In our digitally connected world, the traditional workplace has not only become outdated, but seemingly irrelevant. As telecommuting and email become our preferred method of communication, some may question whether or not offices are even needed in our ‘gig economy’.
Bill Dowzer, a Principal of BVN, an award-winning Australian architectural practice, is a leader in workplace design and a champion of BVN's "collective creation" approach. According to Dowzer, there are two reasons why designing the right office space is important: it creates a sense of belonging, and it builds a community. These two components are not only important for an organization to succeed but to grow, as text messages and Skype meetings can never replace human interaction.
“When conceptualizing the design, we work with the human resources team. Why? Because we base our design on the people,” said Dowzer at last month’s Breakfast Event. “How do you connect people in vertical buildings? How do you create a space that brings in the environment and promotes health and wellness? These are the foundations we need to know before we start drafting. Our goal is to create what we call “sticky” buildings; in other words, places where people want to be.”
Dowzer views higher density as a tool to bring people together. And as more people hide behind a screen, his goal is to force human interaction. He does this through open floor plans and transparency.
“In vertical buildings, we think of creative ways to get people to interact. For example, we’ll make the stairs thinner so people have to bump into each other. A five foot wide stair means people don’t have to say hello; however, if we bring that down to four feet, you’ll have to acknowledge the other person. This starts to build community.”
As food has always been a means to socialize and connect, Dowzer explains that more and more companies need to include shared kitchens and eating areas for staff.
Integrating nature is also an important factor, as research proves that access to outdoor views, fresh air and plants improve employee well being.
Dowzer feels it’s important to remove the hierarchical barriers like private offices and cubicles so that CEO’s and assistants all work together in an open concept, open space approach.
“Office design should be based on the democratization of the workforce. The most effective tool you can give employees is choice. When they can create an environment where people actually enjoy their job, you’ve accomplished a sticky building.”
These contemporary ideas are paving a new era of office design, a path that continues to develop as our work culture demands modern changes and inclusive features. To learn more about the evolution of the office space, read our previous blog post here.