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Implementing Integrated Workspaces -Trends & concepts

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The changing nature of work and the need to restructure the workplace have evolved Integrated Workplace architectural models structured to suit employee performance. Work styles are increasingly fluid, more interactive, and the geography of work is expanding. A broad range of goals is driving workspace strategy, extending from the strictly tactical (health and safety, ergonomics) to highly strategic (attraction and retention, collaboration). Integrated Work programmes are broadly implemented, providing a diversity of workspace solutions that better support strategic goals while still helping companies attain their cost targets. The tactical and strategic objectives that managers are tasked with, and how corporations are actually implementing Integrated Workplace concepts are being explained through observations and case studies.

Integration of Brand, Core Values and Sustainability

Globalization has changed several facets of everyday living. In response to a widening set of opportunities and challenges that rise with this transformation, the nature of our work and workplaces has also evolved over time. To better address the needs of the workforce and the evolving nature of work itself through this metamorphosis, corporations continue to refine their strategies to enhance and add value to workplaces. And in doing so, corporations have to continuously undertake strategies that enhance their corporate real estate portfolio.

Design principles which incorporate growing concerns related to sustainability, ergonomics, flexibility, the mood and loyalty disposition of employees to their employers, are certainly of interest to contemporary businessmen and should also be to the designers who serve them. By incorporating changes that flow through into the work environment, business leaders can leverage on human capital which remains at the core of all issues surrounding workplace solutions.

Looking at workplace evolution in India specifically, the changes that have taken place in the last 10 years have been enormous in scale and significant in impact. The shift towards effective global standards in design and the focus on efficient space allocation, planning, techniques and strategies, human factors (HR issues), ergonomics and most importantly, emphasis on overall quality driven end-results have been ascending in importance steadily. This coupled with dynamically evolving demographics of our workforce and nature of work we must all undertake, necessitates that workplace design integrates these factors smoothly.

Sustainability is another aspect of workplace design that has become a cornerstone of many built environment projects. Environmentally responsible products specification, efficient use of energy resources, source reduction and recycling has been motivating factors in making projects more nature friendly and sustainable.

Workplace Design and its Primary Principles

There are few basic principles which can be applied on a case to case basis. Since each project is different, varying degree of each principle has to be used with cognizance after researching during the pre-design and programming phases. Study of work patterns in the workplace, clusters to individual needs define the workspace requirements. Keeping this flexible is judicious at the time of re-organizing or consolidating spaces. Certain physical parameters in terms of heights of desks, ergonomically considerate chairs, adequate task and general lighting and acoustically engineered partitions are something extremely basic and cannot be overlooked. Though it may sound basic and easy, it takes the right amount of experience and exposure to get all the ingredients in the right amount.

Striking a fine balance in well-crafted spaces takes certain amount of training, experience and designer’s eyes to observe and ears to listen to client’s needs. So there is no ready formula and ideas off the shelf that can be picked and applied in designing spaces. And designers need to increasingly understand and assimilate to best of their efforts and respond with reference to the context they are working within. As Frank Duffy had mentioned in his book, Work and the City, “New thinking about the nature of office buildings and about how they should be delivered is necessary at a time such as the present, where there is great likelihood of change.”

Hindustan Unilever Headquarters Campus: Andheri, Mumbai

Unilever, synonymous as one of the world’s most successful FMCG companies, in keeping with the changing business landscape in recent times, made a strong case to redefine their workplace to leverage on resources in human capital and communication significantly. In this effort of rebranding, Unilever recognised the many benefits which could be obtained with a stronger emphasis on team work, collaboration and cross-fertilisation between their many business groups, training programmes and product campaigns. Increases in productivity, inventiveness, waste savings, loyalty and team spiritedness were the targets. These were the reasons Unilever took upon a challenge of centralizing all the activities in one location. As Project Director from designphase dba, Derek MacKenzie who was intimately involved in the project puts, “It was a ‘Unification’. One corporate identity with one unifying corporate culture, value agenda, attitude and progressive direction. ”

“These issues are at the heart of this bold initiative,” Rajesh Mutreja, Unilever’s Director of Corporate Real Estate said.

Branding

Corporate Real Estate (CRE) can become a critical ambassador to brand image. As such, it would be a key driver in achieving employee satisfaction and customer respect.

To genuinely achieve these for Hindustan Unilever, there were obvious factors like space planning, practicality, ergonomics, longevity that were set as coincidental mandates. Beyond these factors, intangibles like emotional engagement of the client (staff, guests, visitors) and the potential for resonance to be achieved from the creative response to HUL’s design brief was also given consideration in the thought process as our scheme was being developed. Two conceptual framework were focused on as having the highest potential for the conceptual background to design decision making:

Sensory/Sensational

Unilever is in the business of satisfying five basic human senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. These sensorial temperaments are integrated and reflected in interiors of HUL through intriguing textures (special carpet on walls), pleasant smells (even cooking or coffee or the scent of lavender – all from Unilever products). Engaging sights & views, ambient sounds & lighting, all combined in a sophisticated way for an invigorating experience in built spaces.

Unified/ Diversity

The brand Unilever consists of a huge variety and diversity of components of FMCG. It also has numerous and diverse workforce and clientele. It was felt imperative that the whole space exude an overall unifying identity; something akin to Unilever’s new brand expression through a unified framework. A framework that promotes both innovation through individual freedom of expression yet belonging to a whole which is a sum of all these parts belonging to an unified identity.

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