more inclusive to those with disabilities and invisible illnesses is still relatively new ground. According to a study from

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Despite the growing inclusion of disability access in office interior design making workspaces more inclusive to those with disabilities and invisible illnesses is still relatively new ground. According to a study from parliament.uk, 7.9 million people in the UK (between 16-64) identify as living with a disability. This amounts to 19% of the potential working demographic in need of a workplace that supports and aids them in their daily functions.

Small steps have been made by businesses, local councils and other organisations to adapt, such as the implementation of wheelchair access ramps. However, a disability can obviously go beyond wheelchairs and limited motor functions. The question is what kind of features can be implemented into your workspace to create a more inclusive environment for all types of people.

Here are some useful features that an organisation can implement into its design to better aid those facing physical challenges and disability.

Who needs inclusive design?

Providing a space for all workers is not only important for us as individuals, but it also gives businesses access to a wider, more diverse, talent pool full of skilled, experienced workers. Unlike some workplace design trends where the organisation would have to compromise financially or spatially to benefit their staff, inclusive design provides a ‘win-win’ situation for both parties.

Another important distinction to make is the fact that disabilities aren’t always just physically limiting but encompass a wide range of mental health and learning difficulties. Inclusive design’s benefits span over a wide range of workers, with no definitive section benefiting more than another. A multitude of features and installations can create a better working environment for a plethora of people, through audial, physical and sensory changes.

How can we integrate this into your design?

Making corridors wide enough to accommodate two wheelchair users at the time is a way of redefining best practice spatially, and creates an easier, flowing workplace for such a user without the constricting paranoia of ‘taking up room’. In a similar way, make all office spaces and surfaces more accessible to those more physically limited by having adjustable and/or multi-height surfaces (like sit-stand desks), in places like desks and utility areas. Another practical solution which would make your workspace more physically accessible to anyone would be door handles that can be operated using the ‘closed fist’ test, meaning it doesn’t need a firm grasp to open, and can be opened with minimal effort.

As we’ve already discussed, some challenges faced aren’t just physical, with many workers either openly or discreetly struggling with sensitivities related to sound, sight, and mental health issues across a wide spectrum. With research from Willis Towers Watson’s Health and Benefits Barometer showing that 1 in 10 full time office workers are considered to be ‘neurodiverse’, a large portion of workplace could benefit from small changes that you make.

One such change would be to redesign the basic colouring in your décor to be more friendly to certain colour sensitivities. Calm and natural themes do a lot to reduce stress and anxiety, you can read more about this in our blog regarding biophilic design. Maybe a full renovation isn’t really in your power at the moment though, so a policy change could have more impact and be easier to rollout. Things like a pet policy, which allow workers to bring in certain pets to help with stress and relaxation could support your workers. Another such policy would be to introduce more agile or flexible working schemes into your organisation, allowing those with different needs to find more accessible hours that suit their schedules.

These changes are a great way to advertise your commitments to creating an inclusive workplace and will work in your favour to inspire new talent to your team.

The Seven Principles of Inclusive Design:

A way to audit your organisation, in terms of whether you have a space that invokes the ideals of inclusive design, is to follow the ‘Seven principles of inclusive design’. This set of qualities that now defines inclusive design as a whole is the perfect way for your organisation to determine how you fair in terms of how accessible and friendly your workplace is. So, what are these seven principles?

  1. Equitable use: Does the design of your workplace come across as useful and enticing to those with diverse abilities?
  2. Flexibility in use: Does your design accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities?
  3. Simple and intuitive use: Is your design easy to understand regardless of the user’s skills or experience etc.?
  4. Perceptible information: Does the design communicate necessary information, regardless of the user’s sensory abilities?
  5. Tolerance for error: Is your design minimising risks due to the possibility of accidental or unintended mistakes?
  6. Low physical effort: Can the design be used efficiently and comfortably with minimum effort and fatigue?
  7. Size and space for approach and use: Are you providing enough space for reach and manipulation regardless of the user’s body size, posture or mobility?

By contending with these basic, fundamental principles, you can start to make changes today, however small. If you’d like to know more about inclusive design and how best to implement these sorts of features within your organisation, then get in touch today with our team and let’s see what we can do together.

Dynamic Design/Portable Furniture

furniture & interiors

When we look towards the future of office design, the view ahead is broad and uncertain. Some believe brutalist and biophilic will make a resurgence, where others believe minimalism and technology

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Building a dynamic, adaptable workspace

When we look towards the future of office design, the view ahead is broad and uncertain. Some believe brutalist and biophilic will make a resurgence, where others believe minimalism and technology will reign supreme. One thing we do know, however, is a storming presence within the workplace design category is dynamic design, which includes elements of breakout spaces, pods, portable furniture and more. So, what is ‘dynamic design’, and why should your business take it seriously?

Defining dynamic design:

When we think of dynamic, we tend to think of something in motion, and, more specifically, in change. Whether it be dynamic lighting that adapts to a space by size and time of day, or a dynamic plan where the details evolve based on a pragmatic and holistic approach. In the case of office design, it’s really no different. We take a dynamic approach to design by having a space that is diversified regularly based on necessity, not just whims, and apply this to all sorts of things from desks to meeting spaces. One example of dynamic design that already exists in many organisations is hot desking, where the employees have no set working space but can choose from a variety of spaces depending on their needs (e.g. private meeting booths or open collaboration pods).

Features of a dynamic workplace:

Open, accessible design

In our blog post regarding biophilic design, we spoke about the benefits of creating spaces with an unpredictable nature to mimic natural environments, and in a similar way, dynamic design would be adopted by a space that installs diverse and unorthodox routes and segments. Rather than quadrilateral designs that segment your office space into predictable blocks of desks and rooms via partitions and such, you can create winding paths that open up the workplace and provide more choice for people to traverse their environment. This small change will provide a more versatile, open and accessible place for all kinds of workers, with some areas naturally becoming more private and others becoming hot zones for collaboration.

Portable furniture

Some people genuinely work better in static, familiar environments, and others enjoy fresh spaces that provide different perspectives to their work, but how can the modern office integrate this? Using portable furniture, both types of workers can be easily provided for without compromise or excessive cost. Some simple ways of installing this into your workplace is through things like partitions that can be moved with ease. If you need to close off a space for a private call or small meeting, moveable partitions can easily diversify the space to suit your needs, whilst also remaining space conscious and easy to store. So, instead of completely sectioning off a chunk of your space dedicated to meetings, you can be more versatile in your approach and never define your space in a way that removes the choice for change- keeping the workplace dynamic. You can create micro-neighbourhoods of sorts at any time for whatever purpose.

Breakout and social spaces

We’ve spoken previously about social spaces in a blog, and the benefit you can derive from your workforce through renovating your space to accommodate a more modern way of working. According to a report from Merchant Savvy, approximately 20% of workers in the UK are working remotely, and this has risen from previous years. So, what’s so attractive to the modern worker about this kind of environment and why does it link to dynamic design? Well, one clear observation to be made is that people want to be comfortable at their workplace in a similar way to how they are at their personal abode, and social spaces can allow for this. Rather than blocking off areas of an office in a mathematical and linear fashion, you can create a multitude of spaces with independent functions for diverse levels of interaction with a simple dynamic approach to furniture, lighting and formalities. Social spaces provide a sort of breakout area for your workforce to practice different working styles and ultimately work more efficiently. Some ways to implement these kinds of spaces involve using sofas or lounging furniture to create a more homely and instantly less formal environment, or perhaps install a small coffee bar area which allows the person to breakaway from the day-to-day approach.

Organizations are always looking for ways to create environments that encourage their workforce to be more productive and comfortable, especially with a spotlight on how businesses handle mental health in their workplace. The fact is, if the modern business wants to retain its key employees, it needs to diversify its space to be more free flowing, omnidirectional and dynamic to inspire an atmosphere that values modernity and freshness through its many design features.

If you and your organisation are looking for a way to integrate or improve the dynamic design of your office, or just want to learn more about the methods you can take for improving your work space, then get in touch today and find out how we can help you.

Bringing the outdoors into your office

furniture & interiors

An exciting development to take hold of the interior design community, specifically in office spaces and work environments, is ‘biophilic design’, but why should modern businesses adopt it into their workplace design? Biophilic design takes the concept of nature and a human’s natural connection to it and applies it to contemporary design and spacial planning …

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An exciting development to take hold of the interior design community, specifically in office spaces and work environments, is ‘biophilic design’, but why should modern businesses adopt it into their workplace design? Biophilic design takes the concept of nature and a human’s natural connection to it and applies it to contemporary design and spacial planning with an office space to create more nature-inspired environments for workers. With recent studies from Human Spaces informing us that 30% of EMEA workers (Europe, Middle East and America) don’t have access to natural sunlight in their workplace, it’s significant for organisations to ascertain whether incorporating biophilic design into their business is worthwhile. In this post, we will discuss three variants of implementing natural design into your office space, and the benefits of these methods.

Visually:

One way to simply involve more natural aspects into your office design is through visual changes and additions. Perhaps the easiest, yet most important, way of doing this is to find ways to make natural and dynamic lighting more accessible. As humans, we follow what’s known as a circadian rhythm which is a 24-hour cycle. This is naturally intertwined with our motivation, productivity and energy throughout the day, and can be modulated by sunlight and temperature. If you’re stuck in a dark office with no natural light, it’s not inconceivable that your circadian rhythm will essentially become jumbled up, leaving you feeling tired and unmotivated during the day. By adding simple changes such as natural light, you can limit these effects and create a boost of energy during the day across your office space. In fact, according to the Human spaces report already mentioned, office workers who work in an environment with natural elements (such as sunlight and greenery) experience a 13% higher level of well-being than those without natural amenities.

So how does a business introduce these types of changes, along with other forms of natural visual design? For most, it should be as easy as having unobstructed windows across the office allowing light to flood in, or installing larger windows or skylights, however this isn’t always possible, especially if you’re renting out office space. For this, you could implement dynamic lighting that shifts in direction and colour to mimic the sun’s natural cycle. Sunlight isn’t the only way to alter your office space to a visually, biophilic design plan, though, as greenery and colour schemes will have similar effects on the psyche. Incorporating colours such as forest greens, browns and tans along with a sky or sea blue can greatly impact the general well-being of your office. This could be introduced simply through minor things like stationery, and other office equipment as a start, and could go as far as repainting the office and laying new carpets to match the design. In a recent refurbishment for Pets at Home, we used some of these visual elements within their design, such as breakout pods with natural tan and green colours to allow for a natural atmosphere.

Texturally:

Another interesting way to invoke feelings of nature into your office environment is through the medium of textures, surfaces and just the general feel of your workspace. Similar to the idea of biophilic design, this variant of bringing the outdoors inside is called ‘biomorphic’ design and focuses on creating work areas that model and feel like natural spaces. Biomorphic designs are supposed to create environments that, although artificial or man made in design, look and feel as if they could be found naturally. According to a UK based study titled ‘The Relative Benefits of Green versus Lean Office Space’, workers that were exposed to nature at work are 15% more productive than those who weren’t.

There are many ways to easily integrate these kinds of designs into your current space without too much effort or even expense. First, let’s clarify what counts as biomorphic design, as it does correspond with specific materials. Most offices are likely to include equipment or furniture that already falls into this category, such as natural wooden desks, or marble workspaces, as these are both materials that can be found within nature and evoke feelings of being outdoors. For more ideas, you could embrace greenery with plant walls that can be used to partition spaces and decorate and office’s aesthetic whilst also providing a more colourful, unique and natural backdrop to any office space.

Sensory:

A more obscure or unusual approach to creating a work environment that assimilates nature and its many benefits into the day-to-day grind is through sensory approaches to design. So, what does sensory refer to? The kind of changes under this branch of biophilic design aim to affect the way we take in our environment, whether that be through sound, smell or anything that influences our senses in a considerable way. Altering the way, we feel and sense our surroundings in any environment, even man-made ones, isn’t a new concept. Practices such as ‘Feng Shui’ are based around creating spaces following defined principles to boost our innermost feelings of happiness, well-being and even productivity, and nature has a lot to do with this. Certain conditions of an environment can affect us very easily, such as not being able to sleep when there’s loud noises. If you can manipulate not only the sounds you add to an environment, you can have more control over the way your team feels and can create a definitively more fruitful working environment.

There are simple ways you can incorporate these features into your spatial planning, but all make significant changes to your workplace for the better. Simple additions to your space such as water features can make a huge impact, as its proven that the sound of running water can naturally put people at ease and allow them to concentrate as they tune into a more constant, uninterrupted sound. Having these features is undeniably aesthetically pleasing, which can help for the visual aspects of biophilic design. Another way to include some sensory changes to your current design is through your spatial planning and creating a system which makes your space as unpredictable as nature itself is. Create winding paths between paths, offices and meeting rooms to provoke the wild essence of nature. Although a small change, it doesn’t go unnoticed and will create an interesting climate between the teams and even encourage more collaboration. Another method to adopt this abstract style is through varying ceiling heights or natural partitioning between areas using material like cork, bamboo or straw.

Whether you’re looking simply for a fresh, modern layout to shake up the office or considering adopting more natural design additions to impact the well-being of your office, biophilic design styles are a great way to renovate your workspace. For more information, get in touch with our team today and we can discuss how refitting and reinventing your office can help you and your team today!

Adopting Social Spaces in your Workplace

furniture & interiors

Resurging as a necessary element of an office’s design, social spaces such as kitchens, breakout spaces or pods have become something of a growing corporate zeitgeist. With more and more modern industries beginning to focus on mental wellbeing and its positive implications on the workplace, as well as physical wellbeing, contemporary solutions were needed to …

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Resurging as a necessary element of an office’s design, social spaces such as kitchens, breakout spaces or pods have become something of a growing corporate zeitgeist. With more and more modern industries beginning to focus on mental wellbeing and its positive implications on the workplace, as well as physical wellbeing, contemporary solutions were needed to allow businesses to concentrate on their colleague’s productivity and motivation. Introducing or remodelling social spaces in your organisation can carry forward many benefits and allow you to make the most of the space you have available to you. In this post, we will be discussing how these kinds of spaces can affect team dynamics, personal capabilities and also the ways in which you can integrate these into your office or workplace.

According to a report from Merchant Savvy in 2019, around 20% of UK workers are working remotely, which puts them in 5th place as compared to the rest of Europe. With likely more and more becoming self-employed and working remotely, it’s easy to interpret that people prefer to work in homely locations where they can freely move around and take breaks, so why don’t offices adapt to this trend? By introducing a neutral space, such as a café style breakfast bar, you allow your workers to relax and unwind when needed without creating an atmosphere of unprofessionalism through homely furnishings and furniture throughout the office. The reason why the majority of office workers still work at an office rather than at home may not be as simple as the lack of flexibility to work remotely, but more to do with the fact that the human condition is social by nature. By spending up to 5 days a week with other people we maintain a necessary social quota, but what if we do more than maintain it, and instead encourage the positive consequences of socialising to bloom in a working environment through social spaces.

How do we implement social spaces into our workplace?

The difficulty with adding in these kinds of social spaces into your organisation can be choosing the right products to create a professional, dynamic and friendly area, and as experienced consultants within the industry, we’ve had clients who’ve faced these difficulties before they worked with us. Some effective ways to create these kinds of informal, yet presentable, socialising centres for your employees and visitors are kitchens, breakout spaces, breakfast bars, pods and general lounge areas. Each with their own levels of scope and integrated features, you can find a social space which matches the message of your business. If you’re a business that relies on your ability to connect and network, then perhaps a café style breakfast bar can provide a neutral area for you to discuss business or personal relationships with a nice cup of coffee by your side. Maybe you run a digital agency, such as an IT firm, and need a place with brighter colours and open windows to inspire creativity and create a contrast from potentially monotonous variants of work. Whatever your situation, your organisation can benefit from a unique and appropriate form of a social space.

More than just a place to collaborate

Some organisations will not have these social facilities for their employees, as they instil a strict separation between work and home, but social spaces go beyond just providing a place for your employees to socialise, interact and collaborate, they also provide a space for them to take screen breaks. Due to recent research and studies being popularised in media, many industries now require that their staff take regular screen breaks to avoid fatigue and stress, as well as receiving time to walk outside or drink water. DSE (Display Screen Equipment) regulations suggest that regular breaks of 1-2 minutes after every hour can be largely beneficial to avoid issues with overworking, staring at a screen for too long and stress.

The fact is this, organisations that value their employee’s time, mental health and ability to communicate provide them with spaces to help them restore, reenergise and reflect on their activities. To properly foster collaborative efforts within your organisation, spaces like these allow for a space away from the office or workplace where your employees’ creativity can flourish. To help our customers with this, we’ve undertaken projects that install breakout areas like kitchens and pods which isolate the inhabitants from the main work space so they can concentrate on the project at hand or simply socialise more with the members of their team.

If you and your business are looking for practical ways to introduce social spaces that are relevant to your layout and mission statement, then we can certainly help. Get in touch with our experienced team today to discover more about the many benefits of social spaces and breakout areas.

Man's back hurting without a sit-stand desk

Invest in your team’s wellbeing with sit-stand desking

furniture & interiors

With more and more businesses adapting their workspaces to benefit their team, the pressure to provide a cutting-edge work environment for your employees has never been higher – and for good reason. Say gooodbye to those aches and pains On the forefront of this need to create better environments for staff, sit-stand desks provide an …

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With more and more businesses adapting their workspaces to benefit their team, the pressure to provide a cutting-edge work environment for your employees has never been higher – and for good reason.

Say gooodbye to those aches and pains

On the forefront of this need to create better environments for staff, sit-stand desks provide an innovative and simple solution to many long-recognised issues commonly found in the average workplace, such as neck pain, back ache, and wrist strain.

The problem has often been that no matter how healthy your lifestyle is outside work, your efforts are often lost when you step into the office, and you remain susceptible to injuries and conditions such as back pain or even elevated cholesterol. In fact, according to research committed by Fellowes, for every two hours of sitting, you cancel out a substantial 20 minutes of exercise, and with a full office working day potentially eight hours long you stand to undo over an hour of exercise (equal to an average session at the gym or perhaps a long run).

This is the least of your worries, however, as prolonged periods of sitting over time can lead to higher blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, which in turn can lead to unwanted health consequences. With a sit-stand desk, you remove these prolonged periods of remaining seated, and also reap the benefits of standing up to work. For example, whilst standing up to work, you burn 30% more calories than when sitting down. This may not seem like a lot, but this extra activity can actually reverse the effects of staying seated for too long.

The health benefits don’t end there…

Of course, physical health isn’t the only concern for an office space, and rightly so. The mental wellbeing of any team is crucial to a positive working environment. Research shows that workplace productivity sees a significantly valuable increase of 46% simply with the ongoing use of sit-stand desks. With that level of additional work rate and yield, the challenges your business faces can be easily overcome, allowing for a more resourceful and efficient team atmosphere.

Considering all of the above, are sit-stand desks for you? With benefits including reducing health risks and increasing workplace productivity, there’s a clear argument for integrating sit-stand desking into your workplace. For more information, get in touch with our team today and we can discuss how sit stand desks can help you and your team today!