Workplace interview

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Workplace interview

1. What makes the workplace design process adopted by Workplace different?

We call our process holistic. What does it mean? The simplest way to explain it is to combine architecture with business consulting and consulting services. We define design broadly – from research and analysis, through building spatial strategy, to design and user experience design. This helps us to carry out projects that have a positive impact on 3 basic areas: people (users), business (investors) and environment (natural and social).

What does it look like in practice? First, research and observations. Through on-the-spot visits, environmental observations, interviews and workshops – both with employees and the management – we look at the ways in which work is performed, at the organizational culture and the needs of the users of a given space.

The next step is to analyze the quantitative and qualitative data collected. Here is where the process of building a workplace strategy begins. We identify the key links and areas for improvement – the distribution of teams, the number of spaces for different employee activities, the availability of shared spaces, as well as the flexibility of spatial solutions. During this process, we strive to implement the company’s corporate culture and the established work ethos. As we work with international clients, we can see how important a company’s pedigree is, and what differences in the character of work exist for example between a Scandinavian employer and a German enterprise.

The analysis results allow us to address all needs and requirements (interaction among teams, employee welfare and well-being) in a sustainable and forward-looking way, creating a complete workplace strategy. This is the strategy we base on when designing the workplace experience, that is, the design of the office space. The storytelling concept and the architectural design are intended to reflect the company image and accurately address its strategic business objectives. The space serves as a tool to streamline processes, open the communication flow, and provide employees with positive emotions.

2. For Earth Day 2021, your studio took on the ambitious challenge of designing one hundred offices and other commercial interior spaces in accordance with the circular design practices. Where did this idea come from, and why is it so important to Workplace?

With this idea we wink at our clients – we challenge them to incorporate circular economy principles in the design of their new office spaces. Over 3 years ago, climate crisis awareness began to grow among our designers. A common desire to change the current standards to more sustainable ones has pushed us to undertake a search. We have found out that there are many furniture and material initiatives emerging around the world that ideologically aim at minimizing the environmental footprint, but most of them are not commercially implemented. We have also seen no signs that the approach toward the design of commercial interior spaces was shifting to a more sustainable one, even though office fit-out is the essence of a linear design life cycle – after 5-10 years of lease, most arrangements go “to the landfill.”

Then we undertook our first Less Waste Office project in Gdynia. It met with great interest of the media and the professional circles. Our goal at that time was to raise awareness in the industry, educate designers, investors and developers. We have succeeded, and the goal is still with us. Recently we have finished another office in the “less waste” concept. This time the space had over 3,500 sqm, and the project was for the most sustainable energy company in the world. Currently, we are implementing a third project of this type, this time for a company certified as a B Corp.

Three projects are not enough, though. We wish to make sustainable design a standard. Shared values always make it easier to work together, so the challenge is a playful, but nonetheless real, call-to-action for organizations which want to take care of the future of our planet.

3. Everyone is wondering what changes the pandemic will lead to in workplaces. What are your thoughts on this topic?

We’ve noticed a lot of missed predictions based on guesses. We don’t like speculation, so we didn’t want to go in that direction. From the very beginning we were looking for hard data on which we could base our recommendations for changes in our clients’ work environment.

Thanks to our strategic partnership with British market research company named Leesman, we have an insight into the results of surveys of over 180,000 home office employees from around the world. Their experience clearly shows that they work better from home – 83% of them say that home enables them to work productively, while only 64% felt this way about the office they worked in.

Only well-designed offices, focused on people and their well-being will have the right to exist. We start from providing a variety of so-called activity-based workspaces to work individually in concentration or in collaboration as a team. Then we add a high level of acoustic comfort – open spaces are by far the least favorite arrangement, and after leaving the home environment behind each of us is even more sensitive to auditory distractions. The data show that the feeling that one belongs to an organization, and social interactions suffer the most. This makes the social function of the office the key; the proportion of common and informal zones, as in coworking spaces and innovative hubs, will continue to grow.

Everyone is talking about the hybrid model, we also advise our clients on how to combine physical and virtual environment. However, what is noteworthy is a hybrid model extended by a third category, that is for example office + home + rented coworking space. It increases flexibility through additional on-demand space. It is a good solution for companies that can’t predict the scale of their business or other organizational changes. When shaping post-covid workplace strategies, we also test such options.

4. What advice would you give to someone who needs to arrange their workspace at home? What should they consider to make this home workspace friendly, healthy and functional?

This is also where the Leesman results and our own research conducted in Poland on a sample of approx. 6,000 employees help us. The highest experience of working from home (approx. 79% satisfaction) is found among people with a separate room to work. This is followed by people with a dedicated workstation (approx. 74%), while a significant drop in satisfaction is visible among those without a dedicated place to work at home (66%). Even a makeshift, but dedicated workstation improves the quality of work.

What bothers the employees the most when it comes to physical aspects? Lack of a comfortable chair. This is what we should start with when creating our home workspace – it’s a guarantee of ergonomics. We are huge fans of plants and we’ve been applying the principles of biophilic design in our projects for a long time. That’s why we recommend everyone to surround themselves with vegetation and natural materials in their place of work.

Not only from research reports, but also the hard way we’ve learned how difficult it is to keep the work-life balance. This is another negative effect of the rapid transformation to remote work. How can we improve the work-life balance? In addition to walking, physical activity, plenty of water and fresh air, as well as an occasional “workation”, we recommend that the workplace isn’t at the same time a place for rest, relaxation, meals or even more so, sleep. Balance, including spatial balance, is the most important.

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