The transforming nature of work and a younger workforce, are altering workplaces from pure ‘work hubs’ into ‘social hubs’, according to a research by furniture solutions brand, Godrej Interio. The study, titled ‘Harness the Power of Social Capital: The Workplace Secret to Engaged and Happier Employees’, found that the current Indian workforce, of which 46 per cent are millennials, prefer three types of workplaces – to focus, relax and collaborate.
What employees want, from their workspaces
Close to 65 per cent of Indian offices, including government organisations, currently utilise open workspace layouts. Open-plan office layouts have become extremely popular since they first started emerging some years ago. They were seen as catalysts for better communication, collaboration, problem-solving and idea-generation, among employees. That said, contrary views also exist, about the utility of open-plan offices.
Individuals are all different and they all have their own preferences of work environments they feel comfortable in. Each employee has a different tolerance for factors like noise and interruptions and the impact can become significantly more difficult to predict when you factor in the complex combination of factors at play in the open-plan office, the report stated.
Anil Mathur, chief operating officer, Godrej Interio, said, “The Godrej Interio research found that about 29 per cent of the Indian workforce felt the need to have collaborative spaces and 15 per cent preferred to have a zone that would help them relax and rejuvenate in the office. About 61 per cent of them, at the same time, also needed a place to concentrate without distractions, when required. Of these, 56 per cent said that their office lacked such spaces currently. Basis these insights, we developed the concept of ‘Social Office’. The workplace must align with the expectations of the employees. The way today’s modern workers function is very different and the workplace must provide them the enabling environment they need to be engaged. Allowing space for the individual aspirations of these employees, will help them be highly productive.”
Top three disturbing elements in the workspace
- Noisy co-worker: Conversations around tend to be distracting.
- Mobile phone/texting: Ringing mobiles, text messages bring a break to an individual’s concentration
- Co-workers dropping by: Socialising endlessly, even if you are in the midst of some work.
Distractions at work leave people with very less time to work, without getting interrupted. Eleven per cent got only about 15 minutes at a stretch without any interruption, 24 per cent got up to 30 minutes, and 18 per cent got only up to an hour of uninterrupted work, the report said. “The sedentary nature of work, as well as the increasing number of hours spent in the workplace, is causing adverse effects on employee health. The Social Office understands the direct link between employee health and productivity and creates an environment that supports the health and well-being of the employees,” adds Mathur.
The concept of a ‘Social Office’
Based on the job demands, space for focus and collaboration, comfort and physical, as well as mental well-being of the individual, must be kept in mind, while designing office spaces. Another key consideration is that the office is no longer just a place of work. The vast majority of employees spend the greater portion of their waking hours at work. This is also how work relationships become social relationships and bonds of friendships develop. Given this dynamic, the office space must factor in the desire of the employees to relax, unwind and bond over casual conversations. Office design must enable the users to collaborate as a team or move to the refuge of a cosy space, when the work demands individual focus.
Flexible settings that allow people to shift easily from a team zone to an individual zone are the need of the day, enabling them to immerse themselves in their work, wherever they want, whenever they want. In other words, the physical workplace that offers a diverse set of choices for individual work needs, is a potential answer. Every office, hence, should have an appropriate balance of spaces designed in line with the cognitive requirements of the users. A good balance can be arrived at, based on the activity zones: Primary, Interactive, and Rejuvenation. These zones will help the users to immerse, interact and unwind, the report added
The role of technology in the evolution of workplace design
Technology has brought about a significant change in the work culture. Employees no longer prefer to work from just their desks. Today, they are connected 24×7. A Godrej Interio study found that on an average, people work on at least three devices with them during the day. Close to 40 per cent of the users surveyed, expressed that there was a significant need to have workspaces that allowed them to connect to their devices from anywhere in the office. Seamless connectivity for devices was cited as one of the top requirements for any given workspace. As mobile devices multiply, the need for charging them increases. Providing the employees with comfortably placed power outlets that allow them to charge their devices has become a pre-requisite. Spaces, therefore, need to be designed considering how people need to work with technology, even in the rejuvenation zones. Power can be embedded in the furniture or stationed conveniently nearby to make sure people can choose to work where they deem fit.
The study revealed that many office workers suffer from multiple pain problems. 76 per cent complained of musculoskeletal pain in the last six months. There were other worrying stats the research revealed – 64 per cent of the employees surveyed, spent over nine hours of their time sitting – either at their own desks, in meetings or in conferences. The long work hours, static postures for long stretches of time and the common workplace design that does not require people to walk around much, are all a threat to employee health. This supports the need to have office designs that allow movement, interaction, sitting postures that help break the monotony and the provision of spaces to relax during short breaks while at work. The Social Office addresses all these needs, the report maintained.
According to Sameer Joshi, associate vice-president – marketing (B2B), Godrej Interio, the concept of ‘Social Office’ is likely to gain traction in the metros such as Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi-NCR, owing to the presence of business hubs. “The market for Social Office furniture is nascent and it is expected to be at Rs 200 crores. However, it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12 per cent. We expect organisations to soon pick up the trend of Social office in the years to come,” says Joshi.