Kent and London Office Design and Refurbishment In 2024

Office design and refurbishment requirements have changed over the years. In this article we outline what we believe will be important in Kent and London office design and refurbishment in 2024.

Flexibility

Having a flexible office layout proved to be important during the pandemic and will continue to be an important consideration in office design and layout in 2024 and beyond.

The right office layout will depend on the goals of your business. In essence, your office design should be adaptable to take into account your business requirements, your work processes, and your staff. It should also be easy to rearrange and reorganise the office layout when changes are required, providing much needed flexibility.

Making It Modular

In order to ensure that your office layout has “built in” flexibility, the office furniture required should be carefully considered.

Utilising modular furniture can provide flexibility and allow you to rearrange and reconfigure desks into different size work areas to accommodate individual work stations as well as desks and seating for different size groups and teams.

Another option is to incorporate collaborative booths or pods where smaller team meetings can be accommodated. Soft seating and break out areas can provide multifunctional spaces that allow staff to take breaks as well as providing a place where collaboration can happen. These should all be considered and evaluated carefully to understand what will work best for your business.

Sustainability

We know that sustainability was highly valued in 2022 – 2023. Sustainable office design and refurbishment is likely to continue to be important for the foreseeable future given the need to meet the UK governments’ Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) and bring older buildings up to the acceptable energy efficiency levels minimum of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) B rating requirement by 2030.

Elevated energy prices will also play a role in the demand for improved energy efficiency in an attempt to try to reduce energy bills. Moving to renewable energy sources is likely to become more attractive as they are more eco-friendly as well as being cheaper.

Businesses are also looking to reduce their carbon footprint in an attempt to decrease their impact on the environment. Sustainability will play an important role in this.

Utilising Natural Materials

Utilising sustainable and natural materials and products in the new office design like wood and stone can have a big impact on the sustainability of your office space office and the environment when used in flooring, doors, counter tops and office furniture etc. Fabrics such as cotton can be used in furniture and furnishings. Natural materials tend to be more durable and with the right care are far more likely to last longer and to retain their look in the longer term. It’s also important to recycle fixtures and fittings from the old office where possible.

Where possible make the most of the natural light in your office layout. This will help to reduce the amount of artificial light that’s required throughout your office thereby reducing your energy consumption. Utilise large windows and doors which allow more light through. If this isn’t an option, then make the best use of the available natural light when arranging office space and workstations. Wherever artificial light is required use full-spectrum natural light bulbs or low energy LED lighting systems in your sustainable office refurbishment which are energy efficient and cost less.

Incorporating smart technology and sensors at the fit-out stage can help to monitor energy usage and provide feedback and advice on ways to reduce your office’s carbon footprint. It can play an important role in controlling lights and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) to ensure that the system uses the minimum energy to achieve the maximum performance.

Health And Wellbeing

Over the years businesses have placed more emphasis on health and wellbeing through a variety of office design and refurbishment measures and this will continue to be a vital factor in office design in 2024.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for HR and people development, “Employee sickness absence is at the highest level [that the CIPD have] reported for over a decade.” They go onto report that “The average rate of employee absence (7.8 days per employee or 3.4% of working time lost, per year) has risen considerably since we last reported this from data collected before the pandemic in Oct/Nov 2019 (5.8 days per employee). Average absence levels remain considerably higher in the public sector (10.6 days per employee) than in other sectors, particularly private sector services (5.8 days), although the upsurge in average levels of absence is observed across all sectors.”

This finding is backed up by UK government statistics which found that “1.8 million workers in Great Britain reported suffering from work-related ill health in 2022/23.” Of these there were 875,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The Health and safety Executive (HSE) go onto state that there was an estimated 35.2 million working days were lost in 2022/23 due to self-reported work-related ill health or injury. In 2021/22 the estimated annual cost of  “workplace injury and new cases of work-related ill health reached £20.7 billion, representing a £1.9 billion increase compared with 2019/20.”

Integrating Movement

Encouraging staff to move around throughout the day can improve health. On average office-based workers spend 8.9 hours each day sitting in the office. Studies have shown that being inactive can lead to reduced metabolism, disrupted sugar levels and increased insulin and blood pressure levels which in turn leads to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, some types of cancer, depression as well as back pain and muscular problems. This can be achieved by changing your office layout to be activity based, where a business looks at its work processes and then designs its office space so that instead of employees having a fixed seat or space in the office they are free to move around to different work areas depending on the tasks they are performing. When it comes to furniture, sit stand desks are also becoming more prevalent, helping to encourage staff to stand rather than to sit throughout the work day.

Ensuring your office is designed to be ergonomic can help to combat work-related musculoskeletal disorders and other office injuries by making sure that ill-supporting furniture is a thing of the past. The HSE have published guidance on how to ensure workplace seating is ergonomic and suitable for all so that your workplace furniture will be a help rather than a hindrance.

Hybrid Working

As a consequence of the pandemic home working became the norm and as workers returned to the workplace, the call for flexible and hybrid working to continue to be available increased. Hybrid working is likely to be here for the foreseeable future.

A study by King’s College London found that 61% of Londoners are now hybrid working, working from home at least one day a week, compared to 37% before the pandemic.

The Centre for Cities who commissioned a survey to look at “what hybrid working looked like” in 2023 found that “working patterns in central London [had] shifted towards hybrid working since the pandemic. In April 2023 central London workers reported coming into the office on average 2.3 days per week – 59 per cent of January 2020 levels. The most common working pattern among respondents was two days in the office.”

Tech-Enabled

Ensuring your office design and refurbishment is geared towards hybrid and remote working brings with it the need for good technology tools that can facilitate connectivity and work processes both in and outside the office. This means ensuring the right facilities and tech stack are designed into the workspace. To this end telephone or video conferencing is a must. Being able to connect remote workers with their office and colleagues where they can speak to or see each other is vital in enabling on-going communication and meetings where everyone can come together. The use of smart video 360° conference cameras that allow workers to see each other can also help to make remote workers feel as if they’re in the meeting room with their in-office co-workers. It’s important to have reliable equipment to avoid the frustration of problems connecting, broken connections, buffering or poor-quality audio or video.

When staff come to the office, they will need to be able to easily find a space to work. Having a booking system in operation can provide employees with the ability to book out a desk in advance ensuring a workspace is available upon their arrival, saving them the time of having to hunt for an available desk when they arrive. If desks are available in different work areas employees can choose their desk according to their needs and preferences.

A desk booking system also allows a business to make better use of its space, manage resources, track real-time usage, and make informed changes to desk availability e.g. if one area is heavily booked out and another area is mostly unused the business can look at increasing the number of desks in the popular area or making changes to the underused area.

Lighting

Office lighting will always be important in office design, but it can be easy to overlook or underplay.

HSE’s “Lighting at work” outlines the risks of poor office lighting as “eyestrain, migraines and headaches.” It goes onto explain that insufficient lighting “is known to induce symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, irritability and poor concentration.” When looking at lighting in the work environment the HSE also say “Lighting an environment is often a complex task principally considered during the design stage of the building (by architects and interior designers). However, lighting should be designed for the tasks that individuals are carrying out within that environment.”

We also know that a lack of light can lead to disturbed sleep patterns which in turn can result in stress, depression, persistent low mood, irritability, bipolar disorder, diabetes and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

This is backed up by Mental Health Research UK (MHRUK) who estimate that 1 million working hours are lost each year due to seasonal affective (SAD), or winter depression. Dr Laura Davidson says “Employers and educational establishments need to take on board just how important natural light is to good mental health. They have a responsibility to ensure that work and study environments have sufficient windows to flood the building with as much natural light as possible.”

Making The Most Of Natural Light

Wherever possible it’s vital to utilise natural light when an office is being designed and refurbished. This can be achieved by making the office open plan which will allow natural light to flow freely throughout the office space. It’s also important to eliminate any obstacles that would block the free flow of light.

Some of the many ways to make the most of the available natural light is to avoid covering windows with full length or fixed blinds. Instead of using solid partitioning consider using transparent glass partitioning to let light pass through. Keep your office colour scheme light. Dark colours absorb light, light colours reflect it.

Where it’s not possible to access natural light use full-spectrum natural light bulbs which most closely replicate the visual colour spectrum that natural light contains or LED bulbs with higher correlated colour temperature (CCT) values.

Bringing The Outside, Inside

As human beings we crave a connection to nature known as biophilia. Incorporating biophilia into office design will continue to be essential in 2024.

According to a Terrapin report “The Economics of Biophilia” providing workers with daylight, natural views and plants provide “very healthy returns”. The report states that “Integrating views to nature into an office space can save over $2,000 per employee per year in office costs, whereas over $93 million could be saved annually in healthcare costs as a result of providing patients with views to nature.”

The Psychology and Neuroscience website’s paper “The Benefits of Biophilia in the Built Environment” lists a number of studies which show the benefits of biophilia indoors including Ryan Brown and J Clancy’s 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design which found “Biophilic design can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity and improve our well-being and expedite healing”.

The National Library of Medicine’s paper “Are Biophilic-Designed Site Office Buildings Linked to Health Benefits and High Performing Occupants?” initial findings indicate “a strong positive effect from incorporating aspects of biophilic design to boost productivity, ameliorate stress, enhance well-being, foster a collaborative work environment and promote workplace satisfaction, thus contributing towards a high-performance workspace.”

Biophilia

Given that we spend as much, if not more time indoors, than we do outdoors, it’s vital for office designs to try to incorporate natural elements. Some of the many ways to do this is by incorporating plants including plant or moss walls, plant racks, shelves and dividers; cabinet planting, containers and hanging plants into the design of the office.

Using natural materials within the office space such as stone, wood, slate and even water can help to fool the brain into thinking we’re outdoors. The same applies to patterns, colour, and textures. By imitating what we see outside our brains make a connection to the natural world which can lead to positive mental and physical benefits.

Getting Away From The Hustle and Bustle

Encouraging staff to take breaks and incorporating break out areas into office designs became more prevalent as studies showed the health benefits and the positive boost in productivity of “detaching” from work for break periods. Breakout areas will continue to play a role in office design.

Give me a break!“, a review of the efficacy of micro-breaks for increasing well-being and performance included 22 studies with a total of 1,227 participants. The study found that micro-breaks “have a positive effect on well-being, including reduced stress, fatigue, and negative affect. Micro-breaks also help increase performance, including increased accuracy, productivity, and creativity.”

In the Journal of Organizational Behaviour a paper titled “Micro-break activities at work to recover from daily work demands” highlighted that “relaxation and social activities reduced the effects of work demands on end-of-workday negative affect.”

A study published in ResearchGate looking at “Recovery during Lunch Breaks: Testing Long-Term Relations with Energy Levels at Work” found that “psychological detachment from work and control during the lunch break, were related to successful lunchtime recovery.” They went onto say that “lunch breaks offer an important setting for internal recovery during working days and seem to relate to energy levels at work over time.”

The BBC article “The tiny breaks that ease your body and reboot your brain” explains that though the breaks are tiny, they can have a disproportionately powerful impact – studies have shown that they can improve workers’ ability to concentrate, change the way they see their jobs, and even help them avoid the typical injuries that people get when they’re tied to their desks all day.” This is backed up by Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management who says that “taking a break every 75 and 90 minutes is the period of time where you can concentrate and get a lot of work done. When people do a task and then take a break for 15 minutes, they help their brain consolidate information and retain it better. That’s what’s happening, physiology during breaks.”

Providing Privacy and Breakout Spaces

As well as the positive health and work benefits we know that staff value privacy and break out spaces. A Steelcase report found that UK workers want an office space where they can collaborate when required, a private space when they need to work without any distractions and informal spaces when they want to take breaks.

Break out areas can provide the needed space to allow staff to “get away” from the hustle and bustle of a busy office and provide them with somewhere to do quiet work or to simply relax, destress and take some time out, which will support their mental health and guard against workplace stress.

This article outlines many of the aspects of office design and refurbishment which will continue to play an important role in 2024 and beyond. Working with an office design and refurbishment specialist will enable you to tailor your office to your specific needs.

JBH Refurbishments, Experts In Office Design and Refurbishment

JBH Refurbishments have over 30+ years’ experience in office design  and office refurbishment and fit outs. We can advise on all aspects of your Kent or London office refurbishment.

We understand what’s required to design and refurbish your office space and carry out a refurbishment to the highest standards. We can provide the right expertise for your project. Contact us via our contact form or by calling us on 0333 207 0339 today for a free on-site consultation.


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