The contemporary business environment is changing rapidly and conventional office spaces throughout China are making major design overhauls to keep pace.
As Chinese firms are increasingly hosting clients in-house, office spaces behind reception areas need to reflect a palatable corporate image. Increased global competition and heightened concerns about employee retention are also leading companies to consider the benefits of offering better facilities for their staff. The need to improve office design for both customers and employees has influenced a number of exciting trends in interior décor.
Enterprise China caught up with Mike Atkin, director of Hong Kong based HEAD Architecture and Design, and Thomas Dariel, founding partner of Shanghai’s Dariel & Arfeuillere, a Lime 388 company, to discuss some of the country’s most popular office design trends and a theme common to them all this year – happiness in the workplace.
1. Breaking out
A growing number of companies are looking to create workplaces that encourage employee involvement and enjoyment in the workplace. “With people spending increasing amounts of time in offices, they need to feel relaxed,” said Dariel, who adds that relaxation is not simply about breaking for lunch.
Innovative breakout spaces and in-built meeting places are increasingly popular, as they offer staff members a separate place from their cubicles to think, reflect and relate to one another.
For example, while re-designing Topline Footwear’s Dongguan office, HEAD used large wall graphics for the décor, and created downtime areas that had TVs and wireless access. “It certainly broke with convention,” Atkin said. “Many people were skeptical at the time, but the feedback suggests that the process has had an immensely positive effect on the staff.”
Other companies are offering recreational areas such as billiard rooms and even bars. Open pantry spaces are also becoming popular, allowing employees to take a break and exchange ideas with colleagues during their work day. “We live in a coffee shop society, where people like to sit at a coffee table and chat with each other in comfy chairs. You might not necessarily bring clients here,” said Atkin, “but it is another way to encourage creativity in the workplace.”
Just because you spend your day inside, doesn’t mean you should feel cooped up. “We have to consider the office space as an organism that lives and breathes. It is a system: Air comes in, air goes out, it needs light, plants and a sense of the natural elements,” said Dariel.
Dariel & Arfeuillere is presently designing an office that will bring outdoor elements inside. Adding some life to sterile offices can lift spirits and encourage new ideas among employees. “We have used garden tools to decorate, park furniture for sitting and meeting places, and tennis courts for meeting rooms,” Dariel said.
3. Go green
There has been an explosive interest in making offices sustainable in recent years. And while the old adage “reduce, reuse and recycle” is still pertinent and popular, companies are taking this philosophy and applying it to the way their offices are designed.
Both Atkin and Dariel suggest that designers have an increasingly important role to play in promoting green office design. Sustainable practice accreditation, such as LEED, is increasingly popular amongst designers, contractors and clients alike.
Companies can use energy efficient lighting, solar panels, special window treatments, and air conditioning systems that vary according to outside temperatures, among other energy reducing tools and methods.
4. Increased interaction
Another design concept growing in popularity this year – which is also linked to incorporating sustainability – are interactive office technologies. “Some of the best places to work are interactive, with computers that tell you how much energy you have used that day, for example,” Dariel said.
The green system helps generate an environmentally-friendly culture throughout a company. “When we designed offices for Bloomberg – an incredibly green company – they invested in a central waste disposal system,” Atkin said. “This encouraged staff to crush their own bottles and cans, thus minimizing garbage bag use.”
5. Style and substance
Dariel does, however, offer a word of caution about the green revolution in office design. “Right now, sustainability is a style,” he said. “And really, it needs to be a tool, a tool in everything we do. It should be everywhere, but it shouldn’t be a style, and nor should it come at the expense of style.”
Today’s interior design trends include the need for spaces that have a hint of luxury and boldness. Choosing the right palette can go a long way, as color influences personal moods and concentration levels.
Red continues to be a favored accent wall color, though a truer “Chinese red” has become more popular than earthy shades. Orange can also enhance office spaces, as brighter shades are a good way to evoke excitement and create an upbeat environment.