In these challenging times, it is more important than ever for businesses to recruit and retain high quality staff. That means ensuring the workplace offers a productive and inspiring environment, with sustainable working practices. In order to better understand the role of office design, a panel of experts were recently brought together for a round table discussion, in partnership with Rockfon.
The panel comprised architect Greg Jones, from Child Graddon Lewis; Ian Matthews, acoustician and director of Red Twin Ltd; Project Designer, Lucy Daynes of Peldon Rose Workplace Consultants; Liz Walker from Orangebox, office furniture specialists; Oliver Ridley of Overbury and James Pack of Pureti, both office fit-out and refurbishment specialists; and Andy Graham of Beacon Business Interiors. Rockfons Technical Manager, Tim Spencer, also attended.
The panel were challenged to discuss some of the key factors involved in creating the ideal working environment. These included designing for the enormous variety of office spaces, and the importance of having an equally varied product choice to meet individual needs. The conflicting demands of a changing workforce and advances in technology are also impacting office design. As Oliver pointed out, older people are working longer, but younger people are more adaptable and often prefer more flexible work spaces.
Acoustics were also felt to be a significant factor for employee productivity and satisfaction. Schools have shown demonstrable improvements in pupil performance through better acoustics and there are now minimum legal requirements for school buildings. But these regulations are not carried through into the workplace.
Whilst acknowledging that not everything can be regulated due to the sheer diversity of environments in the office sector, the panel agreed that some form of standard industry guidelines would be beneficial. These could set out minimum requirements for m2 of space per person, acoustics, lighting and air quality, for example.
The role of sustainability was also discussed. Businesses are keen to be able to demonstrate a clear environmental commitment to their customers, and Lucy suggested that more clients were aware of the options, such as recycling. But she felt the terminology needs to be simplified to make it more easily understood. While Andy and Oliver both stressed the importance of suppliers, like Rockfon, being able to receive back waste materials as contractors strive to meet zero waste to landfill targets.
The diverse panel included representatives from all elements of the specification chain, which generated much debate and informative discussion, with everyone sharing their experiences and knowledge. This highlights the benefits of communicating with each other at an early stage, to achieve a design that is truly fit for purpose. Meetings like these also play a vital role in continuing to educate and promote best practice throughout the industry.
A video of the full meeting, and a selection of edited highlights, are available to watch at Rockfon's Youtube Channel