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Shifting sensory perceptions

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Workspace layout and design affects productivity; there is technology to discover key environmental aspects

Commercial property managers and company owners need to shift their thinking towards more global working trends and seriously consider the impact of office design on tenants and employees.

For when it comes to influencing business performance, the role of workplace design in an organisation becomes essential, and can do more to attract and retain talent than just money.

“It can help reduce costs, improve productivity and act as a catalyst for staff engagement and creativity,” says Ewout Holst, JLL’s head of corporate solutions for sub-Saharan Africa.

“Globally, health and well-being in the workspaces have become top-of-mind as companies focus more on their core assets – their people.”

A company’s property could therefore play an enhanced role in creating the optimum workplace, making their business more efficient and profitable.

“For instance, by employing sensor technology in your departments and meeting rooms, you can develop a good understanding of how your office is being used, how long an employee sits at a particular work station and how often your meeting rooms are used. “With occupancy costs per square metre and energy consumption particularly relevant from an expenditure and sustainability perspective, the results can lead to important decisions about space use.” 

Facts and figures
● Good air quality – employees are 183% more effective at strategy
● Improved acoustics – 6% increase in productivity
● Improved views and lighting – 5.5% increase in productivity 
Source –  Ewan Holst

Holst says there are also considerations like using technology to measure temperature, carbon dioxide levels, light, noise and humidity levels to ensure environments that encourage thinking. 

This change of thinking is also highlighted in Knight Frank’s New Office Dynamics Report which states that Activity Based Work is the concept whereby office design eliminates boundaries around employees’ personal workspaces and supports work activities. 

“In an average ABW office, there would be a mix of team desks, quiet concentration rooms, telephone booths and a meeting room. More advanced ABW offices might also offer stand-up meeting tables, a brainstorm area, multimedia rooms, a lounge area and standup work stations. 

“All ABW spaces should have fast-wireless networks. In all of them, facilities are shared between co-workers and management, and no one has their own desk, except for the security staff perhaps.” 

The report says commercial property owners must understand the impacts of ABW on their buildings and how best to respond with building designs that can provide the required flexibility. 

Areas like conversation hubs give employees comfortable spaces to brainstorm. Picture: Paragon Interiors

“Activity-based work is still a relatively new concept for South African office space, but an interest has been shown by business owners who want to put a different spin on the usual office dynamics.” 

Office design experts concur, saying the ideal design of office space should offer employees choice and control. “We refer to this as catering for the ‘employee experience’,” says Natalie Mabaso, an industrial psychologist at Paragon Interiors. 

To encourage productivity, Mabaso says the goal should be to create a space that is functional and caters for employees’ needs. Examples include a beautiful staff cafe area can bring together people who otherwise wouldn’t cross paths in an organisation. 

Also desirable are suitable quiet spaces, such as focus rooms with one or two seats, quiet pods with high-backed sofas and libraries; comfortable, ergonomic tables and chairs and height-adjustable desks to encourage a change of posture. Technology, technology, technology. Defective computers, intermittent internet connections, and faulty AV systems can have a serious impact on employees’ productivity. Laptops provide employees with the flexibility to use alternative work spaces in the office. 

“When it comes to office design, the happiest employees are provided with facilities that support their job functions and responsibilities,” Mabaso says.

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