By Mike Walsh
Office designs have changed dramatically over the past few decades, which you can see in TV shows like Mad Men and The Office. Both exemplify the popular layouts of their respective time periods and showcase how drastically workplace design changed in just a few decades.
While a traditional office layout and an open concept space each have their distinct benefits and drawbacks, the future of office design is a strong focus on flexibility and technology. From LED video walls to testing air quality, below are ways that organizations can modernize and future-proof their offices to support productivity, employee wellness, and sustainability.
Use LED Video Walls. Inefficient meetings can be a productivity killer. One way to make your meetings more engaging and productive is to take a look at your conference rooms. What kind of displays are you using?
Most offices are still using manual whiteboards, while others have no type of collaboration tool at all. Adding an LED video wall to your conference rooms or meeting areas is a great way to visually share what you’re talking about in a high-definition display. There are also tools like interactive whiteboarding that you can use to make real-time annotations and edits to presentations or reports.
LED video walls can connect quickly to: computers; video conferencing equipment; and broadcast video systems. Unlike LCD displays, LED systems are able to produce and emit light on their own, eliminating any need for backlights.
Unify Your Communications. Remote work and business travel are very common, but these work styles rely on the most efficient communications possible. It’s way too easy for time differences, disparate equipment, and a lack of face-to-face interaction to be the source of communication and collaboration issues.
With a unified system in place in a workplace design, video conferencing platforms, communication equipment, and phone systems are strategically connected so that employees can stay on top of their work responsibilities from anywhere.
Here’s an example: If a client calls an employee’s office number but they are at the airport waiting to board a flight to a business meeting, the call can be forwarded to their mobile phone or laptop. And with the right crystal clear system, the client will likely have no idea that the employee is even out of the office.
Control Noise. Open office plans inspire collaboration and improve communication, but they also create higher noise levels. And if you’ve ever lived in an apartment or a dorm room, you know how much noise can affect your comfort.
Most offices are designed with materials like concrete or wood, which don’t do very much to absorb sound. To control noise levels in open areas, offices can utilize sound masking technology to reduce distractions and increase comfort. Sound masking systems can be installed along a grid pattern and are designed to mask human speech. Sound masking uses high-tech emitters that can be seamlessly integrated into your office aesthetic, and you can even get custom-designed panels to complement or even enhance your office’s image.
For closed areas like conference rooms or private offices, installing acoustic art panels in a workplace design plan is an aesthetically pleasing way to maintain speech privacy and prevent noise from traveling.
Assess Air Quality. In a study from Raconteur, workplaces with high CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels in the air found that their employees’ productivity was negatively affected. In offices with CO2 levels about 1,500 parts per million, productivity dropped by 8%, and employees’ moods and motivation also dropped.
To ensure that your air quality is the best it can be — both for the mental and physical health of you and your employees — consider investing in sensors and ventilation equipment.
Optimize Energy Use. The Internet of Things (IoT) is making it possible for offices to connect devices in order to operate more efficiently. One of the most innovative uses of IoT technology is to monitor and control room temperatures and lighting fixtures to prioritize employee comfort and minimize energy costs.
We all know how an office can turn into an ice box if the controls are set to one temperature for every area of the building. And lights that are left on in abandoned rooms or hallways are a complete waste of energy. With the IoT, lighting and temperature control systems can connect to sensors that detect occupancy. This goes far beyond ceiling lights and air flow systems; desk lamps and fans can be controlled too. The environment and your utility budget will thank you.
Use LED Lighting. Fluorescent lighting can cause headaches and visual irritations, and it’s not the most sustainable option available.
Fluorescent lights produce blue and green tones, which lack warmth and can lead to an uncomfortable office. LED lighting is more flexible than fluorescents since the light spectrum can be altered, and they can also provide energy savings. So if you’re looking for a more natural, comfortable workspace, LED lighting is your best bet.
If you take anything away from this article, let it be the understanding that workplace design will never be definitive. What works for one business might spell trouble for another, so start by taking a good hard look at your employees’ needs, office functionality, fit-up potential, and growth goals. From there, you’ll have a great idea of where you can improve!
Walsh is a 15+ year veteran in the audio visual industry, bringing extensive knowledge of AV design, implementation, service, and sales to DGI, a leading provider of audio and visual communication products and services. Providing leadership and driving innovation for the diverse divisions that make up the company, he has also led a team that was recognized as the top integration firm serving educational markets in the country two years running. With a focus on business processes, relationship management and technical proficiency, Walsh is positioning DGI to emerge as the premier integrator in the Northeast.
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