Office Design. From room reservation software to resimercial furniture

Cubicles or open space, horizontal or vertical, modern or postmodern, the office space has seen it all. Or maybe not. Just when we thought a certain style is here to stay, everything changes all over again. Regardless of the chosen direction when putting together an office building, there are some features that are always welcomed. This article discusses five of them. If you’re eager to learn about what resimercial furniture is, skip to the last section.

1. Technology integration

From PDAs to smartphones, from Dictaphones to AI personal assistants, from overhead projectors to interactive, wireless boards, technology has always been present in the office. And while it has undergone a lot of changes in the last decades, none was as rapid as in these last few years. The 21st century is nicknamed the “century of speed” for good reason. All this rapid development calls for rapid adjustment.

One thing is for sure: if integrated and used correctly, office technology makes employees’ lives better. And we emphasize “integrated and used correctly”, because there are ways in which technology can overcomplicate office life. Think of a casual brainstorming meeting that could do only with a pack of post-its and some pencils, but instead gets to be run with the aid of an interactive board that had to be brought from another conference room, and had to be wirelessly connected to a laptop, but it just wouldn’t connect, so someone from the IT department had to be called, and to call that IT guy, someone had to submit an internal ticket, and… And so on and so forth.

The range of office technology can vary from meeting room booking software and digital signage, to wireless displays and audio conferencing equipment. But what we’re going to talk about a bit more are two recent trends and developments: smart furniture and AI assistants.

“Smart” furniture that bends or expands, collapses or spreads, has been around for quite a while. More precisely, the oldest folding chairs were found in Tutankhamun's tomb, so that places them in the 14th century BC. But we’re not talking about folding chairs and extendable tables. The latest inventions in the matter of “smart” furniture regard wireless charging and tables that tell you when it’s time to change posture.

Let’s walk with an employee ready to make full use of smart furniture in the office of the future. He easily books a meeting room right at the door, through a digital signage signboard, then proceeds to sit at a smart table, conveniently paired with his smartphone, that has all his personal preferences saved and transmits them to the table with a simple tap. When the table informs its user that it’s time to change posture – let’s say it’s time to sit down – the employee can relax in a smart chair, that “intuitively responds to the movement of the body to provide comfort”. In all this time, the employee’s smartphone can rest on a smart side table, wirelessly charging. And, if he needs anything (either a pizza or to find out how long have folding chairs existed), he can simply ask Siri. Or Cortana. Or Alexa. Or *insert your favourite virtual assistant here*.

Sounds pretty neat, right? And it is! But in order to offer a completely unbiased, full picture, we must note down the disadvantage of smart furniture: it takes away all your privacy. It will record everything and upload it to the cloud. Sure, it helps with improving space utilization, and it does aim to enhance employee well-being, but it does it in an intrusive manner. We already live surrounded by constant surveillance, that takes away our anonymity. It’s vital to try and preserve the little privacy we have left.

 

2. Activity zones

Activity-based working (or ABW) was the idea of an architect who thought to refresh the concept of personal desk, by… well, by removing it entirely. Employees no longer get a desk assigned, where they can perform their activities, but instead move around office spaces, depending on their daily tasks.

To make this happen, the available space inside an office building has to be designed in such a way that it sustains the company’s specific work scheme, helping it improve collaboration, efficiency and productivity. There are multiple activity zones, and each company can partition its space according to its needs. We’ve narrowed it down (it might be an oversimplification, but it works) to two types of activity zones: collaboration ones and private.

Collaboration zones span from simple, small intersection places (think watercooler spots) to large, super-equipped conference rooms. The smallest collaboration zones can be decorated informally, with just a table and some comfy chairs. Keep in mind to maintain the utility of the respective zone; don’t forget to provide it with basic office supplies: post-its and pencils, or, if the space allows it, a whiteboard and some markers. The more spacious areas can be fitted with the latest office technology, that we previously mentioned.

The second type of activity zone is the private one. That is, a place where an employee goes in those moments when he needs to work alone. These type of locations should be separated from the open space, to provide a haven for concentration and productivity. If they are soundproof and set up with video call equipment, that makes it even better, since they can be used for multiple purposes.

 

3. Communal fun areas

By definition, communal areas are areas shared, or used in common by members of a group or community. What makes them fun areas, though, is up to each company. They can range from a classic bean bag filled room to a sports bar, depending on the budget. Even so, what puts the fun into the fun zones is the employees’ passions or hobbies, so relaxation areas should be moulded after these.

In the last couple of decades, the importance of relaxing in the workplace has been brought in the public eye incessantly. Having fun not only helps employees unwind and fight physical and mental health issues, but it also boosts their creativity, changing the way business is done. Therefore, it has become almost mandatory for any company to offer its employees fun and relaxing areas, where they can recharge. So take your pick and set up an area where your employees can either read or colour, play darts or foosball, enjoy a game of Mario Kart or Mortal Kombat, punch a bag or do some yoga, or, why not, take a power nap.

Some might argue that these areas should have been included in the ABW zones. And they would be right. ABW is constructed on the idea that spaces should be fashioned after employees’ activities, and not the other way around. However, we thought it would be better if we separated work zones from fun ones. After all, they are used for very different reasons.

 

4. Biophilic design

Biophilia is defined as the human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature. In a nutshell, even though we developed this huge concrete jungles called cities, in which we lead technology-driven lives, we long for a genuine, close communion with nature. Maybe it’s a reminiscence of the hunter-gatherer era of mankind, when humans were truly part of nature, or maybe it’s just a legitimate search for fresh air, peacefulness and amazing natural landscape. The affinity for biophilic design is better put into words in this short trailer for a documentary movie.

To better illustrate how biophilic design can be integrated in company offices, let’s take into consideration the five senses. This way, the experience of being immersed into nature in any corner of the company building is complete.

Sight. In this regard, the options are close to endless. Start with a way to give your employees access to natural light, as much as possible. Install wide windows, to maximise the natural light going in, and give people working inside a view on which they can exercise and improve their vision. Scatter potted plants wherever you can, not only will they soothe every eye that lands on them (after all, green is considered to be one of the most relaxing colours), but they will also take care of refreshing the oxygen levels in the surrounding area. No reason to not go further and integrate an entire living wall, if possible.

Hearing. Ever walked in a waiting lounge, either in an airport, a company building or a medical center, where you could hear birds singing and water murmuring? If so, then you can attest to the serenity and calmness instilled by that acoustic background. This is another method to incorporate a biophilic design into a workplace. Maybe not everyone is pro audio background right in the office (after all, there are people who can only work in complete silence), so speakers should be installed only in those places where it’s absolutely certain that they won’t bother anyone.

Taste. This might seem a bit tricky. What can a company do in terms of office design that its employees can taste nature? Well, here is the most accessible and convenient idea: fruit day. Start a habit of providing employees fresh fruit in a certain day of the week. If budget allows it, make it every day of the week, that’s even better.

Smell. Best way to offer employees an olfactory anchorage is to ensure that the building has casement windows. Nothing compares to what nature does by itself. Freshly cut grass, sun heated air, petrichor – no artificially made smell compares to these. However, the circumstances aren’t always favourable for allowing windows that open. Sometimes, the taller the building, the more likely is to find fixed windows. In such cases, the only option is to use air fresheners, potpourris, essential oils etc., keeping it as simple and naturally resembling as possible and making sure to ensure proper ventilation.

Touch. To integrate textures that suggest a close connection to the nature, pay special attention to the materials used. Choose organic ones, such as stone or wood, and avoid plastic and metal as much as possible. You can kill two birds with one stone and install a moss wall, bringing both visual delight and a pleasant tactile feeling. At YArooms, the biophilic sentiment has already settled in, as you can see here:

To sum up biophilic design, we’ll let you scan the infographic that we found in this article.

 

5. Resimercial furniture

Resimercial is a term formed by joining together two words that describe two very different concepts: residential and commercial. It describes the trend that has been settling in these last years in the workplace: mixing together functionality features of the office with a homey feeling and aspect. The purpose of this practice is to increase comfort and relaxation, so as to boost productivity and creativity.

Resimercial furniture can be integrated in all office building components: from conference rooms to kitchen areas. The idea is to blur the lines dividing home and office: by choosing plush, supple materials, by using curves and rounding up corners, by cheering up the place with bright, welcoming colours. Practical bookcases, cozy couches, multicoloured wallpaper, anything goes if it helps making the space more friendly and familiar. Resimercial design should be regarded as “an antidote to institutional formality.

All in all, so many offices, so many design styles. What does your workplace look like?

Maria C., Comms. Officer

Written on Wednesday, 15 Aug 2018





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