Reduce the Stress: Four Elements to Consider in a Modern Office Design

Employees sitting around conference table
In an effort to attract millennials, many companies are looking to incorporate features to improve workplace engagement and decrease stress. It’s an ongoing challenge for many employers, with studies showing less than one out of three millennials being engaged at work. Moreover, workplaces that are designed to be visually appealing can contribute to employee trust and performance.

The more famous examples of relaxation areas in the workplace tend to come from Silicon Valley, where tech companies are known to provide their employees with game rooms, indoor gardens and even in-house bowling alleys. But even if these sorts of perks are out of scope for your project – and they almost certainly are – there are a number of things that you can do when designing your new office workspace to generate a more pleasant working atmosphere.

  • Use natural materials such as wood and stone rather than concrete and laminates. This, plus the use of cool colors and attractive details, is shown to increase creativity.
  • Include indoor plants and/or views of greenery. Exposure to nature can help lower heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone. Workplace greenery is also shown to improve perceptions of air quality, concentration, productivity and satisfaction.
  • You may not have the budget for a Silicon Valley-style lounge for your employees – after all, very few companies do – but you may very well be able to set aside an area for a relaxation space. Properly outfitted with relaxing furniture and good acoustics, this can give employees a place to control noise and distraction.
  • Put some thought into the visibility and the visuals. Appropriate lighting levels, access to pleasant views such as art and outdoor scenery, and feature installations such as fireplaces have been shown to have highly positive effects on an office environment.

There are additional steps that designers can take, such as selecting the right kind of technology furniture to empower employees to work most effectively.

Putting together a pleasant office environment conducive to creativity can take a good deal of effort, but should pay for itself in short order.

(Source: The Conversation)

Classroom Design for the Modern World

The "Lampe de Marseille" is a characteristic lighting fixture by Le Corbusier, and shows the importance of aesthetic illumination in office and classroom design.
The “Lampe de Marseille” (1949-52) is a characteristic lighting fixture by Le Corbusier, and shows the importance of aesthetic illumination in office and classroom design.

“Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city,” famous Swiss architect and designer Le Corbusier said in 1923. His words are still relevant today not only for the home and the city, but also for classroom design and office design.
Le Corbusier was among the pioneers who developed a relationship between interior design and architecture. Many of his furniture designs have become hallmarks of 20th century architecture history. Although he worked before the ubiquitous presence of computers and technology, his prescient view of furniture design and organization applies to the thinking behind cutting-edge classroom and office environments of the 21st century. Le Corbusier’s seamless integration of lighting fixtures, shelves, cupboards, and cabinets into their surrounding environment parallels the best contemporary classroom designs, where those elements are accompanied by comprehensive wire management systems, podiums, computer tables, and collaboration furniture.
High quality classroom design, complete with computer desks, computer tables, and collaboration tables, falls into a category that Le Corbusier called “human limb objects” — physical things that extend human capabilities and productivity.  In the world of furniture and classroom design, his words apply to tables and chairs as artwork of their space: “Certainly, works of art are tools — beautiful tools. And long live the good taste manifested by choice, subtlety, proportion, and harmony.”
The careful balance Le Corbusier articulates is one of aesthetics and functionality. It forms the core of sound classroom design and ergonomic desks and chairs. The versatility and flexibility of convertible computer tables are the key components of an advanced technology center or modern learning space. Architectural efficiency was one of the Le Corbusier’s most prominent ideologies, and it still plays a vital role in classroom and office space planning.
Here are a few tips and guiding questions to keep in mind when designing for efficiency in your own classroom.
1. Before beginning the planning phase, brainstorm all possible uses for the space. Does your classroom design need to include ample space for breakout activities and modular-shaped furniture, or are lines of computer tables for a more traditional approach most suited to your needs?
2. Computer tables and conference tables come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Which accommodates your existing technology infrastructure best, and/or what is the technology infrastructure you would like to change or develop?
3. Consider the scale of your room(s). From K-12 environments to higher education to the corporate boardroom, the size of your furniture will define your space and the activities within it.
4. Similarly, what is the maximum number of people who will need to occupy the space? How can you choose furnishings in a way that makes the room feel as open as possible?
5. Chairs should encourage both comfort and good posture. This is most easily achieved through ergonomic design, which enable people to accomplish their work with greater ease and sharper focus.
6. What limits need to be placed on the available technology for your classroom design or office design? If participants will partake in both computer based and paper-and-pencil pursuits, your computer tables must offer sufficient ergonomic design to accommodate both.
7. Aesthetic and flexible wire management is an important part of designing any modern working and learning environment. Do you need moveable outlets, or would you prefer a more static arrangement? Careful consideration of technology needs will show you where and how flexible to need your computer cable organization options to be.
8. Finally, how long do you need this classroom design or office design to last? Will it be updated in the next ten years, or sooner? Think about building a space that incorporates the timeless element of high-quality furniture materials with the flexibility to update technology, such as computer monitors and smart boards, as each new model is released, and before your next major renovation.
If you’d like more ideas for designing your space, feel free to call us at 1-800-770-7042 without cost or obligation.

Workplace Collaboration: Why You Need It and How to Achieve It

Collaboration in the workplace not only allows companies to provide their consumers with the best solutions, but it helps employees stay on task and stay motivated. When looking to start a new business or revamp an existing business, executives should consider adopting a collaborative model. As this article from TechRadar aptly expresses, the prevalence of social media, mobile technology, and an international information-based economy have developed, so too has a greater need for collaboration in the global marketplace.
Why you need it…

  1. Increased Innovation

Through collaboration, employees bring together expertise and experience to develop the best solutions  for customers. Working on a team employees utilize their own unique strengths and abilities that go beyond their job descriptions and allows for greater creative input. According to this Crain’s New York Business article, open offices even spur employees to set more ambitious goals in the workplace.

  1. Better Rapport

While a job may be a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. commitment, to truly encourage commitment and success within a company, the members of each team need to know each other. The standard cube-style office approach encourages employees to be closed off from one another. By encouraging a collaborative workspace, it allows employees to get to know each other on a deeper level. Employees can open up and feel at-ease when expressing new business ideas. Google is following (or perhaps even setting!) this trend with their new GoogleDocs features, and increased storage in the cloud, which allows collaborators to share and edit their work together even when they are a world apart from one another.
How to achieve it…

SmartDesks is currently running a limited time sweepstakes to win a set of 6 igroup tables to help businesses promote collaboration.
The iGroup is known as the “origami of interaction” because the tables are flexible in formation – you can create hexagon, pinwheel, star, wave, and abstract shapes among many other options. The iGroup is ideal for both the workplace and educational institutions.

  • The value of this prize is $5,000!
  • Entries will be accepted until 7/30/14, 12pm EST.
  • One entry per person, please.
  • The winner will be notified via email on 7/31/14.
  • If winner does not respond via email within 48 hours, a new winner will be notified. (Watch your email & check junk mail.)

For more information: Visit the official sweepstakes page.

Ergonomics at Work

Think about your workday for a moment. Chances are you spend a lot of it in a seated position, most likely typing away on your computer. 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, 4 weeks per month…that’s 9,600 minutes of work. Contrast that with the average working American’s 10,140 minutes of sleep per month (on weekdays), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (For an interesting global comparison of sleep patterns around the world, check out this Huff Post article). We don’t, in fact, spend much more time asleep than at work. Why then do we pay so much attention to the comfort of our beds, when we don’t give half as much thought to our office furniture, and spend almost the same amount of time there?

How you work influences how you feel. You can improve the comfort of your work environment by considering the ergonomics of your space. Ergonomics refers to the applied science of designing products we use so that we can use them in a safe and productive manner. Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few studies out there about how working in optimal ergonomic conditions can improve productivity and overall health.
Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) are a substantial risk in the workplace — how many evenings have you spent with sore forearms or neck from craning at the computer? According to the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these injuries cost businesses up to $20 billion dollars per year. Ergonomic furniture products, keyboards, chairs, and adjustable height desks can help mitigate the negative effects of RSI, and are increasingly popular in the workplace.
The importance of office ergonomics is gaining attention in the news, as well. In Silicon Valley, Esther Gokhale teaches posture techniques (check some of them out here, with diagrams). Sitting for long periods of time negatively impacts our muscles and causes in some cases long-term injuries. For a checklist to see if you are at risk for RSI, take a look at this checklist for your workstation and office design.
Check out Microsoft’s guide to help you set up your office design to work in the most ergonomically functional way for you or contact us with any questions! We’re here to help you design your custom office and classroom furniture environments.