Exploring the Future of the Barbadian Corporate Office: Part 2: A Look at Trends Overseas
By Lisa Deane, MSc on 30 Sep, 2015
Year to year, we see the landscape of offices changing in overseas markets. Some changes are for the better, benefitting employees and organisations as a whole. However, some simply don’t work in the long run, and so we have seen the workplace evolve over time. Where does the Barbadian corporate office fit in with design advances overseas?
As we know, change in Barbados can be gradual, and the standard office is a conservative one, illustrating classic indicators of status and traditional ways of working. The office environment is, at times, not taken into consideration outside of accommodating staff numbers and providing a necessary workspace. What some fail to realise and we discussed in the previous post in this series, is that the workplace environment has an impact on employee engagement and productivity. Considering that the corporate population spends most of the day in this environment, it should support the people and the work being done in an efficient manner.
In a standard Barbadian office, executives and managers are usually located in offices on the perimeter of the floor plate, with access to natural light and views, which is generally seen as an indicator of status, something for staff to aspire to. The support staff are likely located outside of these offices in assigned workstations, away from the perimeter, natural light and views. Depending on the number of support staff, there can be an expanse of workstations, some with high panels to offer privacy – cutting employees off from one another. Meeting rooms are often the only space to facilitate collaboration. This model does not align with trends that we see in overseas markets.
The ‘New Yorker’s’ take on the traditional office layout (John O’brien, The New Yorker)
Leaders of organisations are giving priority to the work environment, in an effort to recruit and retain productive, engaged staff, as well as to reinforce their brand identities. Many organisations now allocate the best spaces to the most people, so that the majority of workers have access to natural light and views. In juxtaposition to this is a general reduction in square footage for each employee based on factors such as high rental rates, and the ability for some employees to be untethered to a desk, either working from home or elsewhere in the office. Desks have become smaller, but this has also led to an increase of collaboration spaces, either lounge areas or meeting rooms. Some staff are given freedom to choose their workspace. Wellness has become a focus. Amenity areas for food and tea or coffee have also been given more significance. With the emphasis on open and collaborative spaces, there has of recent, been a renewed emphasis on private spaces, combined with new protocols on use of these spaces. These trends drive more than interior design, also influencing architecture, product design and real estate, but do they work?
Various types of work areas offer employees a choice of where to work at any given time (What Now Offices New York by Fogarty Finger, from officesnapshots.com)
For some types of businesses they do. Take for example, technology ‘start-ups’ with their open layouts, reduced privacy, unassigned works spaces and popular amenities. These elements work since employees need to collaborate frequently, often work outside of traditional hours and do not need to be in an office setting to complete tasks. They also reinforce company culture. The Gillespie & Steel offices too are completely open, to facilitate collaboration, the only enclosed space is the conference room.
Smaller, height adjustable desks offer the ability to change posture throughout the day (Danone Utretcht Innovation Centre Netherlands by Cepezed photos by Stijn Poelstra, from officesnapshots.com)
Open collaboration space (Cision Chicago by Eastlake Studio, from office snapshots.com)
Café space takes gives the traditional tea point/lunchroom more emphasis and allows employees another area to work, collaborate and socialise (Media 24 Offices Cape Town by Inhouse, from officesnapshots.com)
Other industries have replicated some of these design elements with less success. We cannot apply a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ approach here. We do, however, have the benefit of the overseas markets’ hindsight, and the ability to apply successful strategies to corporate Barbados. The type of business, company culture and work being engaged in must inform the design of the spaces and ultimately the space must support these factors. What factors benefit the Barbadian corporate office?