office design

Have we reached a turning point for office technology?

Over the past 20 years, we've seen an incredible change in how technology is implemented and deployed in the office environment. We now stand at a turning point where new technology is fundamentally changing the way people communicate and collaborate in the workplace, raising new considerations for office design.

Brands2Life Project

Brands2Life Project

For many of us, it doesn't seem that long ago when we were anchored to a specific desk, tied to a desktop phone and tethered to a PC. Moving away from this safe harbour meant leaving all our technology behind.

But technology has moved forward at a rapid pace and, alongside this, people have not only changed the way they use technology, but also the way they communicate and collaborate with others via technology.

Take video conferencing, for example. In the early days of VC in the nineties, companies required expensive hardware to video conference, installed in selected meeting rooms. These early systems were not the most user-friendly so, to be on the safe side, you also needed a member of IT on standby in case it didn’t work. As a result, these systems were costly, complicated and intimidating for the lay user.

In the past five years, there has been a massive change in the way video conferencing is implemented, and the way people use it within organisations. There has been a significant move away from proprietary hardware to internet-based VC solutions such as Zoom, Blue Jeans and Skype for Business. Speed and quality have taken a massive leap forward, costs have fallen, and these new systems are now much more intuitive and easier to use.    

Ensono Project

Ensono Project

Telephony has massively changed as well. Offices no longer need to set up an onsite telephone exchange system containing a limited number of phone lines available - all this has now moved to the cloud. In tandem with this, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has improved significantly from the early days of Skype, where poor sound quality, echoing calls and hit and miss reliability hampered widespread business adoption. Today, these systems are now cheap, clear and reliable to use.

In the past 18 months, we’ve been seeing more companies dispensing with the desk phone altogether and moving to mobiles, further eroding people’s ties to a certain desk. In the future, it may only be those using high graphics software such as desktop publishing or CAD who require a dedicated workstation, or those where it is a regulatory requirement to record calls such as financial traders.

The rise of smartphones, tablets and laptops has led the move from just a voice connection to the office, to become fully aligned with office software and applications to deliver truly mobile working and allowing multi user group meetings with remote workers.

So, what are the implications for communication, collaboration and office design?

Well, firstly, technology has greatly facilitated a revolutionary change in working practices and acted as a catalyst for the rise of hot-desking, Activity Based Working and more flexibility in where and when people can work through remote working.

With staff now able to use any device from any location, the way people communicate and collaborate has fundamentally shifted from the traditional meeting room environment to technology platforms. People can now gather from remote locations, collaborate on Zoom and organise workflow on platforms such as Slack or Monday.com.

This, in turn, has reduced the number of employees who need to travel in and use the office space, while at the same time increasing the numbers of those who can collaborate in the same place, at the same time, via technology. With the increasing costs of office rents, this is now driving a fundamental rethink in the role of the office as a hub, rather than just a destination for employees.

Less formal peer to peer conferencing has also increased significantly, moving away from the requirement for meeting rooms for conference calls to internet-based calls from peoples' desks or from more informal spaces. This has led to an increasing need to consider office acoustics in open-plan environments and collaboration spaces, and the subsequent need to create zones for quiet concentration.

Ensono Project

Ensono Project

Ensono Project

Ensono Project

As technology continues to move forward in leaps and bounds, a key challenge for CEOs and Finance Directors is to get the optimal configuration of office, technology, communication and collaboration that is right for them. Often the technologies themselves are difficult to understand, let alone finding the best way to apply them to an organisation.

The solution will never be a one size fits all approach and while it is true that technology has significantly changed the face of office communication and collaboration, one thing has remained the same - offices are still all about people. So, combining the right technology with the right workspaces that help people collaborate, share knowledge, and maximise their productivity and growth remains vital.

Creating Spaces Without Walls

New design solutions for the modern office

One of the significant challenges in office design is to create the right balance between aesthetics and the need for a highly practical and functional workspace.

In every office, there’s a prerequisite to create different zones – desk areas, breakout zones, formal meeting rooms, public reception spaces - and the traditional way to do this has been through the use of walls and partitions to divide up and compartmentalise different areas.

However, recent developments by flooring manufacturers have now opened up new opportunities - to create spaces without walls, by using carpet and flooring colours, finishes and textures that seamlessly transition between the different areas of an office. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it may be the perfect solution to make the best use of your office space.

Standardisation has fostered innovation

Traditionally, flooring manufacturers viewed carpet and vinyl as apples and pears; two different surfaces, with two different uses, always separated by an abrupt trim. Recently manufacturers have wised up - why not create the option of having both carpet and vinyl surfaces in a standard 500 x 500mm tile.

Sounds pretty simple, but for office designers, it’s quite revolutionary, and opens up the opportunity to design spaces without the need for partitioned walls, in a way that wasn’t possible before.

And here’s the even better news - because all flooring surfaces can now coalesce around a standardised tile, your designer can create innovative combinations of colour, finish and texture at standard prices. In other words, you can get an imaginative and practical floor design, without additional costs to your flooring budget.    

How it works

The design concept of creating spaces without walls is to combine different flooring finishes and textures that transition seamlessly from one office area to the next. Workstation areas can be separately zoned, with walkways and thoroughfares demarcated.

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HCPproject.png

For the transition to more formal meeting areas, colour and texture can be used to create a different feel for the zone and, within meeting rooms, different colour tiles can be combined to create a distinct feeling from the rest of the office.

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When partitioning is being used for more private areas, these zones can be accentuated by floor colour. For hallways and office walls, a colour mixture can be used to make them feel more extensive and luxurious.

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HCP Project

If you would like to find out more about how creating spaces without walls could work in your office, please contact the Cityspace team on info@cityspacemanagement.co.uk.