As the workplace and jobs evolve with time, the office has also been changing along with them.
According to an article by the World Economic Forum, unlike past generations of white-collar workers, modern employees want – and often demand – flexible spaces that are conducive to thinking and that help them perform the tasks required of them. These might include soundproof booths, soft-seating areas or standing desks.
This means, the traditional office chair and desk have slowly fallen out of favour, employees are looking for laid back office space, colourful and fun enough to inspire their creativity.
In such spaces, a homely set up is created, with sofas and/or more comfortable options. Some offices have sleeping rooms or rooms where employees can go and relax.
While others have replaced desk chairs with beanbags, donut cushions to create a different feel of a workplace that many would have found stressing.
In Uganda, places like Design Hub, The Innovation Village and Motiv, among others have intentional interior designs that create a playful space for both employees and clients. So, away from the conventional office interior set up, how can one set up a space that is both modern and laid back for employees and clients or for a personal office at home?
What works, where?
Before we rush in to break the walls and give way to a modern set up, a few things need to be considered, as Fred Mukwaya, an interior designer shares.
Top on the list is the consideration on the type of business a company or person is involved in. “What does the business offer in terms of goods and services (type of business) what do you stand for as an organisation, who are your clients and what do you want them to perceive about your business or company when they walk in? What kind of people do you employ; young people or mature and old professionals? All these are things to consider when determining what will or won’t work,” he says.
He further explains that if you are a business that gives priority to privacy for clients or employees, then definitely, an open space office arrangement won’t work for you but rather a traditional setup.
He notes that such modern set ups are more common with innovators, inventors, IT companies, businesses that value openness, transparency and communication and creative arts.
Normally, corporate companies prefer traditional setups.
Count the cost
Normally, setting up such an office space calls for an extra cost, since a number of things will have to be custom made to suit your setup, instead of just randomly buying a desk or counter at the furniture shop. “This means that the business/ company should be doing well financially or attracting a calibre of clients and employees who need to be impressed by how the office space looks,” Mukwaya shares.
One may wonder whether the interior set up and architecture of a place has any bearing on its employees/ clients. Well, according to Ruth Ategyeka a coder, the interior set up of an office can have a profound impact on the workers.
“I have worked in both office setups; modern and conventional and honestly, it matters. For our kind of work especially, where you need to be inspired from your surroundings, natural things to the way people interact, working in an enclosed set up personally makes me feel like I have been boxed in. On the other hand, working in open spaces, I can freely interact with colleagues, share ideas, relax at some point or get inspired while seating outside on the balcony or terrace,” she says. When working on a project, Ategyeka often uses spaces at Design Hub.
However, whereas open workspace may work for some, some researchers have noted that it has its disadvantages.
A study on ‘The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration’ published by Royal Society Journal found out that the transformation from traditional office into ‘open’, transparency-enhancing architectures with fewer walls, doors and other spatial boundaries reduced face-to-face interaction significantly (approx. 70 percent) with an associated increase in electronic interaction.
In otherwards, instead of increasingly face-to-face collaboration, open architecture made colleagues withdraw from each other to instead interact over email and messages.
Achieving the look
According to Lynda Mutesi Arinaitwe, a graduate architect specialised in interior design and detailing at Nkorera Design Studio, interior design of an office affects workers’ effectiveness.
She explains that the internal environment of an office affects the people who work or come into those spaces. These may be employees, customers and other people.
“Take aeration or more generally, temperature. You don’t want a very hot environment for your employees so that they want to move out of the office to sit in a shade where it is cooler. This can affect productivity because people won’t be comfortable. On the other hand, you also don’t want an office with very low temperatures that employees will spend the whole day in sweaters, fetching tea and dozing off because it is too cold. All these have to be considered in the interior design,” she says.
Colour is another factor that can largely impact on the people who work in those spaces, but can also be used to create a touch of modernity. Bright colours give a laid back and playful atmosphere while cool and low colours like brown or grey will also have the environment feeling serious, Mutesi says.
Away from making your space look beautiful, interior design and your architecture speaks a lot about your brand.
Your brand can be incorporated into your design to achieve a complete look. “First is the colour of your brand that can be used. This can be highlighted and incorporated in the interior decor or made part of your interior design,” she explains. Colours that represent what the company stands for can also be used. Green can for example be used if a company is dealing in environment related business.
Additionally, the logo can go a long way in making a huge part of the office’s interior decor. “One can decide to have it plastered on the wall, printed with 3D or just stuck around. They can also have an imprint of the logo on number of things that make up the interior for example upholstery, gadgets, furniture, and things like cups and laptops,” says Mutesi.
Additionally, furniture makes up a big part in setting up the desired look and it says a lot about the environment you are trying to create. Furniture can show what you stand for, for example: class, creativity and comfort - but can also be coordinated with the colour scheme.
A vivid example of this, she shares, are businesses that sell honey and the way they often play around with furniture. These will for example have shelves in the shape of a honeycomb and the moment one looks into the offices, they will immediately know what the business is dealing in.
More to this is the style the office takes. The style one chooses for their office represents who they are. Less creative and stylish spaces that are enclosed can represent that the company is private and respects the confidentiality of its clients or employees while open spaces can represent openness.
“A good example of how style and interior decor can represent your business is the different coffee places in town. Because their product is about African coffee and its naturalness, some have traditionally made things highlighting their decor. Others have hand made things like furniture that doesn’t appear commercially made, raw wood floors, all that puts the message of what the business is about across,” Mutesi explains, adding that the opposite of that would be high end eatteries and the way they brand themselves with decor, the choice of pieces they include in their decor such as plates and the choice of furniture all show coziness, and a touch of class.
“When we talk about interior design, we also consider the location of the office because this largely affects how to decorate the office. For example, one would be expected to decorate their offices if their premises are in Kololo for example, than if they were in a mall in Ntinda. Interior designers think about all these things. Visibility is another thing. How people see through your office space or the level of privacy provided will say a lot about who you are.”
Bright and Cool colors
Colour is another factor that can largely impact on the people who work in those spaces, but can also be used to create a touch of modernity. Bright colors give a laid back and playful atmosphere while cool and low colours like brown or grey will also have the environment feeling serious.
Furniture makes up a big part in setting up the desired look and it says a lot about the environment you are trying to create. Furniture can show what you stand for, for example: class, creativity and comfort - but can also be coordinated with the colour scheme.
Take aeration or more generally, temperature. You don’t want a very hot environment for your employees so that they want to move out of the office to sit in a shade where it is cooler. This can affect productivity because people won’t be feeling comfortable. On the other hand, you also don’t want an office with very low temperatures that employees will spend the whole day in sweaters, fetching tea and dozing off because it is too cold. All these have to be considered in the interior design,” says Lynda mutesi, architect at Nkolera Design Studio.