PUBLISHED: 11:56 18 March 2009 | UPDATED: 15:52 20 February 2013
Jean Rose investigates the psychology of inspirational business space
The design of one's workplace is a key factor in enhancing one's performance, not only ensuring safe and comfortable work practices but also providing an inspirational space in which to work. Business Interiors is at the forefront of office design in the South West, and has focused on psychological aspects of the use of space. They already have a prestigious portfolio of customers that have benfited from their unique approach, including Brittany Ferries, Devon Wildlife Fund and Plymouth Airport.
Joint Managing Director Andrew Fraser believes that treating your company's workspace as a strategic asset rather than a necessary overhead is crucial. "Businesses need to make a profit, and their resources tend to be people, processes and technology, all of which are hosted by space," he says. "Our specialist designs use this space to increase the output of all three areas. The key to good design," he explains, "is a close analysis of a company's needs and behaviours."
For the last two years, Andrew, soon to retire, has worked alongside Managing Director James Heaven who is taking the company forward. Before joining Andrew, James had extensive experience of designing and building office interiors for corporate big-hitters such as Microsoft, Mercedes and HSBC in the fast-growing commercial centre of Dubai.
At their Plymouth offices, James and Andrew practise what they preach using their own workspace to showcase their company's vision. One of their innovations has been to ban drinks at people's workstations in favour of an all-day caf area with a wide-screen TV showing BBC News 24. People from different sections meet informally at this watering hole and while I was there, the heads of design, contracts and furniture were chatting away with a contract supervisor. In this way, information is disseminated throughout an organisation, cutting down on time spent in formal meetings and increasing communication and collaboration between departments. Work tasks get transformed into social events.
Informality is also built into the design of spaces themselves. In their ground-floor offices, the aim is to stimulate people's imagination and thought processes. There are no straight lines, right-angles or regimented alignment, and work stations are set at an oblique angle. The back wall is at an angle and there are two types of flooring and two different materials used in different shapes on the ceiling. "Things that challenge the eye stimulate the brain to think in new ways," explains Andrew.
Another issue that often needs to be addressed within a workspace is the different desk requirements across the generations. Older employees often feel a need for privacy and are used to structured and hierarchical set-ups. At the other end of the scale the millennium generation are more mobile and flexible; they don't mind noise and are neither territorial nor hierarchical and they're often happy hot-desking.
Flexibility in the work space can address these differences by using movable furniture, ensuring you have more data ports than you think you'll need and having the option for privacy by using screens. These can be in the form of glass partitions, which can also be used for corporate branding with names, key phrases and pictures etched on them. The result creates interest for clients and is something that employees can take pride in. Colour can also tie in with a company's promotional material and give the office a smart look.
"Getting your work space redesigned can be a much cheaper and easier option than moving to new premises," says James. One of their clients, the British Red Cross, measured a 36% improvement in space utilisation after an update of their offices. The result was that they were able to accommodate more staff as well as making massive savings over the cost of a move. It's not often you can get a makeover and save money at the same time.
Further information: (0845 0945 696), www.businessinteriors.co.uk