The brain is a wonderful organ – it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and doesn’t stop until you get into the office.
Robert Frost, American Poet
Most office layouts impose their own culture, where the furniture, lighting, neutral colours all speak of hierarchy, defensiveness and uniformity. In places like this, there is little room for individual inspiration and fulfilment, let alone innovation. But an office needn’t be stultifying. The well-designed office can change attitudes and boost wellbeing, creativity and productivity.
Google is a prime example, as it makes an effort to foster enjoyment, creativity and expression in its workplace. This includes local expressions of each location, from a mural in Buenos Aires…
to ski gondolas in Zurich….
Walk into any office and you might find: scooters for efficient travel between meetings, dogs, lava lamps, massage chairs, and large inflatable balls. Meanwhile, Googlers might be found sharing cubes, yurts and huddle rooms, with few solo offices.
Laptops are everywhere, alongside entertainment with foosball, pool tables, volleyball courts, video games, pianos, ping-pong tables, and gyms. One of its offices even has a slide.
But would an office like this work for everyone?
At Regus, we took advice before opening our flagship Berkeley Square office in London. Visitors are struck by the unusual combination of the pleasant, airy reception area with sound-proofed pods for solo working.
People mingle, sit in comfortable chairs and drink coffee, make enquiries of the concierges, or move to one of the meeting-rooms. We will keep consulting customers to ensure they have what they need, when and where they need it.
In general, an effective workspace will have an abundance of natural daylight, and people will have control over opening windows, adjusting air-conditioning and lighting, and selecting their own soundtrack without disturbing others. Adopting a flexible, mobile way of working – away from the desk – is also important, while communal spaces and break-out areas in the office, as well as meeting rooms, will inspire great ideas, at any time.
The final, crucial ingredient is to bring inspiration into the workspace by pleasing the eye, as well as the other senses. So rather than boring beige, bring some colour in, whether with brightly painted walls, pictures, photographs or objects. Running water is calming and appeals to most of us, while pool tables, for instance, appeal to enthusiasts without necessarily offending anyone else.
In my view, the brain has four essential requirements for its physical workspace: possibility, energy, flexibility and calm. What about you? What are your ingredients for the perfect office?