Office Design Trends

Posted On Monday, 07 May 2001 02:00 Published by
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Everyone's needs must be regarded as important

Everyone's needs must be regarded as important

OFFICE design guru Frank Duffy does not have a work station at his own company's offices.

The British-born chairman of design consultants DEGW and DEGW International says he has no need for a work station as he is almost always out of the office.

He studied architecture at the Architectural Association in London in the 1960s and has a doctorate from Princeton University.

Duffy says executives are mobile and their environments are verbal. They spend most of their time either out of the office or talking to other staff members away from their work stations.

This is the office place of the future for most levels of staff: open plan offices and social areas will proliferate, says Duffy, who visited SA recently.

Duffy divides the work place into four categories:

The hive, in which individuals do processbased work like back offices or call centres;

The den, in which people work in processbased teams such as finance departments;

The cell, where knowledge-based people such as lawyers and academics do solitary work; and

The club, which houses knowledge-based workers who operate in a team, like media workers.

Duffy says hives usually made up of cubicles are a dying species. Even call centres are becoming more electronic.

'In Johannesburg 2015, the hive will have diminished, the cell and the den will be the same, and the club approach to office design will have become the preferred alternative. Designers, town planners and executives need to plan for this.'

The reason is that the office is becoming more of a place of interaction where many projects, such as planning a media campaign or oil drilling scheme, are complex team tasks.

'If you provide the infrastructure for creativity, you release creativity,' says Duffy.

Developers often place more emphasis on making space cost-effective than on creating offices geared for interaction, resulting in more productive staff.

Managers need to consider 'making the most of space and making the most of people', which boils down to balancing 'space efficiency and effectiveness'.

Duffy says part of optimising office space for creativity involves demarcate zones for different processes, such as a zone for concentration and a zone for talking.

Office design also communicates company values and corporate culture. There should be a clear link between the office environment and its final product. 'There is nothing like use of office space to communicate to workers that they are insignificant,' says Duffy.

His company, which has offices in cities like London, New York, Berlin, Paris, Milan and Sydney, is often called in when a company moves.

The design for the new office of Andersen Worldwide, Chicago, intended to communicate that the hierarchy had been smashed and interaction was to be encouraged. Duffy says the percentage of shared office space and enclosed office space was reversed. In the new building, shared office space was increased to 50% while enclosed office space was decreased to 31%.

The redesign of the British Broadcasting Corporation's office was a similar story. Before the redesign, the BBC was a rabbit warren of corridors and dark cubicles. Meeting areas made up 6% of office space and enclosed office space took up 58%. After redesign, meeting space covered 10%, open-plan work space accounted for 63% and enclosed office space took up 5%.

Duffy believes office design is a 'moral act' and should be peoplecentred, as the architectural environment shapes people's daily experience.

Redesigning an office is a complex task, he says. His ingredients for success are:

A clear statement of the project's objectives, which means it must be driven by a person who has a vision and can communicate this clearly to workers;

Research on staff work habits;

A strategy integrating all aspects of the office, such as staff needs and information technology infrastructure; and

Buy-in from all levels of the company. This means decisions must be democratic, with everyone's views and needs regarded as important

Publisher: Business Day
Source: Business Day

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