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Office Design Options

"The open plan office is dead – long live the open plan office!"

In all aspects of design, trends come and go. The introduction of office cubicles has largely fallen out of favour, but whereas the decriers were saying this symbolised the death of the open plan office, this has not been the case. The design leaders, often the larger tech companies, have used experts outside of the industry to ask what work space set-up best suits our needs as humans?

There has been an emphasis on collaboration and communication in recent years, and this has been reflected in corporate design trends. Movable partitions, options for working environments, open, relaxing and welcoming spaces for employees from all departments to linger and mingle have all been seen in the swanky offices we can be proud to show to our clients.

With all ying there must be a yang – and for office design trends this has been to throw the whole concept of openness out of the window and opt instead for the closed office. It may cost more in terms of set-up and floor space, and having a set room for each employee, with their own desk and a door to close on the rest of your colleagues flies in the face of work space trends in 2019. So why would you choose it? Why risk office shame at corridors of closed doors, unwelcoming to visitors, so off-trend that it looks as though you are not a progressive company? Why spend a greater part of your design budget on static walls and doors/ separate work spaces and individual desks?

It doesn’t suit all businesses, but it is the best solution for certain industries. Tying into our blog post from last week, The Silent Office, it has been proven that giving people the opportunity to access silent, or very quiet environments, can result in an increase in both their memory and their productivity. If the nature of your work requires your employees to really concentrate then having their own space is likely to ensure they are better able to carry out their work than within a noisy, distracting, open space.

Any work space design needs to look first at the purpose for which it is required – and the company using it. There is no right or wrong design in terms of trends, but there most certainly is in terms of workers. What suits one company won’t necessarily suit another, and to get the right working environment for you and your employees you need a design company that starts by gaining an understanding of your company culture and the nature or your employees work.

The Silent Office

If you’re reading this in your office, how much noise are you hearing? Even if you’re not currently at work, can you imagine being there, and what sounds you would be hearing?

Modern workplaces can be noisy, and noise can be distracting. We’ve written before about Office Noise and ways in which to reduce it but were intrigued by a report that advocates silence for better concentration and productivity.

Two separate studies in 2013 found that the brain is always active, even when resting, and that the part of the brain that helps memories form can be prompted to increase cell development when allowed two hours of silence a day.

Noise has been shown to cause elevated levels of stress, whereas silence has the opposite effect. In our work spaces we are often bombarded with noise – people talking, printers printing, phones ringing – and finding a quiet space let alone a place of silence can seem impossible.

If the studies and the reports are correct though, ensuring that your office design incorporates spaces for employees to find a refuge from noise could help your businesses’ profitability and increase the productivity of your workforce. There are some stunning designs for individual and group work pods that could provide this space and as many are mobile, they can be incorporated into most current set ups.

A study published in Heart journal found that a mere 2 minutes of silence proved to be even more calming than listening to “relaxing” music, so let’s all find a place to turn off the noise and take time out to refocus on our work at hand. As the saying goes, silence really is golden.

Florence Knoll Bassett

We were saddened to hear over the weekend the news that Florence Knoll Bassett passed away at her Coral Gables home in the US. She was 101. Florence was a world-renowned architect and designer, and a pioneer of American office design.

Florence met her husband Hans in New York in 1941 and helped him to establish their revolutionary Knoll Planning Unit. Where Hans’ skills lay in business acumen and salesmanship, Florence brought her unique design skills, creative visions and a network of contacts.

Credited with being the defining force in creating the standard for the modern corporate interiors of post-war America, she revolutionised the world of post-war office interiors.

Images courtesy of the Knoll Archive.

Florence and the Planning Unit were responsible for the interiors of some of America’s largest corporations, including IBM, GM and CBS. She saw herself as more than “just an office designer”, rather as a creative force. Showing wisdom beyond her time, The Planning Unit assessed each client’s individual requirements using meticulous research and planning. This included as standard rigorously defining patterns of use and understanding company culture before presenting a comprehensive design which was informed by the principles of modernism and beautifully executed in signature Knoll style.

The first woman recipient of the Gold Medal for Industrial Design from AIA in 1961, she went on to receive the highest award for artistic excellence in America, the National Medal of Arts, in 2003. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends, and as an office fit-out, design and furniture company, we are grateful for the legacy that Florence has left us all.

She had that ability, to critique [something], to tear it apart and put it back together. She was something else.” Bob Longwell

That revolution in the office took place 20 years ago and Florence Knoll, the woman who led it, is today the single most power­ful figure in the field of mod­ern design. To be accepted by Knoll is to have it made.” New York Times, 1964

The Planning Unit existed because of my background in architecture. It was the very first furniture company [that] ever had a planning department.” Florence Knoll Bassett

2019’s Pantone Colour

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere lucky enough to escape the clouds and be awake anywhere between about 1.30 and 7am this Monday, we had the opportunity to spot the rare phenomenon of a “super blood wolf moon". To any of you who were dedicated enough to get yourself up early to see this, we salute you coming as it did at the dawn of Blue Monday – allegedly the most depressing day of the year.

Now we’re no conspiracy theorists here in the 20six office, but we did see a bit of a coincidence with this super moon that was, lets face it, more of a pinkish hue than a blood red, and Pantone’s chosen colour of 2019.

And The Winner Is…

The PANTONE Colour of the Year 2019: Living Coral

With a nod to eschewing the cultural norm of a society that is increasingly dominated by digital technology and social media, wallowing in doom and gloom, Pantone has suggested that this year’s choice symbolises an “innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits” and “authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy”.

Living Coral is officially classed as “an animating shade of orange with a golden undertone” but to be honest, to the naked eye, we’d go with soft pink.

So, can pink work in commercial property and office design? Well, being one step ahead here at 20six HQ we discussed this very premise way back in, oh, May 2017, when we asked, "Does Pink Work In The Office": and we got a resounding positive response on our social media channels when we shared our post. Living Coral is supposed to reflect the warmth, nourishment, and shelter of coral reefs to sea life, which ties in very nicely with the movement in office design to nurture employees and recognise that their wellbeing is of paramount importance to the overall productivity of a company.

We await with baited (no “sea” pun intended…) breath to see the Living Coral Office Furniture designs as they roll hot out of the designer’s showrooms, and to see which forward thinking companies embrace this year’s colour into their overall company branding.