For people to go to an office, the atmosphere has to be warm and inviting. As we’ve seen in Rethinking Workplace, many people across Europe now have the choice to either go to an office or not. Therefore, the role of the workplace designer has never been more important. And, while micro trends will come and go, there are some key fundamentals that should always be considered when creating a positive and productive working atmosphere.

Take a scientific approach

Keeping in mind the need to create the right ‘ambience’, it’s important for businesses and designers to conduct research to ensure that what’s being implemented is going to land.

A strong example of this is PLP Architecture, which designed a sustainable office complex here in Amsterdam called The Edge. As well as creating a building with outstanding eco credentials, the team did extensive research into what the workforce actually wanted.

One of the conclusions in terms of atmosphere, was that employees would like to have some sort of soft, rustling movement in their peripheral view. This is because, psychologically, they associated it with the rustling of leaves, which then led to them thinking about the calming effect of the outdoors. In response to this, they included lots of greenery in their design.

Taking this scientific approach to creating an appealing environment helped form decisions around both the visual and functional aspects.
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Everything had been fully considered – people actually wanted these things. Workers need to come into an office and think that it’s where they want to be. And if they feel connected to the design in some way, then the likelihood is they will want to be there.

Encourage collaboration between all parties

Taking sustainability as a current workplace theme, this is likely to be a focus for interior designers across all of their projects. But, as we’ve seen in the research, Rethinking Workplace, sustainability is seemingly low on the list of priorities for employees.

This begs the question, do the people that work in an office see sustainability as their responsibility? Or do they, in fact, assume that their employer, or the designers that put the office together will have already considered it? And therefore it’s covered?

Expanding this thought, we’re in the process of moving to new offices ourselves, here in Amsterdam, and I’ve had conversations with members of staff who have assumed that standing desks, for example, will automatically be available in the next premises. This is without it occurring to them that they hadn’t made this requirement known to those implementing the design.

A common theme in workplace seems to be that employees perhaps assume that their employers will just take onboard what is taking place in the wider market and act accordingly.
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And this might not be the case, because the employer hasn’t heard anything so think their staff are happy with what’s already in place.

By all parties discussing what’s needed and wanted upfront, a more long-term solution can be rolled out – making both time and cost savings. 

Create an ‘office away from the office’

When people work from home, it’s not because they have a better chair, or a better desk there – a lot of people work at their kitchen table. It’s more likely because they’re in their own environment. They know there won’t be any distractions, and they can play their own music, and have their own tea.

However, the Rethinking Workplace report has shown that, ultimately, people do believe they’re more productive in the office.

In response, we’ve seen some designers applying the most coveted elements of homeworking to the office for a hybrid solution. There’s an initiative in Belgium, for example, that I’m really excited about. It’s called Fosbury & Sons, and it’s a new coworking concept with two now open in Belgium, and ten planned in total – one of which will be developed in Amsterdam.

Each has its own distinct personality, and is a place you feel you’d want to live. And that’s the level that workplace designers now have to aim for.

This might suit some industries more than others, but as an overarching concept that incorporates all of the different ‘trends’, from greenery to vintage pieces – this is where the workplace seems to be heading, especially for the creative sector.

Remember that one size does not fit all

This leads on to an important point about personalisation – an office cannot be templated. It has to be tailormade. Consideration must be paid to who actually works there and what they do day-to-day, to ascertain how their surroundings can help them perform tasks in the best possible way.

Outside factors linked to demographics are also having an impact on the customisation of the office in terms of different wants and needs. In Holland, for example, the participation of women in work is currently quite low – there’s a large percentage of women who work part-time because they take on much more of the childcare.

As we see women going into the workplace in a more substantial way, offices will change accordingly.
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Bravery is never our of fashion

On a final note, it’s a personal mission of mine to bring more colour to our spaces. In Holland, we have an addiction to a certain shade of white, it’s our magnolia. I’m on a mission to eradicate this colour from Dutch offices, because it has become the default choice when white might not actually be conducive to a positive atmosphere. My one piece of advice to workplace designers is this: be bold.

No one should be afraid of doing something a bit ‘out there’ because that gets people talking and thinking about the next step. The first Prius probably wasn’t a great car, but the fact that they built it and people were using it made it possible to make a second. And, when it comes to workplace trends, bravery is never out of fashion.

Evelien Reich Editor in chief - Elle Decoration