PDI Design and Associates’ Tan Su Cheng shares ideas to increase productivity, attract and retain talent for your company in the long run.
1. Think “theme”
According to PDI Design and Associates’ Tan Su Cheng, adding a theme to your office space will not only help to make the office more colourful and interesting, it will also help to create a sense of belonging for you and your coworkers.
“You need to create a theme. Not just for the entire office building but also for the different parts within the building. For example, the management floor should have one theme which could be more serious while the other floors can be more creative. For a department with many young people, you can have another theme. But all these themes have to be connected and related,” Tan explained, adding that having a theme creates a sense of belonging as individuals can identify with their workspaces.
Tan personalises his office with car and movie paraphernalia.
2. Cosmopolitan culture
Globalisation means that workplacessee a huge mix of cultures,what more in a multi-culture,multi-racial country like Malaysia.Therefore, Tan believes, it is a goodidea to create a workspace thatfeels inclusive of all races and cultures.
“You need to design a space that integrates all these different cultures, as a sign of respect for all your colleagues. In doing that, you create a larger platform to absorb talents from all around the world. Also, when we create this kind of space, the people involved tend to behave in a way that reflects the space,”
3. Introduce colours and graphics
Utilising more vibrant colour schemes and personalised graphics for each department can help you breathe new life into your office and make it a more fun place to work.
“Most offices nowadays are dominated by colours such as grey, blue, white, beige and more grey. These are not exactly (the best of) colours. Why not have an office where you have a workstation in green, and one in orange, and another in grey to neutralise the place?
“The carpet design can have the same pattern but if its colour changes from department to department, you also help to create a kind of identity,” Tan said.
However, he added that many of the older generation of business owners shy away from experimenting with colours.
“Graphics will help you to personalize your space to further reinforce that sense of belonging,” said the award-winning designer.
Enjoy spending time in a particular space, he said, is the key to a productive workforce.
4. Walls that communicate
“A lot of walls in most offices are way underutilised. Do something with them, whether you want to have an organiser, shelves or a simple graphic included. You could even let your walls communicate with you,” advised Tan.
He created a wall area in his own office as an example with the words “physical + physiological + spiritual = constant” written across it. These elements help to make these otherwise blank spaces in the office become interactive and even motivational. Tan also suggested having indoor green spaces to improve the aesthetics and also as communal spaces for employees to work and interact positively.
Designing your office around a theme helps to give a sense of belonging in the office which, in turn, means that staff don’t mind staying a little longer at work.
5. Designing for people
Tan’s focus when designing offices is always to “design for the individual”. However, he said that it is important to pay more attention to desk-based employees, who will be using the space more often.
“I would design the office with emphasis on the desk-based employees because all their activities have to take place in this space. The design for ‘outwardbound’ employees – who are mostly marketing people who only come in occasionally and won’t need to be here as much – will be approached differently. We have a larger pantry area that doubles up as a meeting and reading area for the ‘hotdesking’ people to hang out, but essentially, our focus is more on the desk-bound workers.”
6. Sensitive to the space
When designing an office, it is important to know what the daily activities entail so that the space can be optimised to create a design that best facilitates those activities while also encouraging communication between co-workers.
“As an experienced and responsible designer, i’ll find out how I can create a space that fosters a better employee-employer relationship. I can do this by having a place where you can meet with your boss over a cup of coffee, a courtyard or make it easier for you to hold discussions at your own desk. The designer must have the sensitivity and the knowledge to deliver that,” Tan explained.
7. Building communities
Modern technology saves space. With the advent of tablets, smartphones and even smart televisions, it is now possible to do more with less space. Gone are the days when each worker required an entire desk to himself just to accommodate a personal computer. Today, laptops
and tablets are small enough and four people could share the same desk that used to fit one – which is good news for community building in the office.
“Business owners need to touch base with today’s technology. If you have the technology that meets all your needs and only requires a desk space of two feet, why insist on getting a four foot desk? Most of the time it’s because furniture shops only sell desks that are three to five feet long,” Tan elaborated.
“What you can do then is to just have a long desk where everyone can discuss and work together.”
Creating a landscape that facilitates communication not only makes the office a more relaxed pleasant place to work, it also helps to foster better working relationships between employees.
8. Private public spaces
“The trend is now moving away from single-person workstations,”Tan said.
“If you are comfortable having a partition between you and your colleagues, so be it. But, there are those who prefer to sit and work as a group. An office which encourages this kind of activity can save on cost and space at the same time.”
Tan promotes a concept that he calls “private public spaces”. This is where there are larger communal areas as well as smaller, more private areas to encourage working as a community while still being able to accommodate work that may require more privacy such as interviews or phone calls with clients.
9. Optimising spaces
With the sense of community becoming more of the focal point in the office, Tan advised that private offices be kept small to optimise the space available as well as to facilitate better employer-employee communication.“
Nowadays, even the bosses don’t spend much time in their own offices. They are required to be out there with the younger people in their workforce because these are the people who require the attention. So, in my opinion, having big offices is a waste,” said Tan, adding that if private spaces are made smaller, communal spaces can be made bigger and more comfortable.
10. Transforming spaces
Tan’s research shows that employees believe that flexible spaces add value to an office.
“When you have flexible spaces, you not only save space, money, effort and resources, it also makes the office a more exciting and creative place to work.
“My conference room can be a workshop because all the furniture here is modular. So when I turn it around, it becomes a classroom and I can write on the screen or on the glass like a whiteboard. It can also be turned into a party area for office parties. We can also use it for formal meetings,” he enthused.