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What does the workforce require out of their workspace, 6 key human needs for a successful experienc

It is safe to say that over the past decade, the expectation of facilities within an office has dramatically altered. With competition in the market to attract and retain the best talent, companies have thrown the full works at their employees in the way of office design – sometimes unnecessarily, and this has led to an unrealistic relationship between the workspace and its users.

We must remember, quite simply, the workspace is designed for all types of people, ages and gender, and there are a few fundamental points that will alter the mind-set of a person, in any workspace, without having to design with too much gimmick in mind. Recent workspace design has been focussed around University leavers and people in their early 20s, and this goes a long way towards attracting new, exciting talent. However, these people do not make up the majority of the current workforce, and forgetting those that have been consistently working for many years is often the mistake in finding the balance.

As a workplace designer, the Google effect is still front and centre of the comparisons when taking a brief, whether for good or for bad. The campus style of working, mirroring that of a university, has been stamped as the way to attract the best new talent – however, this is likely giving new joiners to the professional world an unrealistic outlook on the working environment and perhaps blurring the professional lines too far.

With this in mind, it is important to get in to a more human based rationale to a workspace to ensure an overall satisfaction and experience for all end users…. giving people what they need as well as what they want.

Comfort – nearly 90% of workers surveyed by The British Council of Offices stated that comfort was at the top of their priority list in their workspace and so the ergonomics between a desk, chair and technology are the starting element to build upon and the simplest box to tick for a satisfactory working experience.

Ease of use – the psychological reaction to an easy to use/manoeuvre experience is the next level of thought process in design. This is less likely to be identified within a brief of X number of desks, X amount of meeting rooms, and so should be understood on a higher level within experiential design, offices are designed for human beings and if something is difficult to use then it is quite simple, they will not use it. This can be said for gimmicks in design such as slides, swings and hammocks, these are fun and exciting and create an atmosphere and personality, however, these become redundant if not easy to use for the vast majority. Easy to use design gives an individual a boost of confidence in their day and this comes through in their productivity elsewhere.

Additionally to being easy to use, if a design teaches an individual something new, either about their job or themselves and their preferences then this engages them, and boosts personal growth. Finding the balance for an entire workforce can simply come in the form of choice. Individuals being able to choose their work settings can become a period of discovery for those used to fixed desks and offices over agility and collaboration and so giving them the opportunity to learn from the above mentioned new work generation and vice versa, will create a bond and engage people daily.

Lighting – Again an important aspect of workspace design that effects an end user’s health and wellbeing and therefore quality of work. Natural light is key to this and can affect a person’s productivity in a more chemical and hormonal way, that might not be visible or recognised when formulating a brief for a new workspace. Natural light comes in colour forms that the body reacts to, for example, in the morning and through to afternoon the wavelength is blue and the human body reacts to this by becoming more alert and attentive – ideal for the working environment. Additionally, the change in colour is one to consider if natural light is not the main light source for a working environment. The changes to the wavelengths is important for a person when leaving the office and swapping to their personal environment, which will have a knock-on effect to the following day, and the attitude towards work. If a person is exposed to harsh light sources throughout a day, the brain does not wind down and therefore creates an evening fatigue, but a lack of sleep, creating an after effect on the working environment that over a time becomes negative. Consistent exposure to a form of natural light and the subtle changes throughout the day is essential in consistent human behaviour.

Continuous transformation – individuals crave growth and movement and this can be achieved within the workspace with flexible design ideas that can be altered with a workforce as they bed in to a new environment, again mirroring the theory of choice, if a workspace can be transformed even daily to allow for different projects or teams then their creativity is boosted as well as their need for advancement and personal development.

Noise levels – referring again to the Google effect, recent studies have shown that the solely open plan environment that came in as a huge trend following this may not have been the right design for a vast number of workspaces, and this can be put down to the noise levels. Mentioning the word balance again, and power of choice resonating with the topic of noise levels within a workspace. A huge number of individuals studied have stated that when doing concentrated work, they need focussed quiet time and don’t necessarily want to leave their desk to be in a small box room to do so. In many ways simply looking at the team adjacencies goes a long way to solving this in an open plan environment and a company recognising the type of work individuals do, and then flipping the open plan mentality on its head a little and creating separate creative style spaces for noisy work rather than for quiet work, so not to make the person that needs to concentrate feel like they are being relegated for their work to be achieved – which will have an overall negative effect on their mentality towards their workspace.

'A great deal of creativity is about pattern recognition, and what you need to discern patterns is tons of data. Your mind collects that data by taking note of random details and anomalies easily seen every day: quirks and changes that, eventually, add up to insights.' Margaret Heffernan

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