Social Spaces in the modern office
Experts often predict the future of the workplace, with many speculating on the changes that will be prompted by advancing technology and some even predicting an end to office environments all together.
In reality, however, while home working and flexible working may now be more popular - and more possible - than ever before, they are solutions that only suit some employers and some employees, some of the time. Face to face communication and effective collaboration are pivotal to the success of most businesses and, for that, people need to come together in an office environment. The question is, what will that environment look like in years to come?
It’s also worth remembering that, both as colleagues and as human beings, we are social creatures. Most of the reason for being in the office five days a week may be to get a job done and pay the mortgage but at least some of the reason that more than 10 million people in the UK work in an office is that the environment provides social interaction on a daily basis. And that social interaction is just as valuable to employers as it is to employees, lifting the mood and productivity of personnel, as well as giving them an opportunity to problem solve together, discuss tasks and develop as a team.
So rather than considering whether we need offices, most of the smart research and investment in office environments is being ploughed into enhancing that social interaction in the workplace; building on collaborative workspaces to make the whole environment more engaging and communal. There’s also an emphasis on making it more fun and homely, working on the philosophy that an employee that likes their work environment and enjoys being there will be more productive.
Offices are now seeing a larger proportion of space dedicated to socialising and encouraging employees to meet and work away from their desks. Agile working is becoming one of the most progressive methods of working due to the positive impact businesses are seeing on its employees. Workspaces that offer collaborative, informal and social spaces are becoming the ones where employees report the highest sense of pride, enjoyment and productivity.
Breakout areas and office dining areas are good for helping employees engage and share ideas more readily, with people often feeling more relaxed and comfortable than in more formal meeting rooms. A casual chat over lunch can spark an idea. Bumping into a colleague on the way to the coffee machine can lead to collaboration. And this is why more businesses are moving away from the ‘how many bodies can we fit in the space’ mentality towards multi-purpose rooms, breakout areas and socialising spaces.
While not every company is ready for slides and swings in the office or dedicated games zones, designing a workplace with social spaces that employees can use as informal work areas, meeting places, chill out areas and breakout zones is fundamental to creating a forward-focused and people friendly office.
Social Spaces That Work
It’s for all those reasons that Dams launched their Social Spaces portfolio, specifically designed to bring a more varied approach to social areas and informal workspaces within the contemporary office. Combining upholstered soft seating with bistro style tables, chairs and benches, the range has everything a modern office needs to create collaborative workspaces, breakout areas and informal dining areas.
Soft seating helps to create relaxed working environments where people can go for some time away from their desk, meet and collaborate or bring their laptop with them to work away from the distractions of phones and colleagues. The modular solutions and fabrics available from Dams means they can offer a huge choice of colours and styles that can be used to bring the corporate palette into the office interior, create a cohesive look or even zone different areas.
Dams have also invested significantly in expanding their UK manufacturing operations, building a new upholstery factory with state-of-the-art, new equipment and additional skilled staff. All upholstered items are made to order and, thanks to Dams’ in-house manufacturing and fulfilment, every item can be tracked from order through to delivery for complete traceability and peace of mind.
The company can even offer a project management service using its in-house CAD design team to help customers space plan their office and manage the whole process from specification through to delivery and installation on site.
Over the last few years, rows of private offices have been replaced with open plan layouts that aim to reduce costs and boost collaboration between employees and different departments, with more than 70% of all UK office workers now in open plan environments. However complementing the open plan office with pockets of design-led soft seating, informal meeting spaces, relaxed dining areas and telephone nooks will also allow employees to move away from their desks to carry out a task in a specifically tailored environment.
Employees across all sectors and all generations are now seeking a stimulating experience from the office, not just a place to work. Home comforts are becoming more prevalent in the office environment to make employees feel more comfortable at work and creating a flexible, multi-purpose social space where they can exchange ideas or just relax. With the average worker spending the majority of their waking hours in an office, it makes sense than ever for there to be more of an overlap between work, socialising and home environments.