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It’s 10 AM. You’ve finished your morning coffee, snuggled in a cozy beanbag. Creative juices are not flowing yet and you’re wondering if a 10-minute meditation in a massage chair is the therapy you need. It is.
No, you’re neither unemployed nor the manager of a theme park. You’re very much a 9-to-5 jobber, and a dedicated one at that. On this fine morning, you have to develop this year’s marketing presentation – full of long numbers and mundane details. But when you’re sitting in an oriental garden that is office sweet office, this normally routine task is injected with newfound enthusiasm. Welcome to the office of the future, where you feel at home, at a café, or even at one with nature.
Slides, swings, cafés, gaming corners, indoor gardens, beanbags and what not are popping up all over workspaces. Cubicles are passé as confined spaces and dull white-and-cream walls bow out to bright colors, quirky décor and personal touches.
Monday morning blues might just become a feeling you can’t identify with anymore.
LinkedIn, the world’s biggest online professional network, understands that a good office design is an important element in attracting and retaining employees. First impressions matter, both for the interviewer and the interviewee. This explain the chic, themed rooms at LinkedIn’s London offices - movie- to music-themed rooms, walls of iconic vinyl and others with magic potion goblets, there is even a walk-through-a-wardrobe Narnia-themed meeting room. Each room stirs excitement, with an in-house gym, fitness classes and a gaming corner completing the picture of a vibrant workplace.
Mood-lifting office environments matter. Not only do your best workers tend to stick around, they also promote your brand better. A study commissioned by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the British Council for Offices found that employees who are proud of the environment they work in tend to value their company more, have a stronger belief in its brand and put more energy into their daily activities.
Another study by Exeter University’s School of Psychology found that employees working in spaces enriched with plants and artwork were 17 percent more productive than those without. Turns out that trendy design, some thought into employee comfort and a dash of greenery increases creativity, improves work relationships and reduces stress.
Of course, there’s more to office design than pretty paintings and vibrant colors – it’s also about how people work in these spaces ‘Digital natives’ tend to feel more at home in open plan offices that suit their multitasking lifestyles. In contrast, Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers often find it harder to adapt to an open plan office than millennials, Business News Daily reported recently.
To cater to different working styles and varying project needs, the best office designs combine open plan areas with private spaces. When you’re throwing around ideas and working in projects, an open area allows easier collaboration. Private spaces, on the other hand, are better for concentrated, sensitive topics. They can also be effective for those who need a few hours of undisturbed focus.
The combinations vary depending on the nature of the work, but the goal should always be the creation of a happy and healthy environment for the inhabitants.
Some Allianz offices have already taken the lead in creating cozy workspaces that re-energize employees and trigger higher productivity. In fact, our Global Digital Factory (GDF) in Munich recently won the prestigious German Design Award for its creative workplace design. Set in the city’s refurbished industrial district, it combines the concepts of flexibility, transparency and multifunctionality into an edgy yet homely mixture that makes the most of its airy, warehouse layout.
The GDF has become a space for digital innovators to swap notes, build concepts and forge strategies. Moveable “treehouses” complement fixed meeting rooms, chalkboard walls are edging out whiteboards, swing chairs adorn meeting spaces, and a plush carpeted “park” replaces the traditional lunch room. Employees are free to decide which bean bag, couch, swing chair or nook fits the day’s needs.
Without cubicles, high walls or lockable doors, the office reflects a culture of trust at the GDF.
Then, there’s the GCORE House at Allianz’s headquarters at Koeniginstrasse in Munich. Home to the company’s Group Communications and Corporate Responsibility team, the GCORE House mimics the GDF’s concept of open, multi-purpose spaces but adds the newsroom element to communications. Ideas are discussed freely over coffee and cookies in the mood-lighted kitchen, which is also a space for hosting celebrations. For those seeking more privacy, the cocoon chair in the recreation room takes the edge off even difficult conversations.
Fixed workstations are on their way out. Employees at both the GDF and GCORE House have the freedom to choose daily which workspace suits their mood as well as the day’s needs. An assigned locker takes care of personal belongings.
Looking outside Germany, Allianz Turkey has set new standards in office design. The high-rise has become a landmark in Istanbul. Other than the fact that it’s the first LEED Platinum certified building in Turkey, this office mixes work and play effortlessly. Fitness classes, fussball tables, soccer nets, a piano, as well as cozy corners for a casual coffee have created a cheerful work atmosphere at Allianz Turkey. How can teams that play together not stay together?
Regardless of whether a company repurposes a warehouse, builds a skyscraper or renovates an office block, the heart of office design for future is what employees need to feel inspired, comfortable and equipped. Employees are any company’s most powerful brand ambassadors.
Keeping them in good spirits could put corporate productivity on steroids!
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