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5 office design tips for a calmer, collaborative, creative workplace

Having explored office design trends for 2017 and the importance of biophilia in the workplace, we were thrilled when office design company, Paramount Interiors asked us to write a piece for their Space Blog.

Since we gave them an insight into how employees can benefit from office greenery, we thought we’d ask them to return the favour.

The presence of plants in the workplace is just one way to make an office inviting, creative and relaxing. So here’s Helen Bartlett, Design Director at Paramount Interiors, to give us her five office design tips for a calmer, more collaborative, creative workplace.

Getting the most from your workplace

As office design specialists, we like to keep on top of the latest trends in creating engaging, productive and visually exciting workplaces. But we also appreciate that not everyone has Google’s office fit-out budget.

Equally, the presence of hammocks, a slide or a ball pool, while creative and impressive, aren’t always relevant. With that in mind, we’ve collected together the five elements that we think an organisation of any size and sector could focus on when looking at the design and layout of their workplace.

1. Collaboration

A lot has been written about breaking down barriers in the workplace by creating spaces that encourage collaboration.

Again, the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook have influenced a move towards more open-plan office layouts. While there’s definitely an opportunity to move away from the closed and compartmentalised office of the past, it’s important to find a balance.


Swedish office furniture manufacturers, Kinnarps, partnered with Jeremy Myerson, co-founder and Director of Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, to work on the Welcoming Workplace Project.

They highlighted three types of spaces that could benefit employees; Collaboration Spaces, Concentration Spaces, and Contemplation Spaces.

Looking at collaboration first, you can already see that businesses are starting to embrace the idea of introducing informal, open spaces into the workplace. It’s one of the reasons why office design is taking inspiration from café, hotel and home interiors.

KPMG Break Out Area
One way to create a space that people feel comfortable in is to not make it look like an office. A corner containing sofas, coffee tables and even bean bags becomes a place where ideas can often flow more freely than sitting around a boardroom table.

With whiteboard or blackboard paint, it’s even easier to encourage collaboration. If a spontaneous meeting suddenly occurs, you can just jot down your notes on a nearby wall!

It’s worth noting that with an older generation remaining in the workplace for longer and a younger generation joining for the first time, we’re moving towards an office that will contain five generations.

Because of this, it’s more important than ever to ensure that there is a wide selection of spaces in the workplace for the differing needs of your staff. After all, it’s not all about collaboration. Sometimes, you just need a bit of time on your own.

2. Privacy

The Welcoming Workplace Project also highlighted the need for Contemplation and Concentration Spaces.

Research about privacy by IPSOS and global furniture manufacturers, Steelcase, found that insufficient privacy in the workplace was an issue throughout the world.

One solution is to take an activity-based working approach. This is based on the concept that no employee ‘owns’ an assigned space. The workplace is broken up into a variety of areas designed for specific tasks.

Qualifications Wales Hot Desks
Open areas become collaborative zones, hot desks provide spaces available to everyone and enclosed rooms can be used for private meetings, phone calls or just to get some peace and quiet.

In open plan layouts and smaller offices, activity-based working can be difficult. One alternative is to follow a zone model. Open areas can be physically separated from others using sound-absorbing panels.

Many office furniture manufacturers are also creating noise-reducing meeting pods. They can sit in an open plan area and provide a small oasis of quiet.

Show Office Meeting Pod

3. Colour

You should never underestimate the impact that colour can have on the mood of your employees. There’s been plenty of research into colour psychology but not quite so much into its impact on employee productivity.

Research by the University of Central Lancashire found that workplace colour was an important consideration that could influence employee’s performance and productivity. However, opinions on what affect different colours have differ.

It’s been suggested that red can be stimulating but also increase tension.

Blue and green are well known for their calming effect.

Yellow and white have been associated with optimism.

Ultimately, the relationship between people and colours is a bit more complex than this. We’re certainly not suggesting that colour alone can improve productivity and wellbeing.

Cartons Vinyl Wallpaper
However, colourful vinyl wallpaper, accent colours on furniture, branded signage, coloured floor tiles and other elements can certainly help to brighten the mood in an office.

In terms of office design, current colour trends that we’ve noticed include metallic tones, natural greens (including Pantone’s 2017 colour of the year) and there’s even been a specific shade of Millennial Pink that proved popular at this year’s Milan design week.

4. Activity

More businesses are emphasising the importance of encouraging fitness in the workplace to improve staff wellbeing and reduce sickness absence.

As well as encouraging behavioural shifts, from using the stairs more often to having stand-up meetings, the layout of an office can be used to inspire staff to be more active.

Activity-based working by its very nature encourages movement around the workplace so that staff can find the space that best suits their needs.

Steelcase Walkstation
Sit/Stand desks are becoming more popular and furniture manufacturers, Steelcase, have taken things one step further with their treadmill desk; the Walkstation.

At Paramount, we’re lucky enough to have our own on-site gym. However, while the design of a workplace can help to encourage activity, it needs to be embedded in the culture of the business before it can be truly embraced by employees.

5. Biophilia

We couldn’t possibly write a blog for Plant Plan without mentioning the importance of nature in the workplace.

With living pictures and green walls becoming a growing trend (sorry, couldn’t help it) there’s now more research about how adding plant life into the workplace can benefit your staff.

Living Wall
A study of 7,600 workers across 16 countries by virtual forum Human Spaces found that people working in offices containing natural features had a 15% higher sense of wellbeing and were 6% more productive.

Second Home Co Working Space
In Portugal, a co-working space for creative companies fully embraced this plant-loving approach. They filled their offices with more than 2,000 individual plants and trees from 100 different species!

If you’d like to find out more about how plants can enhance your office, get in touch with one of the Plant Plan team today.

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