Beat work blues with innovative design

The environment that people operate in at work has a significant effect on how well they perform, says Hassan Shaikh, founder of Revolve, a specialist corporate and retail interior design strategy agency. “If you take a simple example of a person working at a cutting-edge marketing company with a fresh interior space with lots of natural light and easy access to other staff and managers, they are more motivated to be in their space and in turn are more productive. If you then compare that to a government office, for example, you can almost immediately imagine the difference in attitude, energy and productivity of the employees.”

Analysis done through employee questionnaires at businesses Shaikh has been involved with, revealed improvement in communication, collaboration, creativity and performance. Statistically significant benefits were achieved in all four areas: approximately 13% greater performance, 15% greater communication, 18% greater collaboration, and 10% increased creativity.

But how do you cater for different types of employees in one space? “The design is very corporate culture dependent and has a lot to do with the type of sector that the organisation operates in. This in a South African context is very different to anywhere else in the world and is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to embrace who we are and at the same time still find room for progression but not get lost in a European prescribed workstyle. Ultimately, we design for the people in the business and they normally have a similar fit to the corporate culture,” he explains.

Flexibility is key, believes Shaikh. “Businesses are in a constant state of flux so their workspace should be able to compliment this. As the employee dynamics change and the business needs evolve, the design needs to be reactive to the change. A great way to do this is to be innovative when it comes to walls and furniture. Why makes these items static when they don’t need to be?”

He says there are a few general elements that are rule of thumb when it comes to creating a healthy office environment. “I normally prescribe to the Green Building councils (GBCSA) Indoor environment quality (IEQ) suggestions on what items to address as a standard. Break-away areas need to be near collaboration spaces so that people move away from their desks and can initiate informal discussion. This leads to two outcomes. Firstly, people start using the collaboration areas more and embrace the opportunity to use different working spaces to carry out their tasks. Secondly staff communication becomes more effective and informal. When communication improves, productivity improves,” he says.

“Innovative interior design based on a sound strategy can bring about a very real shift in corporate culture,” concludes Shaikh.