Office interior design helps companies realise diverse targets, from business goals to visual aims. Although office work in different organisations looks similar (employees work mainly at desks and in meeting rooms), it is not possible to apply a single office arrangement style to all companies. What should we take into consideration when choosing interior design? What are the characteristic features of the most popular office arrangement styles? We warmly invite you to read our guide titled "#MYoffice ‒ a guide to office styles."
Anna Marszałek, Senior Workplace Research and Spaceplanning Consultant
For many companies, business relationships are a priority. It is therefore desirable that a client entering the company’s office should get the impression they are dealing with a reliable and professional business partner. To obtain that effect, office design must be consistent with the company’s business profile. No investor is likely to believe that an architect can design a functional office space if they cannot take care of their own space; if their office furniture is a random jumble and their office is a complete mess.
A well-thought-out approach to creating your brand is closely connected with coherent communication. An office space is one element of such communication that creates the first impression during business contacts which take place in the company’s office.
Another important role of office interior design is to reflect organisational culture.
Organisational culture is a set of beliefs and rules prevailing at a specific company. It is the building block used to build the external image and desired employees’ behaviours. It helps to understand what the organisation promotes, how it works and what it considers important. The concept of organisational culture is often compared to the personality or the soul of an organization, constituting its identity and making it stand out from other companies.
Organisational culture shapes the way a company functions. It can be observed by analysing the atmosphere, dress code, preferred and appreciated attitudes and values, management style, methods of employee communication, relationships and goals.
The most visible element, however, that largely builds organisational culture is the space occupied by the company. Being properly designed, it can effectively enhance the impact organisational culture exerts.
There, where innovation is an important element, space is generally designed to stimulate employees to come up with new ideas. While, in the case of a company that is more attached to a code and promotes professionalism in dealing with the client, space will have a more formal character.
For example, an interactive agency should have an original interior with colourful graffiti on the walls, while toned down colours and heavy wooden furniture would be more appropriated for a law firm. In the first case, you can imagine that the atmosphere in the company is casual, employees have more informal contacts, there is no fixed dress code and they shape the space themselves, e.g. by bringing in some personal decorative items. Interior design will emphasise those specific features of the organisation and make employees feel comfortable.
In the second case, the interior would impose a completely different behaviour. An employee would not come dressed in a flannel shirt and sneakers to an elegant office highlighting the prestige of the profession. Relations between employees will be more formal, and employee impact on the space much smaller. Here, every personal touch must match the design so as not to downgrade its importance.
Office design and organisational culture are mutually related. On one hand, interior design is determined by organisational culture. While on the other hand, an office can be intentionally designed to shape organisational culture or support its change.
The changing demographic situation has a direct impact on the labour market. These days, as many as four generations (Baby Boomers, X, Y and Z) work together in the office, each with a specific approach to work as well as different needs and requirements. According to estimates, over the next 10 years the Millennials (generation Y) will make up 75% of the world’s human resources.
Their expectations of potential employers are completely different from those of previous generations. The typical dull office where their parents used to work is not enough anymore. The generation Y expects visually appealing interiors designed in line with the latest trends, offering great flexibility and comfort. This is confirmed by statistics showing that just in the BPO sector, 81% of employees would like to see the office first before signing a job contract.
Employers are aware of the fact that they must take account of these requirements in order to attract and keep talents. Therefore, attractive space providing comfortable working conditions becomes a bargaining chip in the recruitment process, and a factor that affects employee satisfaction.1
The word “style” invariably runs through articles about interior design. You can often hear about Scandinavian, industrial or Provencal style. Boundaries between those categories are often fluid and a single space may have the characteristic features of two different styles. Not every style has a specific name, or it is hardly identifiable as such, which is why style names we use are quite descriptive and conventional.
During the next weeks, we are going to present 6 office styles that are most often chosen by companies.
Style is definitely not a list of products that have to be in a space so that it can be qualified for a specific category. However, talking about a specific style most people imagine some characteristic elements. And this is what we would like to show. We will add a short checklist to each office style that will include questions about the priorities as well as a description of the desirable image and work styles. This checklist will help people quickly verify whether a certain office style matches their company or not.
Even the space that has been planned out by a designer from A to Z may be missing one key component: freedom for employees to arrange their own space.
In research carried out by Craig Knight from the University of Exeter, subjects were assigned to work in different types of offices: basic (decorated simply and austerely), decorated (with potted flowers and photos) and co-created by the employees (subjects were able to move office accessories freely or even get rid of them). The results of this study showed that productivity was higher by 17% in the "decorated office" and as much as 32% higher in the "co-created office," as compared to the "basic office."2
Giving employees a certain level of freedom to decide about the final look of their office space is beneficial to both parties. Employees are more satisfied because they have more control over the environment, and their work is more productive at the same time, which is directly translated into higher profits for the company.
It turns out that the decision concerning the choice of the right interior design style should be discussed with employees. A one person’s vision may prove wrong in a given case.
1 The Relative Merits of Lean, Enriched, and Empowered Offices: An Experimental Examination of the Impact of Workspace Management Strategies on Well-Being and Productivity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: 2010, Vol. 16, No. 2, 158–172
2 BPO and Shared Service Centres: employees speak out on workplace. Office buildings attributes as a competitive advantage in the war for talent. June 2015 Skanska Jll