[Urban Chronicles #WellBeingAtWork] #04 - Rethinking the interior design of our workspaces

Flex Office, or Desk Sharing, is emerging as a major trend in commercial office real estate. In the absence of a dedicated office at the workplace, each employee settles in the morning in a free space of his choice, equipped with his laptop and smartphone. Requiring careful material preparation, Flex Office allows financial gains by reducing the phenomenon of empty offices and full meeting rooms (particularly relevant in France, where an executive spends an average of 24 days a year in meetings [1]). It also makes it possible to stimulate exchanges between employees, bring management closer to teams, stimulate creativity and avoid routine by placing each day in a different context from the previous one.

The Flex Office practice, which is increasingly adopted at the headquarters of major French companies (Engie, Adidas, PSA, Bouygues Télécom, BNP Paribas, Axa, Danone, Sanofi, etc.), can nevertheless be difficult for some employees to experience: a feeling of losing their bearings and their place within the company, a feeling that the company is dehumanizing, a disruption in their habits.

An inspiring new practice in interior design: The Living Office

The Living Office concept, as conceived by the American office furniture and equipment company Herman Miller, is a more sophisticated model than the Flex Office: the layout of the premises is based on the tasks and times of the day.

The Living Office thus aims to restore the human dimension within the workspace by identifying among 10 activities practiced within the company the 10 adaptations borrowed from the world of the house that can meet them. Each place has its own activity:

  • The Hive: the grouping of several workstations arranged to allow people to work individually or in groups in a harmonious way;
  • The Haven (the refuge): a small shelter where it is possible to concentrate in silence without being distracted, or a phone box to isolate yourself and make your calls in complete privacy;
  • The Clubhouse: a local working space that belongs to a team assigned to a long-term project;
  • The Forum: centered around a clearly defined central point, the Forum is designed to facilitate the presentation of content;
  • The Jump Space (the stopover): easily accessible workstations where you can land between two meetings and process your emails;
  • The Cove: a compact space located near individual workstations, which allows employees to gather and exchange ideas over a short period of time;
  • The Plaza: at the heart of the environment, the Plaza is a space for exchange, relaxation, catering, work and is the dynamic epicenter of the organization;
  • The Workshop: an ideal workshop for collaborative work to generate new ideas;
  • The Meeting Space: a meeting room to facilitate the sharing of information, whether it is a speaker addressing the audience from the front of the room, or a group of collaborators in the middle of a conversation;
  • The Landing: an open space, located near meeting spaces or forums, it allows you to get in shape before a meeting and to relax afterwards.

Inspired by the Living Office, redesigning the interior design of its spaces can be a powerful tool to improve the well-being and productivity of its employees, but also to make its premises a showcase of the company's values.

Analysis of a practical case study: The Ohana Design

Salesforce, an American software company, is now at the top of the 2018 list of European multinationals in the "Great Place To Work" ranking. Salesforce has developed a strong corporate culture in which the interior design of workspaces is central, providing its employees with a high level of well-being at work.

Salesforce builds its workspaces on the basis of the Ohana Design, a term meaning 'family' in Hawaiian. The notion of Ohana Design carried by Salesforce is expressed in particular through:

  • Residential-style furnishings;
  • Access for all to outdoor views and natural light;
  • Design inspired by nature and the use of raw materials;
  • Spaces of mindfulness to open your mind and recharge your batteries;
  • Lounges with soft cushions to encourage fun and collaboration;
  • The top floor is dedicated to welcoming customers, partners, friends and community in the Ohana universe.

By placing the well-being of employees as a central theme of the Ohana Design, a logical part of a broader corporate culture, Salesforce succeeds in satisfying its employees and increasing its attractiveness.

New underlying trends in interior design

These new Living Office and Ohana Design practices, from the United States, are good indicators of new global trends developing within companies:

  1. Beyond the classic archetype of an office tray divided into partitioned offices / meeting rooms / coffee machine, new types of spaces are emerging in the workplace to meet employees' needs: changing rooms and showers for sportsmen and women, spaces dedicated to innovation, connected and soundproofed bubbles that allow people to cut themselves off from their environment to make calls or concentrate, kitchen spaces that encourage interaction, nap or rest rooms, etc.
  1. Elements previously confined to the domain of private life are beginning to be incorporated into workspaces: decoration and interior design will be inspired by the worlds of home, hotels and travel in order to promote the well-being of employees, making them feel at home while they are at work.
  2. Reflection on the notion of well-being at work is integrated earlier and earlier in the building design, in particular through work on colors, contrasts, volumes, natural light, accessibility of the building by all, and the integration of art. A perfect illustration of this trend, WELL™ certification, launched in 2015 in the United States, is gaining momentum in Europe: 45 European projects began a WELL™ certification process in 2016 and 84 in 2017. This certification focuses on the well-being of employees within the company by focusing on 7 themes: air, water, light, physical activity, comfort, nutrition, psychological well-being.

In conclusion, it should be noted that at the heart of the reflection on the transformation of the workplace, the notion of employee well-being must be integrated. This creates the most favourable environment for their involvement in the company. It is necessary to go further than a simple economic calculation of profitability, due to an optimization of the workspace, as we can reproach the Flex Office. The layout of the workspace must be designed and adapted to its future users and the latter should ideally be involved in this phase of reflection, in a logic of co-decision.

[1] IFOP/Wisembly 2016 Barometer

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Flex Office, or Desk Sharing, is emerging as a major trend in commercial office real estate. In the absence of a dedicated office at the workplace, each employee settles in the morning in a free space of his choice, equipped with his laptop and smartphone. Requiring careful material preparation, Flex Office allows financial gains by reducing the phenomenon of empty offices and full meeting rooms (particularly relevant in France, where an executive spends an average of 24 days a year in meetings [1]). It also makes it possible to stimulate exchanges between employees, bring management closer to teams, stimulate creativity and avoid routine by placing each day in a different context from the previous one.

The Flex Office practice, which is increasingly adopted at the headquarters of major French companies (Engie, Adidas, PSA, Bouygues Télécom, BNP Paribas, Axa, Danone, Sanofi, etc.), can nevertheless be difficult for some employees to experience: a feeling of losing their bearings and their place within the company, a feeling that the company is dehumanizing, a disruption in their habits.


Moderated by : Alexia ROBIN

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