I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity through my work to visit many of the new offices which have been built in Christchurch city, post 2011 earthquakes. Some businesses are only now moving back into the city centre as the new buildings start to take shape and are fitted out.
So what’s my opinion of these new office spaces? Well, while I’m enjoying the variety and feel, and can see that employers are starting to consider the environment people have to work in, they do still come with some challenges. However, these challenges can often be overcome, or alleviated with some forethought and sometimes, without too much trouble, some afterthought!
Get the lighting right
I have noticed that almost all the new offices have a large amount of glass in them. This brings in lots of natural light, and if you are lucky enough to be near the Ōtākaro/Avon River lovely views of the river and the trees. It does however also bring with it a lot of challenges with managing this light, even when the windows are facing south and encounter no direct sunlight. It’s not the glass itself that causes the challenge; it’s simply the sheer volume of glass letting in so much light, (though if you are also lucky enough to have views of the Port Hills bordering the south side of Christchurch, then that can help to soften the blow!)
These days, lighting has become a factor which can be as important as desk set up as we rely on computers for longer and longer in our work days. High levels of reading are hard on the eyes at the best of times, so good lighting in the right place is essential
LED lights are the obvious choice in any new office space. They come with a range of different covers and spacing over the ceiling area depending on style of the office fit out. Unfortunately for the organisation or individual that ultimately occupies the building, lights are generally installed according to the square meterage of a space, which inevitably means at the time of building, the placement of desks and work spaces is still an unknown. And even with the best intentions, like any building once the furniture arrives and people’s workspaces are set up, there will be some darker spots. The optimum level to aim for is a well spread lighting over the whole office space, without too many patchy areas where shadows fall onto desks. So if at all possible, whether you are a developer, planning your building, an interior designer, project or office manager planning an office renovation or even someone working from home, think about where you are positioning your lighting before you have it installed.
Allow room to move
Again, because many of us spend long periods of time in front of our computers, giving your staff more opportunity to move around is important. This can be managed with provision of the right desk equipment such as easily adjustable sit stand desks and use of standing height leaners in your kitchen area.
Another encouraging sight to see is when new office builds include a really pleasant staff kitchen area. Ideally, one which is separate from office and workspaces, so that people have to walk away from their working area to reach it, and which is far enough away from other work spaces, so that those working nearby are interrupted by any water cooler conversations, or the coffee machine grinding away!. However, this is of course dependent on how much space there is available.
Bring nature in
Beautifying your office space using plants is a great way to improve a working environment, and is often done by incorporating them in office dividers or shelving. Not only does this create a green wall, but everyone in the office benefits from the health of having plants around them.
Be sure to choose your plants well, though. Some survive better than others in areas where they don’t get much natural light (prayer plants seem to be particularly hardy!).
Create quiet spaces
Something else I’ve noticed being included in many new builds are high sided sitting booths which have sides built using acoustic panelling. These panels work to reduce the amount of sound coming out of the sitting area and make great quiet areas that can either be used for meetings between two or three people, or as a quiet spot for someone who wants to focus on some work without disruption, but can still be a part of the overall office space. They also can add some colour to the work space and allow for some creativity.
So, overall, it’s heartening to see places where people are obviously enjoying working and are taking a pride in the space which has been provided for them.
When you’re creating a workspace, or building an office, giving some thought to the type of work your staff do throughout their day and looking at the best way to use the space you have, is planning well worth doing before you move. The cost of moving any business is always a significant one for a business, but ensuring you are getting the best result will result in healthier, happy staff and ultimately, a healthier business.