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8 steps to a high-performing workspace

8 steps to a high-performing workspace
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First Published: Wed, Apr 22 2009. 09 17 PM IST

Updated: Wed, Apr 22 2009. 09 17 PM IST
1. Plan spaces according to work patterns, not hierarchy
The floor plan is the blueprint of any space. Its design should be based on workflows rather than on conventional concerns with hierarchy.
• The chief financial officer of one of India’s largest manufacturing companies preferred to be seated with the finance department in the basement rather than on the luxurious directors floor, to facilitate decision- making. So think about who needs to be where to work most efficiently, rather than whether rank demands a corner office. • Does the nature of your business require employees to mostly work together or on their own? Plan the right combination of workstations, private offices, closed meeting rooms and some informal work areas to suit your organization’s way of working. Architects Sikka Associates placed meeting tables in the corners of the cubicle grid in the New Delhi office of a global audit firm to combine individual and group meeting spaces in an open-plan office.
2. Design workstations and cabins for collaboration
A workstation is nothing more than a desk surface, a storage unit and partitions, with some capabilities for managing the inevitable bundles of cables. However, the cost of a workstation can vary from Rs7,000-50,000, depending on its specifications.
• Consider, for instance, the partitions. Desks separated by partitions below eye level enhance teamwork and are much more cost-effective than full-height dividers.
• Semi-transparent glass partitions simultaneously connect and enclose, and are fast replacing conventional dry-wall or veneer partitions for conference rooms and private offices. This approach was adopted by New Delhi-based architects Spazzio for the Indian headquarters of a multinational consumer products company.
3. Invest in technology for better space utilization
An upfront investment in technology can be offset by savings on real estate spending.
• A raised floor can house data and power cables underneath, and provides greater flexibility in how the furniture is positioned.
• Hot-desking, or sharing work spaces by providing laptops and movable storage units for each employee, is a natural extension of today’s mobile office life.
• Flat screen monitors occupy less surface than bulky cathode ray tubes (CRTs), and are common features in back offices.
• Data and power cables can be run through poles in a modular furniture system to avoid using thicker partitions, a technique successfully implemented by New Delhi-based Ashoka Builders and Designers for the support office of a global travel services company in Gurgaon.
4. Enhance well-being through efficient HVAC
Designing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) services intelligently is an investment that has a direct effect on the quality of the environment.
• Rumi H. Bharucha, a leading services consultant, says: “Air conditioning in offices must use adequate fresh air to negate the toxic fumes (volatile organic gases) generated...by equipment and materials such as paints, polishes, adhesives, carpets, etc. Split-unit ACs, like hi-wall units, and most window ACs just recirculate the air. Therefore introduction of fresh air within the air-conditioned space is mandatory, but very often not provided, resulting in poor employee health and work performance.”
• For larger companies, electronic building management systems can programme the most energy-efficient configuration based on occupancy levels and climatic conditions, simultaneously improving indoor air quality and reducing energy use.
5. Don’t make seating about style or status
Seating should be about comfort and productivity, not style and status.
Indeed, it is the single most important element for increasing an office worker’s productivity, yet it is the one that receives the least attention.
• Finding the perfect office chair is like hiring the perfect employee: the performance is only visible after prolonged use, quite a few weeks after purchase!
• A lack of known brands, quality testing institutes and ergonomic experts makes buying a great chair challenging in India. However, some global brands are now available and can usually be trusted, since such furniture companies commit millions in research and design to the production of a single model. The iconic best-selling Aeron chair by American furniture manufacturer Herman Miller is a classic example.
6. Integrate ceiling and lighting with the floor plan
Ceilings form the literal upper limit to the physical volume of a space. Along with lighting, they can tremendously improve physical well-being and visual appeal.
• Whether used as a source of natural light, left exposed or simply made to conceal ducts and utilities, a thoughtfully designed ceiling is critical for an integrated workspace.
• Efficient lighting can be a surprisingly effective design element too. Also, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and fluorescent lighting are 60-80% more energy efficient than traditional incandescent systems, and can be retrofitted easily into existing spaces. • Bangalore-based DWP Interics designed an innovative ceiling in the Bangalore office of a wealth management firm, where intimate seating arrangements in a large open space were held together by a powerfully concentric pattern in the false ceiling.
7. Use intelligent storage systems for information
Information is currency for any organization. And despite the exponential growth of electronic communication, “hard copy” is unavoidable. Since storage is the last priority for precious square footage, use it intelligently.
• Pedestal units, usually attached to desks and partitions, are best for active, everyday data retrieval. Filing cabinets and credenzas are ideal for communal use within a department, and can be housed in partitions and free-standing furniture, or against interior walls. Compactors constitute dead storage (archival material, not often accessed), and are often kept at remote locations to protect data.
• A range of storage solutions is now available, including the M Series from Haworth, Unite from Godrej Interio, Datum from Steelcase, and the CaseWall range from Ergo that has been conceived by furniture designer Christopher Sykes to integrate seamlessly with modular workstations.
8. Be greener: it’s no longer optional, but imperative
Being green is no longer a novelty; a positive attitude towards sustainability can mean tremendous savings for an organization. An energy-efficient building employs high levels of insulation, the intelligent use of day lighting and glazing with low solar heat gain without compromising on visual appeal.
The New York Times building at Times Square, designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, has a high LEED rating (see box below) and a stunning glazing skin.
• Construction and operational costs can also be minimized by designing buildings that are low maintenance, with interior spaces that use moderate amounts of material and construction energy.
• The simplest way to inculcate a positive attitude among employees towards the environment is to provide easy access to recycling facilities.
A two-seater model of the UK’s most famous warplane, the Spitfire, was sold on Monday in London for £1.7 million (around Rs12.5 crore). It was bought by London-based commercial-property developer and private aviator Steve Brooks, 47.
The price of Spitfires has remained stable at £1-1.5 million over the last two-three years, say specialist dealers. Vintage warplanes have attracted Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, who has 15 , and movie star Tom Cruise, who pilots his own World War II P-51 Mustang.
A group of leading architects has accused Britain’s Prince Charles of using his position to attack plans to develop a former army barracks in London. Architects Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry are among 10 signatories to a letter criticizing the prince for speaking out against plans to convert the site, in a coveted part of London, into luxury homes. “It is essential in a modern democracy that private comments and behind-the-scenes lobbying by the prince should not be used to skew the course of an open and democratic planning process that is currently under way,” the letter says. The prince criticized the glass-and-steel design being used in the development in the Chelsea district, near Royal Chelsea Hospital, a historic building by Christopher Wren. He urged planners to use traditional brick and stone to convert the barracks into a hotel and 650 homes.
As Abraham Lincoln lay dying in a boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theater 144 years ago, his myth was already being born. A good part of that myth is due to Lincoln’s appearance on postage stamps. The first one, a black 15-cent stamp, was issued in 1866, a year after his death. Last Friday, one of the foremost collections of stamps bearing Lincoln’s portrait was auctioned in New York by Spink Shreves Galleries, bringing nearly $2 million, including commissions.
“A green building uses less energy, water and natural resources, creates less waste and is healthier for the people living inside compared to a standard building,” according to the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), the body spearheading LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in India.
The LEED Green Building Rating System was initiated by the US Green Building Council for developing sustainable buildings. LEED addresses all building types and emphasizes five aspects: sustainable site development, water saving, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality. Buildings are awarded a rating (platinum, gold or silver) based on these. There are currently 32 LEED-certified buildings in India, with another 347 registered (seeking certification). For more information, visit www.igbc.in
Aparna Piramal Raje
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Apr 22 2009. 09 17 PM IST