Reimagining space: The essentials of a modern fit-out

A well-crafted workplace encompasses more than just physical space; it embodies the values of its people, fosters a vibrant culture, and nurtures innovation.

Given this, an important session at the FIS Conference was Reimagining space: The essentials of a modern fit-out. This session featured presentations from Ken Bundy, Creative Director at Claremont Group Interiors and Vanessa Brady OBE, Founder of SBID.

In this feature, we gain valuable insights from Ken and Vanessa on up-to-date trends and how to empower a company to thrive in the modern workplace landscape.

Putting the ooh into workspaces

Ken explained that in 2020, amid the uncertainties of the pandemic, the idea of the ‘Destination Office’ emerged, imagining an ideal workplace for the post-pandemic era. Taking inspiration from the comforting atmosphere of a local pub, the ‘Destination Office’ aimed to recreate the rewarding experience of a social hub while fulfilling professional duties. This concept sought to redefine the workplace, making the commute worthwhile, even if it meant travelling a significant distance from home.

Over the following years, extensive research involving over 10,000 office users further refined and expanded the concept of the Destination Office. This research not only validated the core principles of the approach but also provided insights into the evolving expectations and preferences of employees. As we move into 2023, the landscape of work continues to evolve, driven by the profound impact of the pandemic on organisations worldwide.

Ken said: “The post-pandemic world has sparked significant shifts in how organisations approach work. There has been a notable push towards greater flexibility in work arrangements, with a growing emphasis on remote and hybrid models. This has required a reassessment of traditional office spaces, leading to reductions and reshaping to accommodate the newfound flexibility. Moreover, the pandemic has accelerated the integration of virtual technologies, further blurring the boundaries between physical and digital workspaces.

“Remote working, initially enforced by circumstances, has brought forth unexpected benefits and valuable lessons. It has underscored the importance of adaptability and resilience in navigating uncertain times. As many organisations grapple with low office occupancy rates and contemplate mandating a return to the office, it becomes crucial to understand the underlying motivations and expectations driving employee preferences for alternative work locations.

“The Destination Office, with its focus on supporting basic needs while fostering an inspirational environment, serves as a foundation for creating a workplace that employees genuinely desire. It goes beyond mere functionality to prioritise the holistic well-being and satisfaction of individuals. Thus, understanding what people expect from their workplace experience becomes paramount in shaping the future of work.”

Ken explained that from the research conducted, several key themes emerge regarding employee expectations:

Flexibility: Employees value the flexibility to choose where and how they work. They seek autonomy in managing their time and environment to optimise productivity and work-life balance.

Collaboration and Connection: Despite the rise of remote work, the importance of face-to-face interaction and social connection remains significant. Employees crave opportunities for collaboration, networking, and building relationships within the workplace.

Well-being: The well-being of employees is a top priority. This includes physical health, mental wellness, and access to amenities that support overall well-being, such as fitness facilities, healthy food options, and spaces for relaxation.

Purposeful Design: The physical design of the workplace plays a crucial role in shaping the employee experience. Thoughtful design elements that prioritise comfort, aesthetics, and functionality contribute to a more engaging and inspiring work environment.

Technology Integration: Seamless integration of technology is essential for facilitating efficient work processes and enabling seamless communication and collaboration, whether employees are in the office or working remotely.

In summary, Ken concluded by saying: “The concept of the Destination Office represents a paradigm shift in how we conceive of the workplace. By understanding and addressing the evolving needs and expectations of employees, organisations can create environments that not only attract but also retain top talent, fostering a culture of innovation, collaboration, and well-being in the post-pandemic era.”

An overview of current design workspace design trends

Vanessa explained that we seem to have been herded into the future by shock. Yet, the pandemic appears to be a distant memory, as if it never happened at all. Still, it is responsible as the catalyst that forced the world to adopt the technology, we all had on our mobile devices and desktops – the internet certainly changed the way we communicate. It is for future generations to determine if this is a good thing or not, but for now, we must incorporate technology into business, and that includes the way we work.

Vanessa said: “The workplace is unrecognisable from five years ago. The balance has moved to wellbeing and comfort so a shift to how we feel and not how much money we can generate. If I had expressed that a decade ago, I would have been mocked as an ‘interior decorator’. However, interior designers have come of age, earning their place on every refurbishment and planning specification sheet.

“Designing the spaces where we live and work falls within the role of a designer. Fifteen years ago, The Society of British and International Design (SBID) defined twelve disciplines of design, and workplace design was among them. Over time, this has certainly changed and now requires quiet spaces. Additionally, we’ve realised the importance of human connection, and while remote work is here to stay, it has transformed the usage of workplaces and the amount of space required.”

With great passion, Vanessa explained the importance of considering ergonomics and lighting. She stressed that ergonomics, particularly for maintaining good posture in the workplace, is vital and the inclusion of desks that adjust in height, allowing users to sit or stand, has now become quite standard. Moreover, there is a growing awareness that prolonged exposure to blue screens can be detrimental to eyesight, as is working in a poorly lit or dark office. Therefore, lighting has become more important than ever for designers to prioritise and get right.

She said: “Workplaces now regularly provide in-house cafes and leisure spaces for relaxed open-plan meetings. So, in the last decade, the workplace has completely changed, and the focus has shifted from measuring an employee’s input to outcomes. This shift has led to increased efficiency.

“Of course, if that is the case and people are working at home the question remains, how much space do corporations now require to run an office? Has the shift in workplace design and use become a threat or an advantage? Despite the trend towards remote work, I firmly believe that physical office spaces will remain essential, particularly for face-to-face meetings, and that the time spent together in person is more efficient, effective, and fosters a greater sense of achievement.”

Vanessa’s concluded, by saying: “Any national or international company that forgoes an office location in pursuit of savings will eventually fade away. There is no substitute for a successful company having a physical office. Therefore, I think the future of office design is safe – it’s reimagined indeed!”