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When does office design become nothing more than a gimmick?

It doesn’t take an industry expert to see that the working world has evolved dramatically over the past five or ten years. It could be argued that digital giant, Google was the ringleader and catalyst of this workspace design revolution we’re currently in. Famously installing slides, revolving bookcases and office putting greens (just to name a few) into their headquarters, Google inspired a generation of business owners who wanted to bring more fun into the workplace. However, there is a wave of people now emerging who are beginning to question the relevance of these modern office quirks.

Our team of expert space-planners and interior designers pride themselves on being open-minded and ahead of the curve but in this blog post, we want to discuss the point at which office style is just plain silly. First though, let’s look at when quirky and innovative commercial design features serve a very valuable purpose…

When does office design become nothing more than a gimmick?

Putting the fun into functional

When social science  and strategic workspace planning are involved, many cutting-edge commercial design schemes provide strong benefits. This is what you could refer to as the method behind the madness and means that when you look beneath the ‘fun’ surface, there is actually a foundation of function that can help to improve workspace communications, encourage stronger relationships between staff, better health and wellbeing of employees and just generally boost mood, morale and motivation.

One great example of this is providing facilities for pets and allowing staff to bring their animals to work. While this might initially seem like a bit of a gimmick or a ploy to attract new talent, there are actually many advantages of a pet-friendly workspace including lower stress levels and stimulating interaction. Other instances of innovation that deliver on purpose and practicality include sleeping pods to provide privacy and rejuvenation, treadmills in breakout areas for physical exercise and stress-relief, and games rooms for socialisation and bonding.

Even Astroturf flooring and living walls provide biophilic benefits that have been proven to improve health and productivity in the workplace – they’re not just there to look pretty!

Biophilic meeting rooms are more than just an office design gimmick

So, there is definitely space for interior design schemes that might seem silly on the surface but which actually offer multiple workplace benefits.

When the office becomes more playground than practical

Of course, this is a subjective concept; while a miniature room designed by Donatella Versace might serve a very valid purpose at Instagram HQ, it probably couldn’t be justified for small independent solicitor’s office for example. With that in mind, it’s essential that when you embark on any commercial design project or office refurbishment, you consider your industry and workplace requirements carefully.

Deliveroo for example, have a very expensive-looking court which they’ve dubbed their ‘Centre Court’ meeting room. Staff can go and congregate around it on colour-coordinated bean bags to collaborate in more casual, agile surroundings which is great. What isn’t so great is the amount of floor space (and no doubt finance) that this court swallowed up in its creation when sports are strictly prohibited on it.

Office games rooms are more than just a design gimmick

This is a prime example of choosing aesthetic over practicality in a space which could potentially be used more wisely. Maximising space in an office can be tricky at times so the court area would serve better as a social space, breakout area or even a court on which staff could actually go to play a light sport while they discuss ideas to boost physical movement and mental wellbeing throughout the day.

Other questionable quirks in some of the world’s most outlandish offices include Superdrug’s on-site brow and nail bar and Instagram’s fresh juice bar which, if rumours are to be believed, comes with constant banging of coconut shells. There are plenty of other more multifunctional ways of nurturing wellbeing in the workplace than an in-office salon provides and perhaps it’s high time Instagram invested in a good office acoustic solution to drown out the sound of those coconut shells cracking!

Are office slides anything more than a design gimmick?

Striking the balance between innovation and irrelevance

In summary, as long as the workspace design choices that are being made contribute to brand message, company culture, wellbeing or the improvement of staff performance then they have a justified purpose. It’s only when quirky design features are being installed for quirky design’s sake that time, space and valuable money is most probably being wasted.

If you are thinking about incorporating a slide, a giant sandpit or some napping pods into your workplace, just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you make impulse decisions on aesthetic or press coverage alone, you may very well end up regretting it in the long run once the social media posts are exhausted and your workforce is over the novelty.

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