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Design Your Office
Times have gone when architecture and design at offices were not considered important where productivity was concerned. Today, every aspect of business is taken into consideration when it comes to increasing productivity. The science of ergonomics, the science of work, is gaining importance in todays time. Ergonomics removes barriers to quality, productivity and human performance by fitting products, tasks, and environments to people.
The mission of a company is to create pleasure at work, involve all the people in the office. The office in some way reflects the stated or unstated vision of the management, the work flow and how they want to project themselves. If the workflow is streamlined, then it enhances productivity. The design of an office is changing because of technology. With business becoming more global and international influences coming in, the office reflects the changes that are taking place. Some places have an open culture while others have a more private culture. If you have an office that is designed for your culture, it boosts your productivity.

Whatever management is being done through the HR department is further taken care of by the design. For instance the managements drive for transparency would be witnessed in glass cabins, easy access to top management etc. Offices today are more people centered and allow open spaces for people to communicate easily. Joyous coffee break areas and comfortable lounge areas allow room for personal reflection. The story of a companys growth is told by the way its space and interiors are designed. The choice of space, volume, materials and colour used are a narration of the companys policy and beliefs. The interior elements create a brand differentiation. The need to enhance growth and productivity would mean investment in real estate; as otherwise, productivity will be affected in a cramped space.

Ergonomics and technical considerations while choosing a colour for the workplace. Colours are used to create an experience, evoke an emotion or suggest a mood. To create a quiet space, you can use colours from the horizon. In soft yellows, pale blues and aqua tinted glass, you can create a sense of distance. A contemplative look can be brought in with shades of mauve, dark wood and coarse woven textures.

The colour used would depend on the image and culture the management wants to drive. A brand led culture would have brighter colours. A traditional Indian palette would portray a warm welcoming look. A European and Asian palette would give a global look.

Working across time and space geographies, the office needs materials and colours that encourage communication. Natural elements and materials to ground the virtual workspace like tranquil green and cheerful yellow, take you into the 24x7 work mode.

Workstations use a family of colours in the verticals or the pedestals to integrate the team. Shades of purples, blue to the palest lilacs in fabric let you stagger the space while demarcating it. Pedestals in neutrals tie the scheme together. How you combine the various colours in a palette becomes important. A lot of research, art and science have gone into how you grade colours. Generally you do not put bright colours at eye level. You can use bright colours at below eye level. If the workplace is within the home, you have to keep in mind other functions and other people. In a home office, the trend would be to use colours that will expand the space. Lighter colours will help give a more expansive look but may get dirty fast.

On how furniture can help to enhance health and comfort:
A chair is important for the back and shoulder; also the distance between the chair, eye and screen should be comfortable. Arms should not be raised too high, and legs should be rested and not dangling. The angle and distance where the keyboard and monitor are kept are important. Furniture that is too comfortable is bad, as one would be getting up every 45 minutes and moving about. Also the interface with lighting is important.

On furniture at workplace:
The furniture should meet the needs of the organization in terms of workflow, growth strategy, and culture and also meet user level comfort. With modular furniture, you get benefits like assured quality as it is made in a factory to certain specifications. It also offers a lot of flexibility and creative options. You can get a wide range in terms of materials, finish, colours, shapes and design.

On designing for SOHOS:
SOHOS are entrepreneurial organizations, which start off small and end up growing. In a small office, one can use modular furniture to create a different look. It should be designed keeping in mind the limitations of the building or space.

On designing interiors to reflect the work culture:
What is it the management wants the client or employee to feel when they enter? Is it driven by people, by networking? If driven by people, community, then warm colours. If it is a fashion led industry, then have a small palette. For instance, for brands that are dynamic, the office space is a statement of power. Energetic high colour, high drama, high gloss is used in the materials and colours. Small accents are borrowed from corporate colours or logo as graphic elements to continue the story telling of the brand.

Offices that aspire to grasp the future have high tech, new state of the art material. Transparent materials, ephemeral blues and special effect paints for workstations aid in seamless segueing into the future. Pharma and personal care brands can convey the healing and caring image by using serene colours in the office interiors.

The anchored approach creates a sense of the familiar in vast repetitive footplates. Gradations in the palette give options to make colour choices for individual workstations. These create a sense of ownership for each workstation; yet harmonize within the entire office. Neutral fabrics, glass and steel let you rearrange workstations to shifting needs and provide flexibility across time and space

On whether furniture should be bought or custom made:
In case of modular furniture you have different solutions, different creative options to suit your needs. It provides better returns on investment. It is long lasting and environment friendly and is in that way better than wooden furniture. However modular furniture has its limitations as it is manufactured to the same standards.

On what role modular furniture can play in enhancing flow of work in a SOHO:
If you are looking to increase productivity, then modular furniture helps people connect with each other. Then you have good storage systems to store papers and products safely. As the company changes, the furniture can change along with it at an incremental cost. The furniture is easily movable. It facilitates connectivity in terms of easy installation of wires.

On whether SOHOs should look at getting the best or the cheapest solution:
You can have cheapest in the short run or in the long run. Most of us go for cheapest in the initial stage. You have to however see best returns for your investment. A good office can create a good image and help increase business. It can enhance productivity and motivate employees. The look of the office determines whether the people there are active or dull. People should look at the furniture from the point of view of what returns it will give them and the organization. A dull look can put off the most motivated employees.
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Posted on : 31/10/2005
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