Thinking of making your workspace future-relevant? Think multifunctional.
Single-purpose spaces are past; it’s time for fluid, engaging, and dynamic offices.
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Multifunctional offices, considered a subset of open floor office planning, are associated with co-working, versatility, and liberty. Multifunctional office designs challenge the theory of “one-size-fits-all” and propose exclusivity in workspaces. Multi-purpose designs support the notion that every employee is different and requires a unique office setup to be more productive, engaging, and creative. Further, the Millennial, Gen X, and Gen Z workforce favor multifunctional office designs because of the comfort and sense of choice they provide.
Why are Multifunctional Office Designs Desirable?
Flexible workplaces are becoming popular among employees as they provide them with the freedom to create their work area according to their requirements. This implies that an area that serves as a cubicle at the start of the day can become a huddle space by the end of it. In a way, multifunctional offices empower employees to take ownership of their workspace and be more productive and responsible.
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Multifunctional workspaces are profitable for employers as well, since the absence of rigid physical barriers makes the office property easily saleable. Further, multifunctional office spaces provide the opportunity to experiment with various office layouts, thereby encouraging creative thinking among employees. Flexible workspaces also allow the company to embrace versatility and agility as its key principles, which are integral to its success.
What do Numbers Suggest?
A 2022 survey by Cushman and Wakefield, in association with WeWork, surveyed 800 of its employees to understand their views on multifunctional spaces. The survey revealed that 40% of employees want flexible offices to meet their varying needs during the day. Another survey conducted by WorkDesign in 2018 indicates that 88% of employees think that flexible workspace design is important to enhance their productivity. From the above statistics, it is evident that employees want their offices to be more adaptive, customized, and free-flowing in the long run.
How to Design Multipurpose Office Spaces?
Multifunctional office designs help achieve space optimization through efficient planning and organization. They also address the issue of space unavailability by making the most of the space at their disposal. The ideas mentioned below can help in designing multipurpose offices.
Companies can avoid labeling spaces by introducing technology in design. Installation of projectors and projection screens, ambient smart lighting solutions, and touchless sensor-based doors can help make every corner of the office useful. Replacing desktops with laptops will be a significant and fruitful investment in promoting flexible office layouts. Providing devices with extended battery life, installing high-range Wi-Fi systems throughout the building, and establishing wireless charging stations can encourage mobility in the office. Additionally, installing smart boards in offices and projector screens in the lobbies can be used for effectively delivering company-wide messages. This can help in establishing a feeling of security and belongingness among employees.
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The Silicon Valley Campus of eBay presents an interesting example of technology integration in offices. Their office has made a generous attempt to create a media-rich hub for employees to engage with the everyday business of the company. For this purpose, eBay created a 15-foot-high interactive digital installation that displays the company’s daily sales progress on the screen. This digital installation is a touchscreen centerpiece loaded with clickable features to allow employees to be a part of the company’s growth. The installation also helps build excitement among the workforce, encourages healthy competition, and challenges them to be more productive.
Flexible Furniture Layout
Furniture plays a significant role in concretizing the floor layout. Therefore, to break the monotony of a rigid floor plan, it is important to replace stationary furniture with lightweight, multi-purpose, and mobile furniture. Introducing moveable partitions, chairs, desks, and whiteboards can empower employees to create their own work zone. Moreover, if a company is expanding and has to shift offices, all they have to carry is moveable and lightweight furniture and partitions.
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Further, incorporating multiple workstation layouts, such as standing work desks, co-working desks, cubicles, foldable desks, and meeting pods will help break the monotony of a rigid furniture layout. Based on the nature of work, employees can choose to collaborate in discussion rooms or work independently in focus areas. While multi-purpose office designs are often confused with a coffee shop layout, the former’s ability to be more responsible, work-oriented, and focused differentiates them.
Multifunctional office designs have to be free-flowing, but they can also have boundaries. While flexibility is essential for the future of work, carving out private office spaces to maintain the confidentiality of work is also important. The circulation and movement pattern of the workforce needs to be regulated to ensure everyone’s personal space is respected. In the COVID-19 pandemic context, maintaining a safe distance from people has become necessary to keep workspaces healthy. Hence, creating intangible yet noticeable boundaries is essential in contemporary offices. Some of the most popular ways of partitioning spaces subliminally are creating a divider using plants, introducing levels in the design, installing railings at waist level, and changing the floor pattern.
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The office of Alphasights, a leading global information services consulting firm, provides a classic example of how spaces can be distinguished. Keeping collaboration at the heart of its company culture, Alphasights has introduced huddle spaces for creating intimate settings for meetings. The introduction of bright curvilinear furniture acts as a refreshing change while making the space feel more energetic and dynamic.
Workplace Strategies for Multifunctional Offices
The functioning of workspaces will undergo a shift as office designs become more flexible. Since people will have the authority to create their own spaces, the company will have to create policies to establish ground rules for reservations. Implementing a digital sign-up system and placing sign boards will help avoid confusion about space occupancy. Companies can track and set timelines for employees using a common space for focused work through digital software.
Since multifunctional offices promote collaboration and open space planning, the employees’ concentration can be impacted. For this purpose, employees working next to each other can sign neighborhood agreements to establish a set of norms and timelines for focused work, client calls, and collaborative working.
Multifunctional office spaces help attract and retain the right talent since it promotes employee well-being and comfort. There is also potential for cost-saving as companies do not have to invest in stationary infrastructure. All in all, multifunctional office designs pose a win-win situation for both the employees and the employers. With the right implementation and management strategies, multipurpose office designs can prove to be thriving work ecosystems in the future of work.
Pragya Sharma, is a talented architectural writer and an invaluable content collaborator at Zyeta. She expresses her thoughts and ideas effectively across various mediums like blogs, social media, web content, and workshops. By joining forces with Zyeta, she creates compelling narratives that amplify the evolving importance of design in today's world.