Home is where the office is
Good ergonomics, smart use of colours, natural light and controlled temperatures all make for new-age office spaces, observes Bindu Gopal Rao
“Eight hours a day, five days a week, about 50 weeks a year.” Wondering what these numbers are all about? Well, this is the average time an employee spends in an office, about 50% of the time spent awake! Hectic work schedules in today’s time imply that people are increasingly spending most of their time at office. Hence it has become imperative that office spaces are designed in a manner that makes the employees comfortable and perform well. New age design solutions, products and technologies are coming together to make new age offices a reality.
The concept of workplace design is still in its infancy, but simple things such as good lighting and adequate daylight can reduce absenteeism by 15 per cent and increase productivity by up to 20 per cent. Says Sandeep Dhar, CEO, Tesco HSC, “We believe that office spaces have a great impact on creativity and allow for free flow of ideas. For increased productivity, it is vital to keep employees happy and comfortable with proper office designs. The break-out areas and gardens which are wireless enabled are optimally utilised by our employees. This is enough testimonial to the fact that employees value and appreciate the open space thus resulting in a positive impact on productivity and exchange of ideas.”
The way the workplace is designed can be a crucial influence on the way people approach their work. Studies reveal that the physical workplace design which includes décor and interiors is one of the major factors that affect performance and job satisfaction. Studies do indicate that there exists a link between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, productivity and financial results.
A recent research conducted by Knoll examined workspace type preferences of high technology workers and found that their preference for open or enclosed work environments was based on work style and the type of work the individual performs. ”Today Intelligroup office spaces provide the requisite “topography” - creating a rhythm or a subtle undertone that is physically supportive of the work and a visual diversity that stimulates the workforce. The aim has been to balance the collaborative with the personal, floor designs have been planned accordingly,” says Kunal David Asirvadam - Associate Director, Intelligroup.
Did you know that a regular PC user has an average computer use rate of almost 70% of his or her total work hours? Also, computer users strike the keyboard space bar an average of 669 times per hour of computer use. The benefits of proper ergonomic workstation design can be substantial. Preliminary results of an ongoing study of over 35,000 Indian IT professionals by Recoup (2001-2009) found that 75% reported musculoskeletal symptoms related to work; 55% got injured within a year of starting their first job. The average age of patients who developed repetitive strain injuries (RSI) was 27 years. No one is immune to RSI.
Any computer user, who uses the computer incorrectly for more than one hour daily, is at risk of RSI. Which is also why companies are designing products keeping work ergonomics in mind. The natural wireless mouse from Microsoft Hardware for instance has a shape that seems peculiar in design, being taller and more spherical than a traditional mouse. However this has been created to more precisely fit the relaxed posture of your hand. The Natural mouse also enables you to control the weight of your mouse!
Godrej Interio has developed a scientific measuring device called the ‘Ergometer’, which not only guides users select the right chair for their body size, but also choose the chair based on their job profile. To complete it, Godrej Interio also consults its customers on the right way of using the chair.
Indoor air quality
Another aspect is indoor air quality which is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air because of harmful emissions from innocuous looking parts of office environment such as carpets, sealants used in building materials and furniture. Godrej Interio products help reduce the level of emissions from its furniture. Says N Vasu, Founder & Director, V3, “Many of V3’s models can be fitted with a mechanised adjustable table top to suit people of different heights. V3 ensures that edges are curved and smooth to avoid people getting injured and jagging their clothes. The height and work area are designed with ergonomic functionalities, storage, work area and accessory space are planned keeping time, space and practical usage in mind.”
Adding comfort to multi-functionality in order to make printing pervasive is the new Hewlett Packard’s ePrint enabled OfficeJet printers. “Printing from anywhere, anytime, directly to the new HP all-in-one printers, using any Internet enabled mobile device, iPads, Smart Phones, Blackberry. Every OfficeJet web-connected and cloud print-enabled printer will have a unique email address that allows the sender to print by just sending an email message,” says Naveen Kejriwal, Country Manager, Inkjet and Web Solutions, HP IPG, India.
“An office space that relates and reflects the daily activities of the employees will set the trend. The office design should be a reflection of the kind of work that is done there,” says Shivalika Midha, Assistant Studio Director, KGD. With the change of times and lifestyle, a critical care for elements of ergonomics i.e. light, noise, temperature, ventilation, work space, work process and human behaviour has been taken care of. “However, the challenge has always been to integrate aesthetics and functionality that can profoundly contribute towards creating an employee-friendly workspace. Ergonomics has provided an effective solution, be it a simple task chair or a working desk – it has a directly impacted the efficiency and performance of an employee,” says Kamal Bahl, Co-Founder-CEO, Creons.
Adds Anshita Asnani, Managing Partner - Urban Management Consultants, “the design follows the minimalist school of thought and reflects fluidity, continuity and movement throughout the space. A serene, neutral and easily adaptable design, a space which is uncluttered and easy to use, ensures that corporate deliverables are met efficiently without leading to stress and burnout among the team members. The use of different materials like kadapa, wood, concrete provokes contrast and connections giving a good texture and articulation to the space.” A case to the point is that of the HDFC bank of Mumbai which used 3M’s solution to convert its five lakh square feet of space into a beautiful environmental graphic under the theme “working in harmony”. The entire environment depicts the concept of Indian music with musicians and Indian musical instruments, bringing about the essence of harmony amongst the employees. The uniqueness has been established with printings on frosted and clear films to form a seamless environment on glass and also vinyl graphics on the walls.
Office spaces are becoming unconventional. “At Patios, our office set up is outdoors. We enjoy the natural rays of the sun as we sit on a coffee table or a dining table set. This truly makes every person enjoy the office hours. During evenings and in summers, we sit indoors and come out to sit on the couch and swing when it comes to de-stressing,” says Adarsshh Mishraa, Director of Patios. Adds Shagufta Anurag, Founder, Space Matrix, “Design trends are hard to predict, but in general, the end users seem to gravitate towards more modern design.
Another aspect is that of colour. It has moved away from being a trend and is instead used as a tool to either convey the identity of a brand or as a mood influencer. Also, work patterns are a major influence in space utilisation. If an end user finds that collaborative spaces such as conference rooms are more important, then space from each workstation might have to be sacrificed. Accommodation has lead to the adaptation or invention of new products and services, to create a tailored and more efficient work place.”
Amar Tendulkar, Senior Vice President and Head, Planning & Design, Omkar Realtors & Developers Pvt Ltd., adds, “employee productivity is directly proportional to the efficacy and cheer of the environment, they operate in. Hence the added emphasis on providing ergonomic workspaces that fit natural body posture and body mechanics. Design elements that effect employee productivity would be the scale of the building.”
Temperature plays a vital role when it comes to maximising employee productivity in a workplace. “The temperature inside the facility is a critical consideration, and it should not be either too cold or hot. According to ASHRAE, it should be 23 degree centigrade +/- 2 degrees for ensuring employee comfort,” says Shrinivas Rao, CEO Asia Pacific, Vestian Global Workplace Solutions.
“An IT environment, as we all know can be quite strenuous at times, but Nagarro with its relaxed environment inspires each employee to give his/her best to the work they do. Every employee spends a majority of his time at the workstation or the cabin. The L Shaped cabins are optimised to enable employees to store all their documents and still get a lot of space to relax and work efficiently,” says HR Team, Nagarro Software.
Adds Divya Viswanathan, Architect - Leed AP, Synergy Property Development Services Pvt. Ltd., “the latest technological trends such as wireless technology, laptops, PDA, document management, digital copiers and scan-to-email etc have completely changed the outlook of the traditional offices layouts and work environments.
“The permanent desks, cellular office layouts are discouraged now and people are heading towards flexible workspaces where some staff will work in the office for full time and have permanent desks (the same desk everyday), while others will only come into the office during certain times that suit their needs. Teleworking, hotdesks, carrels, touchdown areas, flexitime are the new trends in office culture.”
Avoiding artificial lights
Laxman H Gaonkar, Head-Global Facilities Management (India Region), SAP Labs India opines, “While designing SAP Labs facility in Bangalore, our key focus was to put up a structure that was aesthetically appealing, environmentally friendly and contributed to employee productivity.
“Towards this, we made sure that our office space is designed to capture natural light and curb the use of artificial lights. We used a special tinted and reflective double glazing glass, to lessen solar heat gain which also helped us optimise usage of air conditioners.
Our buildings have inner courtyards with landscape gardens and water flow, which besides increasing oxygen supply, also helps employees to focus better due to the soothing sound of flowing water.
Adds Deepak Kaistha, CEO, Planman Consulting and Dean, IIPM, says, “Open space is increased to allow better interaction within employees that would enhance employee productivity. Supply and disposal areas are accessible so employees do not have to twist their bodies. Adjustable furniture, tables and raisers are used to feel the comfort at work place. Employees love the healthy environment as there is flexibility and comfort to work.” Offices are indeed changing and employees seem to be loving it.