Smart office design

A pleasant environment at the workplace


While you might occasionally issue instructions by clicking your mouse at your mobile workplace in amongst palm trees, a robot equipped with artificial intelligence does its work in the middle of Cork. The smart office of the future could be this simple! A bit of bad news for all fans of the South Seas is that your office workplace of tomorrow will not look quite as much like paradise.

However, leading work practice researchers agree that the modern world of work must become more flexible. Long corridors in which one individual office is located next door to the others will soon be a thing of the past. Instead, for most, smart office design begins by breaking up conventional office layouts.

A perpetuum mobile of productivity and happiness

We’re leaving the dreamy South Seas behind and taking a look at Munich. Here, Microsoft has done a great job when it comes to smart office design, this being one which focuses on the needs of employees in the workplace. As many teams maintain, a work environment must offer a variety of options: for chats with colleagues over coffee, for meetings, video conferences, but also for working quietly and concentrating at a desk.

Microsoft’s German headquarters, for example, caters to many of the requirements of tomorrow’s world of work: flexibility, collaboration, privacy, communication, individuality – and above all happiness. It is a banal truth that happy employees are particularly productive. But how do you ensure happiness in the workplace?

In an extensive study, Microsoft arrived at a startling conclusion. Productivity itself is the number one factor in happiness. The generation known as the Millennials in particular finds self-reliant work, combined with constructive tasks and tangible results, more important than a high income and traditional career trajectories. Modern office environments create a positive upward spiral, a perpetuum mobile in which happiness and productivity accompany each other to reach ever new heights.

What really matters though when it comes to smart office design that is geared to the needs of employees?

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1. One workplace for many tasks

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the perfect workplace. This is precisely the assumption that multifunctional solutions work with, which makes them suitable for different workplace situations and styles of work. Whether as a manager, specialist or project team member: every employee feels at ease at a multifunctional workplace.

Individual offices are being replaced by open office landscapes, which no longer allocate one specific workplace to every employee. Those who come into the office in the morning know what they’re expected to work on during the day and look for a suitable workstation – either alone or in a group with colleagues, if the task ahead requires teamwork.

2. No more cable chaos

It may sound like a trivial problem, but really, there’s nothing more annoying than sitting down at an unoccupied workstation in the office in the morning and then getting tangled up in cables for the first half an hour. Despite all efforts to remain mobile, many of the devices employees use during the course of the day are wired: the smartphone need to be recharged using mains power, the reading desk lamp needs a power outlet and the laptop can’t run on battery power all day.

Most devices need cables, and good things come to those who are able to get the cable chaos under control. This is why companies need to provide for all contingencies when setting up multifunctional workplaces – see above! Which cables do employees need, regardless of their specific role and task? It is best to equip each workstation with the full range. Colour coding can, for example, be used to clearly identify which cable is intended for which device. Once all these cables have been concealed under ducts or in trays, the workplace is tidy and immediately ready for use.

3. Lounge area for short breaks during the day

Every employee needs a little break at some point during the day. Smoking rooms have long since disappeared from many companies. Once employees exit the building for a short break, the time out soon becomes longer than planned. And while taking a walk outdoors is healthy, it is not always conducive to team spirit.

Instead, set up atmospheric lounge areas that invite people to linger and relax. Numerous studies have proved the importance of shared coffee breaks. Employees start talking to each other across departmental and project-specific boundaries. Everything still stays within the company and the employees’ sense of belonging, and their team spirit, grow. Comfortable lounge furniture, a good coffee machine and a couple of coffee tables – that’s all you need to create a few minutes of enjoyment during the day.

4. Bring nature into the office

Try creating a great atmosphere: the trend of adding an appealing atmosphere to the work environment has been shown to be a winner. An office environment that is based on modern interior design radiates a relaxed and familiar aura. Ideally, this includes a finely coordinated blend of different materials such as stone, wood and natural fibres.

However, are companies really able to spontaneously start on renovation projects? If they’re not, then there’s one easy trick that can spruce up the surroundings in no time at all: plants. Trendsetters design entire walls draped with greenery and bring nature into the office. It doesn’t cost a fortune, can be implemented without much effort, and has a nice bonus effect: the air in the office is better.

5. Awaken a team spirit with group workstations

Collaboration is a highly topical buzzword when it comes to designing new working environments – you remember Microsoft’s German headquarters mentioned at the beginning, don’t you? While collaboration requires a number of technical tools such as hardware and software, there are also very specific requirements for smart office design.

Teamwork should be inviting and the best invitation to teamwork, besides an interesting task, is a perfectly configured workplace. Multifunctional workstations are a good start. Even better are team workstations specifically designed for group work, ones which are equipped with every conceivable aid such as adjustable desks, flip-charts, mobile pinboards and planning boards. They ensure that your team can get started right away and quickly reach top form in terms of productivity – you still remember the number one factor for creating happiness, don’t you?

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