While the workplaces of Google and others from Silicon Valley have served well as design inspiration, organisations are now exploring a more customised approach to office design in a bid to foster creativity and increase productivity.
According to a 2010 IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide, “chief executives believe that - more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision - successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity.”
Five years later, creative employees continue to be to be of value and a design priority.
Earlier this year, Salone del Mobile in Milan coined the term Workplace3.0, highlighting the changes in office design.
“The world of work is changing rapidly, along with the actual concept of work: new methods call for different workspaces,” Salone said in a statement in May. “Workplace3.0, devoted to design and technology, is the best-equipped event to respond to this shift and to market demand."
The exhibition hosted Michele De Lucchi’s "The Walk," a huge installation devoted to the workplace featuring four different spaces, one a Laboratory for “creative process and communication.”
In a press video detailing the concept, De Lucchi said “I think this concept, this reference sums up the essence of the world of work and all its raison d'être.
“Going to the office to work makes sense if it produces something and improves something about oneself, not just one’s salary because today we work in all sorts of places, we can work perfectly well at home, in the park...so we need to find a new reason for going in the office and we also need to find a reason why offices attract and make for a more stimulating environment, more creative more communicative.
“That’s what The Walk is all about; we don’t go to the office to put our heads between our hands and withdraw from the world. We go to the office to meet other people and get new slants on things, to be influenced.”
And really, why shouldn’t people like where they work, given that they are then so often?
NAB’s headquarters at 700 Bourke Street, designed by Woods Bagot, has just been rated Australia’s top performing workplace environment according to a new survey. NAB topped five of the nine categories and ranked highest on all four indices that are used to score buildings.
In particular, the survey revealed that NAB’s new work environment has led to a 17 per cent increase in staff satisfaction and 11 per cent increase in staff productivity.
Sydney University and the University of Technology, Sydney produced the survey. Dubbed the Building Occupant Satisfaction Survey Australia (BOSSA), it measured 60 Australian buildings’ overall performance from the occupants’ perspective.
“NAB’s ranking in the survey confirms that our performance-based design and user experience approach has a tangible and quantifiable impact to those experiencing the environments we create,” said Nik Karalis, group managing director and chief executive officer at Woods Bagot.
Completed in 2013, “the total floor area of 75,000 metres square is positioned around a central, light-filled atrium and divided into eight zones that act as hubs for 50 people, with the added flexibility of 100 drop-in staff, community and consultants,” the firm’s website reads. “Each of these zones are subsequently sub-dividable into a series of spaces for social, shared, focused and learning environments.”
The design clearly works for NAB and its employees.
A New York marketing firm presented a far more unconventional design when it installed the world’s largest desk in its office in a bid to foster collaboration.
Designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA), the desk spans 4,400 square feet and is used by the 125 employees of marketing firm The Barbarian Group.
The company wanted to create an “endless table” that provided a balance of private, collaborative and social spaces.
The abstract-shaped desk runs fluidly through the space. Plywood supports an unbroken polymer desktop surface which was made from a single pour of resin. The desk flows into seven archways and tunnels, offering multiple uses, including pedestrian access, storage space and a communal area to work or meet.
In Singapore, Gate Ventures (GGV) has removed the corporate design stigma associated with technology companies and opted for a S$30,000 refurbishment from a traditional cubicle design to an engaging workplace that is designed to have staff feel comfortable.
"When we first took over, there were drop ceilings and office carpeting - two things that kill the creative spirit," said Gate Ventures managing partner Vinnie Lauria to The Business Times. "Now, the cement floors, open ceilings and an exposed brick wall give the office a raw feeling, like a cool coffee shop instead of a cubicle farm."
All three of these workplaces represent very different concepts for different industries, but are all designed (and currently working) to prompt the creative process and improve productivity.
The offices that automatically implemented a shared environment design because “everyone else did” are now updating workplaces to have more of a variety of office spaces that can support private or group work.
Employers now understand that creation comes from more than furniture and fluid spaces, it remains a combination of environmental design (natural lighting/greenery/air quality) and aesthetic that should ideally be aligned with the employee culture, the brand and the activities taking place within the space.
In The Handbook of Interior Design, authors Margaret Portilloo and Jason Meneely offer insight into today's office design considerations.
“The complex relationships between people and place can no longer be explained in positivistic terms of stimulus and response," the book reads. "Rather, we see the need for a new model, inspired by ecological concepts, that acknowledges the creative workplace as an interrelated system of dynamic complex, and varied human-space interactions sustaining individuals, groups and organisations."
American architect Clive Wilkinson believes a space is strongly linked to the way people perform.
“All people respond to their physical environment in a powerful way,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “It could be very hard to do productive work in a messy home or it could be hard to do creative work in a formal office environment. We need to be mindful of what enables us to get into that state of flow.”
Wilkinson’s firm was behind The Barbarian Group’s endless desk and Google’s Headquarters in Silicon Valley over 10 years ago, as well as offices for companies such as The Disney Store and Twentieth Century Fox Digital Studios.
Salone del Mobile's Workplace3.0 concept is in full swing in the real world, where creativity reigns.