At a panel discussion in Steelcase’s London showroom, Dezeen Editor-in-Chief Marcus Fairs spoke to Coalesse's Global Director of Design John Hamilton, neuroscientist Dr. Jack Lewis and workplace innovation consultant Kursty Groves about the informal office and what could be in store for future workplaces. The panellists’ presentations complemented each other seamlessly, culminating in a thoroughly engaging and fascinating evening about the vitality of purposeful design in the work environment.
John Hamilton’s focus as a designer is on creating social spaces that bring people together, build trust and connections, and foster collaboration and personal rejuvenation. The creation of spaces and objects that allow for a variety of uses are at the core of what John and Coalesse do. Dr. Jack Lewis focuses on how the brain utilizes visual and auditory information to influence creativity, innovation, mood and stress – which impact wellbeing and productivity. And for Kursty Groves, an industrial designer turned innovation consultant, the focus is on understanding how people create, and the role that physical environment plays in this process.
With more and more people choosing to work remotely, there is a lot of noise around whether the office as we know it will exist in the future. For John, the issue is not whether the office is still necessary, but instead how to design a workspace that is inspiring, where people actively choose to work. Offices no longer compete with other offices; they compete with cafes and the comfort of home. As John points out, they must now offer a space that is comfortable and soft, yet designed for work. Incredible facilities invite incredible people, and to compete for the best talent, workspaces must be versatile, inspiring and designed to stimulate the brain.
Dr. Lewis reimagined the workplace as one made up of movable pods, igniting the creative process by changing the environment and freeing workers from the monotony of routine. Pods could feature LEDs to convey a worker’s state (red or green) so as not to be distracted during concentration. Dr. Lewis foresees VR as a communal tool for employees to engage in mindfulness, a process scientifically proven to increase problem solving abilities.
For Kursty Groves, there are five ‘E’s when considering workplace design: efficiency, effectiveness, expression, empowerment and evolution. All workspaces need to be efficient first in order to be effective, whether from natural light or fast Wi-Fi. From there, a space must express the values of the company, and empower employees to choose how and where they work. And lastly, spaces must be designed to evolve as technology does – rather than following a trend, spaces should be designed with purpose in mind, and that purpose may continue to evolve.
The insights from each panellist shone a light on the dynamic nature of the modern workspace, and what we must do to ensure that it continues to foster innovation and creativity. While it is clear the informal office isn’t going away anytime soon, space and how it is utilized is perhaps more important now than ever before.