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Workplace design is key

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Companies are shifting their focus to their most important assets

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

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

“It can help reduce cost, 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 wellbeing in workspaces have become top-of-mind as companies focus more on their core assets, namely their people.”

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

Holst says technology can also be used to measure temperature, carbon dioxide levels, light, noise and humidity to ensure environments that encourage thinking.

This change of approach is also highlighted in Knight Frank’s New Office Dynamics Report which details Activity Based Work (ABW), 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, phone booths and a meeting room. More advanced ABW offices may also offer stand-up meeting tables, a brainstorm area, multimedia rooms, a lounge area and stand-up work stations. 

All ABW spaces should have fast wireless networks. Facilities are shared between co-workers and management, and no one has their own desk, except maybe security staff.”

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.

Office design experts say 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.

For example, a staff café area can bring together people who wouldn’t cross paths in an organisation.

Collaboration areas such as project rooms are good for idea generation, as are 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 encourage a change of posture.

Defective computers, intermittent internet connections and faulty AV systems can have a serious impact on productivity. Laptops provide employees with the flexibility to use alternative spaces in the office.

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