Various design and architectural practices in office buildings affect the wellbeing of employee occupants.
The design and architectural intricacies of office buildings capture imagination and invite significant attention from those in the built environment as well as the employees that occupy these buildings. This article will delve deeper, beyond the exterior of office buildings and unveil how choices in flooring colour, functionalities and even maintenance affect the wellbeing and performance of an office’s employees.
It will also highlight key factors that should be considered and even implemented when specifying flooring types, as an office environment requires its own unique architectural and interior design applications to ensure that employees function both effectively and efficiently. Their maximum performance is the goal so that the reputation of the company they are working for is upheld and enhanced.
According to Madi van Wyk, Director at ARC Architects, floor colour impacts employees in different manners, with a light colour lifting an employee’s mood. Lighter colours also reflect natural light, creating a fresh-looking environment that contributes to employees feeling ready to tackle the day ahead. “There is a catch here, though – it’s important to use a floor finish that cleans easily, simply because a very dirty floor causes employees to feel put off by the working environment and they could even infer that the building is not looked after by management,” explains Madi. “That said, vibrant colours infuse light and energy into a working environment. Care needs to be taken when combining colours. The old rule of choosing colours on opposite sides of the colour spectrum may assist here.”
Madi goes on to say that contrasting colours definitely contribute to a more aggressive working environment, whereas subtle hue changes contribute to more calming surroundings. “The entire palette needs to be considered,” she highlights. “Ideally, if a floor’s colour is busy, then the furniture needs to be less bold and ‘quieter’.”
Craig R. Bennett from Jossi Interior Design and member of the South African Institute of the Interior Design Professionals adds that colour usage is project-specific. “For example, we would choose a more muted, sophisticated colour for the flooring for a white-collar environment,” he explains. “By the same token, colour specification would be far braver for a design agency.” Speaking on their flooring design preferences for offices, Craig notes commercial carpeting would be used in general work areas, higher specification carpets in a manager’s office or boardroom and designer laminate or porcelain tiles in reception areas.
Madi recommends that all finishes should be practical, not only in colour but also in maintenance. The key would be to start with a practical shell consisting of a hardwearing surface with a sandy tone that will allow for future theme changes as well. From there, focal points are created with attention to detail and alternating textures. “All offices need their own unique selling point, that one thing that sets them apart from anything else, that gives them identity,” she says. “This is where we as architects get to play around a bit – but, whatever idea we come up with, it is normally rooted in the essence of the business.”
She states that occupant behaviour is the most important consideration when choosing a floor finish. If employees are mostly women in a corporate role, vinyl flooring may not be the best solution due to the high frequency of point loads created by high-heeled shoes. So too, timber flooring or even tiles may not be sufficiently resistant to scratches caused by employees who return to the office after spending time on site where small stones get stuck in their soles. This problem can be resolved by installing proper dirt-trap mats both inside and outside of office entrances.
When all these considerations and factors are implemented, employees will automatically have a more fulfilling experience at the office, which is crucial as they spend most of their day at the office. When considering employee wellbeing within the office space, the role of the floorcovering goes beyond just affecting the mood and comfort of an individual. Employees need to be able to connect with the identity and uniqueness of the company they work for, and this can be achieved as stipulated below.
Unique perspectives Craig highlights that there should always be a symbiotic relationship between the function and design of a workplace, which is what makes it unique. “Understanding the day-to-day running of an office is crucial. For example, it would be pointless designing shelves for lever-arch files if hanging files are used by staff,” he notes. He advises the industry to make sure that the floor chosen suits the environment, and not to get seduced by impractical products or seasonal colours that will look tired and outdated within a year.
Madi adds to this train of thought by stating that every office should have an identity created by an element not seen anywhere else. “Google’s offices started with the playful theme that opened the door to alternative office design where pods of all shapes and sizes now form part of office design for small meetings or conference calls, etc,” she enthuses. “The electronic age with connectivity at the helm is the ideal excuse to play with finishes and shop fitting to create moments where people can interact, plug in, connect, exchange and even lunch together while inside the office floor space.”
She continues that a sudden change in texture within an office space creates excitement and intrigue. “I have yet to install synthetic grass finish in an area where people did not stop and feel the texture,” she reinforces. “The aim is to intrigue all the users’ senses. Consider the impact of the sound of footsteps on different finishes. For example, some patrons are astounded by timber-look vinyls as they expect to hear timber when walking over these floors.”
She concludes by highlighting the importance of keeping things simple; rather focus on doing one thing well. “Spend money on focal areas within the office where one gets the maximum exposure, but not at the cost of doing a decent floor throughout,” she says. “Nothing dates a building more quickly than the wear on the floor. Always keep the entire palette in mind – there is a reason architects do sample boards with all finishes combined – to illustrate the big picture.”