It’s time to re-think the workplace

With some employers struggling to encourage colleagues back into the workplace, major occupiers are fundamentally reappraising the role of the office.

Should they scale back and allow greater flexibility to work from home, or be more directive with their staff about office-based working?

Perhaps this is looking at the problem from the wrong way up.

Long before the pandemic took hold, enlightened employers were already introducing new design features and functionality into their workspaces, motivated by a need to increase collaboration, creativity and productivity.

Now, following almost two years of lockdowns which confined most of us to our homes, many are reporting staff feeling disaffected and disconnected – from each other and from their employers.

So how can the workplace be used to fulfil its functional role – to provide an environment that’s conducive to collaboration and concentration – whilst also acting as a driver for greater employee participation and presence?

This is where the interior design industry can help.

Photography: CGI by Scene

In luxury hotels, high-end restaurants and amenity spaces, interiors are designed to elicit a distinct emotional response from their users – to surprise and delight, to entice and excite, to comfort and calm – as well as satisfying functional requirements.

We combine design features, colour, texture, light and scent to create a unique sense of space and place which encourages people not only to visit, but to stay, to be happy and to return, again and again.

Why should the workplace be any different?

In terms of workspace design, creating a dynamic environment that reflects the company’s organisation and brand is the goal, and will determine features used within a space. For example booth seating to encourage relaxed interaction, set and sculpture to provide moments of reflection and mindfulness, planting to create a sense of wellbeing.

Photography: CGI by Scene

By rethinking the office, employers can encourage a more sociable and stimulating environment, thereby encouraging people to come together – rather than coercing or forcing.

At a time when skills shortages are impacting most industries, maybe the office can even play a bigger role in attracting and retaining talent?