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Let’s clear this up. ’Sick’ as in unhealthy. Not ‘sick’ as in cool. But actually, thinking about it, it doesn’t take much to turn a sick (vomit) office into a sick (wicked) office
Since those famous ‘chuck out thechintz’ ads of the nineties, there’s been a trend for lean, open-plan of ces. These sanitised spaces are designed to avoid distraction and let staff just get on with their work. Some businesses even enforce clear desk policies, banning personal stuff from cluttering up their employee’s focus.
But, there isn’t a single branch of science which proves this makes workers happier or boosts productivity. So is it sanitised or insanity? University of Exeter’s Dr Knight has been studying the psychology of working environments for 12 years. His recent study asked participants to work in four different of office spaces.
First was lean, with only things needed for the task. Second was enriched, with art and plants already arranged. Next had the same art and plants, but the participant was empowered to arrange them. In the last space, the participant was told to arrange the plants and art, but the experimenter disempowered them by reverting their changes back to the enriched layout.
The study found people worked 15% quicker in the enriched office than the lean office and had fewer health complaints. This rate doubled for people working in the empowered space. Yet for those people who had their personal touches interfered with, disempowered productivity levels were the same as the lean office.
But, there isn’t a single branch of science which proves this makes workers happier or boosts productivity.
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That’s pretty clear. A workspace enriched with art is better for productivity. Far from being a distraction, art can actually boost wellbeing and reduce stress. And when your team is involved in the selection and design process, even better. So can you just hang generic “There’s no I in team” posters and put up those hilarious motivational “Keep calm and carry on” messages? No, his research shows they don’t work. At all. Sorry not sorry.
A new study by Oxford Economics has also proved what we all thought – open-plan offices lower both output and morale.
Now, open-plan is fading in popularity, particularly as millennials march towards being the dominant generation in the workplace. They put a premium on comfort and time efficiency. According to Oxford Economics, over half of millennials complained about noisy open-plan offices and desired uninterrupted work time.
Isolation isn’t the key – companies like Pixar and Google attribute their success to having collaborative close working. Placing people in close proximity leads to more idea sharing. So what’s the solution
People work differently than they used to. With wi-Fi , smartphones, tablets and laptops, the tools of work are smaller and you can be more fluid about where you base yourself. There’s now an understanding that different tasks benefit from different spaces. Office design is moving towards creating different zones for different activities.
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If you ignore sleeping, many of us spend more time at work than home. That’s why there’s a growing trend towards making
work more like home. Using domestic furniture, making people feel more comfortable. Clusters of sofas encourage this collaboration, whilst pods and booths allow quiet solitary work.
Do you sometimes go to the park or an art gallery to relax? To tune out. To seek solace or inspiration? Zoning out is important.
A little distraction is healthy. Art has always been an escape. Problems are seldom solved staring at a computer screen, next to Colin munching an egg mayo sandwich. They’re solved by your subconscious. By allowing your mind to wander. Things become clear.
A generic environment isn’t good for happiness or creativity. By making a place more human-friendly, the best employers are aiming to retain talent and foster inspiration and ingenuity.
But buying massive works of art is beyond the budget of many businesses. So is it possible to pimp your office on a budget of a couple of grand? Yes.
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“Is it possible to pimp your office on a budget of a couple of grand? Yes.”
New technology is driving this change. It’s now possible to cost-effectively print direct-to-fabric, like never before. A whole new industry has emerged, making it easy to create enormous screens and booths. We’ve designed and manufactured a whole range of low-cost fabric furniture and display ideas.
From room dividers and meeting booths, to pop-up cocktail tables and cube stools. Acoustic oor screens, massive frameless
wall boxes and extra long drop fabric curtains are all now totally customisable and affordable. You could even get creative with printed gazebos, large beanbags and curved backdrops
How they work
There’s a common theme to the range. Each item usually comes in two parts – a portable lightweight frame. These are mass- produced, to bring the cost down.
We’re seeing businesses using our curved booths to make meeting spaces in the corner of the room. We particularly like the faux
log cabin, complete with faux cow-hide foot stools. Others have done beach huts and ice cream trucks. You can let your imagination run riot. Turn an office in Tewksbury into a Tiki Bar. Put an igloo in Ipswich. Make a wigwam in Winchester. A rainforest in Rotherham. A spaceship in Swindon. If you can think it, we can make it in fabric. Break up larger rooms with 4.6m wide screens. Print some abstract art or an enormous panoramic photograph to spark critical thinking. The great thing is, there are no panels to try to line up – create large one- piece, continuous graphics. Divide areas with oor-to-ceiling printed mesh curtains
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Dr Knight’s survey shows that empowering your team to design a more creative, zoned workspace could make them more 30% more productive. This all starts to make economic sense. What would that 30% do to your bottom line? Let’s get to work.
“If you can think it,
we can make it in fabric.”