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As someone who started working for Steelcase, a US-based workplace solutions provider company, 14 years ago, Praveen Rawal, managing director, India and South-East Asia, says office design in India has come a long way. “Things have changed so much from the time I had to meet people in The Leela or Trident hotel coffee shops for interviews or business meetings," says Rawal.

He has seen three surges in the way offices are being designed in India. More than a decade ago, companies wanted to zoom in on better buildings and areas. “By 2010-11, companies were concentrating on seating plans and ergonomics. Also, there is a big move away from private offices. In the last two-three years, creating collaborative spaces has been key. Besides, companies want to spend money on the wellness-at-work concept, i.e. offices that are futuristic, build confidence in a brand and make employees feel optimistic about work," he says.

The Steelcase office at the swank One Horizon Centre in Gurugram seats about 35 people and doubles up as a showcase for the company’s office design products. As Rawal takes us on a tour, he says that even though a large part of his office has unassigned seating, it is still difficult in India to move completely to this arrangement. “Many companies still use monitors (PCs) and that makes it hard not to assign seats," he says.

These are some of the concepts Rawal believes make his working style productive, collaborative and positive.

Meeting rooms: The only time Rawal uses a meeting room is when he needs confidentiality, needs to use technology extensively, or is looking at an idea-generation session. “I don’t like to block a meeting room when it is just two people who need to have a semi-private conversation. The Hoodie works best for this."

The Hoodie is a pod-like sofa with side panels, covered on the top, placed near a window that overlooks Gurugram’s skyline. This bright lime-green space is the spot where Rawal says he likes to sit with a book or some reading material, or where he invites people to have one-on-one conversations—for instance, appraisals.

A quiet spot: This has to be the Brody Lounge Chair, which is an enclosed single seat, also overlooking the Gurugram skyline. “I usually sit here after a meeting, or when I need some reflection time. At most, I can sit here for 60-90 minutes, and I use the time in this space to take notes. This is a zone where I come when I don’t want any distractions. People in the office know they should not disturb me when I am here."

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
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Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

A unique thing: The Steelcase office doesn’t have a reception area. The front office is almost like a walk-in café. “This is deliberate. Most people these days come with an appointment schedule and people who have to meet them know about it. Technology can help us manage the people who come in so we do not feel the need to waste space on a reception," Rawal says. He does add, however, that this is possible because their set-up is small; it might not work in larger offices.

A personal touch: An electrically operated shoeshine box. “Working in Gurugram means dealing with dust all the time because there is so much construction all around. Also, our carpet is charcoal in colour and it shows dust patterns easily. I got this introduced only in this office for this reason alone. I use it often." Another item that Rawal introduced three years ago was a big water dispenser, which holds water with additives like mint leaves, cucumber, or fruit slices. “I saw this in our San Francisco office and thought it would be a good idea to include it here as well. The water is changed at least twice a day and refilled regularly. A lot of our guests see it and ask for water, specially in summer," he says.

Sitting or standing: Rawal says he spends 60% of his time at a standing desk. The eight standing desks in the office are in high demand, and the first-come-first-served policy means most people make a beeline for these.

The Work Tour is a series which looks at how people are engaging with office design and how it impacts their productivity and positivity at work.

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