Competition in the office – quality is what matters


Birmingham County Council, pic Armstrong
Advent Underwriting Minster Court, pic Armstrong
Nowadays, tenants expect some added values to distinguish themselves against the competition. Why? The reason is simple. In times of the demanding Y generation, comfort of work became one of the arguments which attracts and keeps valuable employees.

There are two factors that have a crucial impact on new trends and expectations of tenants: young generation coming into the labor market as well as development of mobile technologies and social networks. They are the motor of current changes in the office. Thus, not only the style of work and management of team but also the work place need to be adjusted. Avoiding standard solutions – this is the main trend. Any big corporation would like its office to look similar to a headquarters of its rival. Individualism is crucial since it is appreciated by young employees also in private life. Efficient management of your company and maintenance of a constant team require regarding your employee not only as a member of a team, but principally – as a person. The general idea of the office is becoming a thing of the past – says architect Anna Baczkowska, Manager for Technical Support, Armstrong.


Society matters

So what is the difference? First of all, we more frequently work in the area outside our desk. Meetings are held in different teams, depending on needs: group meetings in conference rooms, short one-to-one meetings, or finally a cozy place for independent work in concentration. Thus, there are more and more areas arranged in accordance with the concept of Activity Based Workplace.


These common areas are becoming a standard because of one more reason. In times of increasing interest of people working remotely at home, or being on business trips more often than in the office, there is a need for discussing some company subjects in a quiet place in registered office of company. Then, bigger or smaller areas – so called collaboration areas for common work – are essential. It is estimated that nearly one third of the employed in the West are mobile employees, who spend no more than 50 per cent of their time in a headquarters of their company. This trend will be also more and more noticeable in Poland. Places where people can work together, discuss some issues in casual atmosphere, exchange ideas, have arguments and create completely new solutions become necessary in every modern company – explains the architect of Armstrong.


Another space for common work and private talks in companies are kitchens. The picture of a small and dark room where people used to come only to make a coffee or quickly get back for a lunch and eat it before their computers are currently an unacceptable solution by young employees. Their attachment to company is also built by comfort of spending their time in the office. Thus, companies invest in canteens. More and more frequently these are spacious rooms intended for meetings in casual atmosphere. Young people who often lead ecologic lifestyle prefer to warm up healthy meals prepared at home rather than buy ready meals from deliverers who show up in the morning. The strength of this trend is shown by the example of a new headquarters of Apple designed by Foster + Partners, which will have 260 thousand sq. m of space, 8 thousand sq. m of which will be intended for a canteen.


One space, different functions. Today open space, tomorrow – office of your boss

The main determinant of well-designed space in the modern office is also flexibility on every-day changes. Just as fast as the world of new technologies and devices develops, the office has to change too. It is one of the fundamental conditions of big companies, which have to adjust the currently realized tasks. Depending on needs, they have to quickly and efficiently arrange their offices. Open space can dominate in the office for several weeks when company runs a big project within one team. Additionally, another contract after this time can force necessity of changing the office in order to have, for instance, bigger number of independent areas.


The role of architect is also different these days. On the one hand, they are still creators. However, they also perform a new function – a role of moderator in the discussion between employers and employees in the process of arranging the office. Architect prepares solutions planned in accordance with both vision and budget of the company renting the office, but they also have to put emphasis on "soft" accents such as expectations, behaviors and psychological elements of work concerning people hired in the office – says Anna Baczkowska. The management boards of companies understood that it is not only about the appearance of their offices. The building has to be open to all employees, not to the prestige of the company. In times of Y generation, it is one of the strongest arguments in management of people satisfaction. We can also observe a big pressure on changing the quality of office from managers in corporations and smaller companies.


Noise – the no. 1 problem in the office

Appearance and design are especially important to young people. However, all solutions have to be dictated by functionality. Arrangement simply cannot be a bold vision of designer, that is only to be admired, not used. Architecture of modern offices and other commercial structures is to attract, not to terrify.


Acoustics is what still needs enhancement. According to the world expert in the field of sounds and their impact on people Julian Treasure, most of the buildings are designed for the eyes, not for the ears. He admits in his materials prepared in cooperation with Armstrong Treasure that noise is the no. 1 problem in the office.


Following the need for individual arrangement and non-standard offices, many companies succumb to the urge to limit the arrangement only to colors on walls and floors or non-standard furniture in their offices. Meanwhile, all that is out of sight becomes less important. Not only design furniture, but most of all – functional quality of the interior – matter. We gain much less while designing "cosmic" office, where all people are tired by noise, bad quality of air or poor lighting.


In countries where the office segment is mature or well-developed, sustained and modern construction is currently understood primarily as a space which is friendly to people. The new standard is well building. The creation of space which is friendly to people in all respects – admits Baczkowska.


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