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Designer harmony a corporate concern

MANY offices that may have been considered little better than rabbit warrens now come with views, funky lights, comfortable sofas and open spaces, as company directors incorporate modern design concepts to embrace office space.

The in-vogue open office design does more than just look good, according to interior designers, who say an open plan increases employee job satisfaction and inter-office communication.

Cox Howlett and Bailey Woodland senior interior designer Gary Giles said office design affected job performance.

“The important link is between design, job satisfaction and job performance. That is, people’s perception of their environment and the link to the characteristics of the physical environment that either directly or indirectly contribute to the workers’ performance,” he said.

“Designers are often brought in as a tool to improve corporate culture and improve dialogue between people,” Mr Giles said.

SGIO moves in to its new premises next week, a vast space that incorporates breakout points, also known as communication hubs.

The company in charge of the design is Sydney-based Reid Campbell, and director Colin Gow said the design maximised light, views and space and was a commercially attractive design option.

“The open plan is commercially advantageous. It’s more flexible and easier to change and can be cheap to change. It can develop as the business does,” Mr Gow said.

“It’s very open, almost 100 per cent open, and a very democratic approach to design.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers moved in to its new open-plan office at the beginning of this month and, according to managing partner Andrew Edwards, the open structure embraces a cultural shift for the company.

“Many staff who typically work from client sites no longer have

fixed workstations. Instead, through the use of sophisticated technology, staff are randomly allocated desks through a ‘hotelling’ system,” Mr Edwards said.

“The beauty of this system is that the telephone and computer technology moves with them.”

The office, like SGIO’s new premises, also has breakout spaces that, according to Bollig Design principal interior designer Annalise Lemm, represent a shift in management style.

“Offices have become very egalitarian. In the past it used to be executives having offices along the external areas with the views and the employees huddled in the centre as the machinery or internal mechanics of the machine,” Ms Lemm said.

“We are seeing more breakout spaces. You may have three different departments that have no communication between them and are partitioned off. Now those partitions are being broken down and mangers are realising that, rather than offices being solely work intensive, socialisation should play a role.

“Offices have moved from corporate identity to be about corporate culture and the idea of a village.”

Mr Edwards said there were two benefits of incorporating breakout spaces in the design.

“It means someone who is in need of a break can wander across and usually find someone there to have a natter to about things and have a coffee,” he said.

“It has also meant there is a designated area, so instead of clustering around the office where other people may want to be getting on with things, they have a place to

go.”

The Buchan Group interior designer Penny Forlano said office design should be reviewed regularly to continue stimulating employees.

“Over long periods of time, businesses often grow out of their old work practices, requirements and existing office layout and space,” she said.

“I think one of the common mistakes is not reviewing the current situation and addressing the whole operational, functional aspect of the space and the image it presents to the customer and its own staff.

“Often office layouts have ‘evolved’ into an impractical and cluttered workspace. It’s important that businesses review their requirements, business objectives and aims, and ascertain if their existing workplace is appropriate. An appropriate solution should encourage and inspire staff, increase productivity and staff satisfaction, all within a feasible budget.”

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