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Office Space in the Changing Work Environment

Jun 11, 2008
Globally, companies are embracing new working practices and technologies, changing the demands placed on office design. Employees used to instant messaging and online communication, expect their jobs and office design to reflect this dynamic culture and employers are responding.

Research by residential property company, Savills, revealed understanding the needs of workers has never been more important. Its report, What Workers Want in Property, conducted by YouGov, polled more than 4,500 employees. It discovered more than 82 per cent of respondents rated immediate workspace concerns, such as comfort, heating and lighting, as the most important.

Potential employees are also changing. More job seekers are looking at a company's environmental credentials before applying for work. Savills revealed: "Where respondents rated employer image as important, 80 per cent placed the same level of importance on an employer's possession of an environmental/recycling policy."

Not only are firms looking at innovative office relocations and fresh office interior design, they are also reconsidering how they use office staff. The recent report by Sainsbury's HR director, Imelda Walsh, has been accepted by the government and business is now allowing more people to apply for flexible working conditions.

Increasingly powerful, networked computers and web-based applications are creating virtual offices and more employees than ever work from home.

This migration to flexible working need not be a concern for organizations according to Brendan Barber, head of the Trades Union Congress, who says employers should support it.

He recently told the Work Wise UK summit, changing working practices has to involve "drawing on a range of measures to realign employment culture and people management practices - in ways that match both the needs of the business, and the aspirations of staff for a better quality of working life".

Office interior design, like the new workforce, needs to be flexible. Professional services firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), recently completed a successful office relocation, having first considered the cost of moving.

Its new property at the Spencer Dock site at the North Quays in Dublin's docklands is an example of new office design. PwC established focus groups with its new office furniture designer, Steelcase and Architects Mullally Leonard Partnership. Having consulted on all aspects of the fit out, Steelhouse said it "ensured that the design was aligned closely with the actual needs and aspirations of PwC people".

One element of their office interior design is now common in new buildings and much sought after by firms conducting strategic relocations: informality.

The company incorporated a variety of social spaces in its new office design. Cafés, atriums, restaurants, even small gyms are now featuring in commercial property designs.

Working practices have also dramatically changed. Younger workers are bringing an appetite for technology into the workplace, which is challenging established methods.

Dan Rasmus, director of information worker vision at Microsoft suggests firms "capture those smart ideas and put them into practice", making use of the latest internet technology in the office. He advised companies "deploy a fluid collaboration environment where employees can work together through Web 2.0 tools such as portals, blogs, and wikis". IBM is one firm where social networking has been used as a means of augmenting office design, bringing people together with its Facebook-style tool, Beehive.

Despite ongoing changes, the physical office is still a company's focal point. Homeworkers only account for a small percentage of the labour force (12.2 per cent) and creating a welcoming office space is still key to achieving productivity and job satisfaction.
About the Author
Shivani Gurtu-Louth - Operations Manager of Devono Property Limited. Devono are the only commercial property agents in London to exclusively represent tenants looking for office space and commercial property in London to rent. Our aim is to secure the best commercial property at the best price. For interviews, quotes, images or comments contact: Shivani Gurtu-Louth Devono Operations Manager Tel(DDI): +44 (0)20 7096 9911 E-mail: sg@devono.com
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