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Form Follows Function: Creating A Productive Workspace For Your Business From a design perspective, we know as designers and architects that there are indeed many aesthetic and practical elements that have a direct impact on the mood, mindset and wellbeing of an individual or team.

By Medy Navani

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Design Haus Medy

Over the past decade, the dialogue surrounding design and its impact on productivity and creativity in the workplace has continued to gain momentum across the architecture, interior and psychology landscape. From a psychological standpoint, such a discussion makes perfect sense- the unity between accomplishment and success goes hand in hand with feeling great. Further, from a design perspective, we know as designers and architects that there are indeed many aesthetic and practical elements that have a direct impact on the mood, mindset and wellbeing of an individual or team.

Both as a business owner and designer, I can attest to being a fervent advocate of supporting corporate clients to explore new ways to create healthy, inspiring, and sustainable workplaces in which employees can feel good about where they are, and what they do. Environmental psychologists have come to pour great amounts of focus over how design affects mood, and as recently concluded by Harvard Business Review, "via a chain of psychological reactions, mood influences worker engagement, with more positive moods linked to higher levels of engagement." Therefore, we must focus on designing for engagement, to make those positive moods more likely. Thankfully, more and more companies are beginning to take notice of the real impact workplace design has on a company's bottom line. Recent research from Gensler, a global architect and design firm, revealed that poor workplace design was estimated to cost US businesses a whopping US$330 billion in lost productivity each year.

A CEO office designed by Medy Navani, CEO,Design Haus Medy
Source: Design Haus Medy

For those startup and SME owners reading this in dismay, believing that they must hit an annual forecasted turnover before they can invest in productive design, allow me to allay your disillusionment. Rest assured that successful design for increased productivity, happiness and creativity needn't hinge on huge budgets making way for indoor putting greens, slippery slides, foosball tables, or giant hammocks, reminiscent of Google's global offices. In fact, what we are beginning to see more of as consultants, are offices seeking to become more mature and the trend of having the "coolest" office space being trumped by the desire to create more sophisticated work environments. Increasingly, we see workspaces reflecting the brand, organizational ethos and company culture, as opposed to focusing on trendy yet potentially superfluous bells and whistles that are possibly best served as fodder for Instagram.

Globally, we are also witnessing a strong surge in competition to attract top young talent, and having an inspiring and engaging office space helps that talent to identify themselves with the environment and the brand, whilst dually serving to maximize productivity. With that said, what are some of the basic elements we should consider when it comes to shaping the optimum office environment through design, which serves to attract, engage and retain the right people? It can be as simple as ensuring the right light temperature and lumen is applied during work hours, which has been proven to help people sleep better at night, and hence do great things for individual productivity the following day. Sleep problems are also associated with both short- and long-term sick leave, resulting in yet lower productivity and consequently higher operational costs for the business. Along with proper lighting, ensuring there is a supply of fresh air at the correct temperature is also important in making people more calm, mellow and happy at work.

Further, colors are known to have a direct impact on mood, and can thus profoundly affect how productive we are. Research has shown that blue colors affect your mind, yellow, your emotions, red, your body, and green, your balance. A recent University of Texas study found that bland gray, beige and white offices induced feelings of sadness and depression, especially in women. Men, on the other hand, experienced similarly gloomy feelings in purple and orange workspaces. Some of the other key positive workplace design elements to consider include flexibility to move, creating a sense of outdoors (green, natural light, natural motifs), mixed space (multi-level, lounges, break rooms, conference areas, open and closed spaces), quiet spaces, as well as color and texture (earthy/ mineral tones, natural fibers and fabrics, natural materials such as wood/metal/stone, patterns found in nature).

Creeping beyond the discussion around sheer aesthetic in workplace design, another important facet I believe is important for business leaders to consider is that smart needs to become smarter in the modern workplace. Generation Z is now entering the workforce, and they make up the young, dynamic and hungry cohort of talent that we identified earlier. They are a generation highly advanced in technology, very well connected socially and have the means and know-how to access to huge volumes of information and the push of a button.

So, what does this mean for designing workplaces conducive to the skillsets, behaviors and preferences of Generation Z? Undeniably, they require offices which are smarter, and which leverage state-of-the-art high technology that enables them to unlock their sharp skills and digital savviness, and perform at work to their full potential. Offices need to adapt their work settings to support unique work modes, maximizing output without compromising on employee satisfaction or happiness. Ultimately, a smart office needs to understand its users' needs, habits and interactions. It watches, learns and transforms to provide the optimum playground for young, agile talent. For example, in the next few years, virtual and augmented reality will reshape the employee experience as we know it. The technology is still in the early stages, but the opportunities for young talent to express ideas are exciting. One example is offering employees futuristic-style immersive training, which inserts the individual into "real life" experiences of training and confrontation. I imagine this will not only become very relevant and effective for police or emergency worker training, but also in corporate sectors. Think real life sales pitches in a room full of sharks, or presenting a brand-new product in front of a conference of thousand people. We have very interesting and exciting times ahead for this style of technology-driven training, so stay tuned.

A project by Medy Navani, CEO,Design Haus Medy
Source: Design Haus Medy
As both an interior designer and CEO with my own concerns for the wellbeing and productivity of my team, people often ask me: "What do you then consider as the perfect office?" I have to say it is an office which does not feel like "work." It is a place so well designed that it doesn't actually look complete, it gives the final user an opportunity to add their "cherry on top," it allows the individual to add that final, personalized touch to their space. It is an environment filled with opportunities to become creative. A space that nurtures potential and facilitates the expression of unique skills and passions. A place where both myself and my team can both focus and get distracted. A place which sounds, smells, looks and feels good. Ultimately, when it comes to businesses both large and small making the best use of their current office space, I always like to start by suggesting organizational leaders ask the actual users of the office -i.e. their employees- for their needs and wants when it comes to office design and features. From there, the designer can provide you with the answers by working closely with you to develop a custom-made solution. Be sure to avoid anything unnecessary if it has no use, as form follows function in an office space.

One final tip from me is that if you are in the exciting position to be creating a new office space completely from scratch, bring the design expert on board from the beginning of the project, as engaging from the very first idea with an architect or interior designer will make a significant difference to the whole project. Good luck!

Related: MENA's Design Industry Faces A Nine-Fold Increase In Demand For Design Graduates

Medy Navani

CEO, Design Haus Medy

Medy Navani is the CEO of Design Haus Medy. Established in 2006, Design Haus Medy is an award-winning architecture and interior design practice based in Dubai. With over 233 projects completed, Design Haus Medy uses a bespoke approach for each client, rich in intellectual rigor and creativity, to develop inspiring places with a powerful visual impact.
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