Commercial property: Good for people and good for business

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Office design plays an important role in improving employees’ daily experience, and while trends come and go, regardless of layout and style, the health and well-being of staff should be central to the design process.

This has become a priority for all employers, with every desk, chair and breakout space intended to enhance workers’ daily experience and boost productivity.

We’ve recently redesigned our Edinburgh office and our objective was to create a space that enhanced our client interactions and encouraged us to collaborate, innovate and excel.

The challenge was to
balance the needs of our employees with a layout that complemented our core
values – respecting the individual, leading by example and collaboration.

Today’s offices must provide a range of spaces to fit the evolving needs of employees, from multi-faith rooms to sociable spaces, so there is a lot to consider when planning an office, particularly when it comes to balancing the desire for open, collaborative spaces and areas for discreet conversation and meetings.

Collaboration has been a buzzword in office design for a while, and with good reason. Employees are more likely to feel listened to and valued in an environment that flattens traditional hierarchies, and we’ve found employees have been more engaged with co-workers outside their own specialisms since our rebuild.

Visibility encourages even the most senior members of staff to lead by example, and as one of our key values, it’s important to actively encourage teamwork at all levels.

But it’s also important to have areas for private conversation. This is where breakout spaces come in, bridging the gap between closed-off meeting rooms and the hustle and bustle of the main office.

We’ve had positive feedback from our employees using the breakout spaces – meetings feel more relaxed, and therefore more enjoyable and productive.

We’re lucky enough to have wonderfully clear views of Edinburgh Castle, and have also noticed that staff like to spend their breaks in the café overlooking the scene.

It’s popular for a reason – being in close proximity to nature has been shown to boost well-being and self-esteem.

Several teams in the office are now making regular use of the restaurant seating to take lunch together, leaving their desks, phones and all other distractions behind.

There’s been a notable boost to teamwork and morale, and therefore, we hope, overall job satisfaction.

While we’re already seeing the positive impact our new office is having upon employees, there will always be a bedding-in period in a new space.

Just because it’s been well designed, that doesn’t mean it will work as anticipated in practice, and this is why we have continued to seek feedback from people who use the space regularly to inform ongoing improvements.

We’ve found our new office encourages cohesion between employees and fosters a sense of shared purpose and is therefore an important tool in shaping the future of our business.

Put simply, good office design is good for people, and can be good for business too.

Catherine Burnet is a senior partner for KPMG in Scotland