As companies increasingly allow their employees to work in a more flexible way in the wake of empowering digital tools, the command and control approach to workplace design becomes irrelevant in many aspects. The rationality of management by design is changing fast and one of the main roles corporate space now has is to provide an environment that will support and direct individuals in the tasks they do. A more human-centred design approach is needed that makes it possible for individuals to decide the best way to achieve their goals by providing for their needs, especially the psychological.

The office has always been an important meeting place in people’s lives. It will also remain a place, if designed correctly, where we gather to collaborate, be part of the team, feel at home and have a human context. Office spaces, in our age of working everywhere and anywhere, are still hubs for corporate culture. Work as a social hub also becomes important in terms of nurturing a healthy and happy staff. This is especially true for younger people, as 21% of young people aged 18-24 identified loneliness as one of their major concerns. To feel at home, with the artifacts that define the group is important, leads to rules of engagement and lets culture flourish. Allowing for the natural flow of ideas and thoughts is what will make the organisation grow.

As workspaces become places where people come to on an increasingly ad-hoc basis, and as work and home life blur, it seems unnecessary, even undesirable, that offices have a clinical, machine like feel. If people can work effectively at home, in hotels or at cafés it is natural that the office should bear similar elements. This is however not about the office moving into people’s homes. Rather it is a case that offices imitate hospitality spaces, which in turn take cues from domestic interiors – complete with design thoughts and ideas in regards to aesthetics. Also, workplaces need to compete with the comfort of working from home, and are therefore becoming less clinical with wellness in mind to be creative and productive.

"It’s a matter of getting the balance between being able to work anywhere, which is a bonus of modern technology, but not losing that ability to sit and have fun and chat, physically".

Wayne Hemingway, Founder, Hemingway Design

Another aspect of making the office more human is securing that the workflow is optimised in a sustainable way by considering human senses in design choices, such as touch, sight, hearing, smell and perhaps even taste. A five senses approach to workplace design, similar to five senses marketing, is becoming an aspect of workplace planning. To meet this challenge, the Activity Based Workplace is on the rise, where office workspaces are adapted to individual tasks. Additionally, this type of interior layout can strengthen the feeling of ‘community’, an important part of a company’s brand values. They are what makes us “us” at work. We come to work to be part of a community and less to just produce – what makes us tick is something that has to be alive in that office. And people do still work in offices, after all. Numbers from a Leesman survey of over 70,000 respondents show that 17% work from home. In other words, the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast” rings true. The social context that is created in an office relies heavily on its design, meaning that creating a living, breathing corporate culture starts with a social motive for interior design, from collectively chosen art to individual choices. The opportunity here is to understand the best way to create a culture is to make a workplace into more than a workplace, a place for working adapted to human nature. And it is through this that we can create a better worklife balance, where life at work and life at home are separate, but still connected in a healthy, flexible way.

This article has been taken from the Kinnarps Trend Report 2015. Click here to download the full research paper.