Desso is a major carpet manufacturer, selling primarily to corporate and commercial customers in more than 100 countries. In this 2-part series, Andrew Sibley from Desso looks at how the workplace is changing.
Read Part I: The “New” Work, Part I
The new office design reflects that company’s brand and its core values, creating offices in which staff members have a sense of shared vision. But the new office design is more than a simple exercise in corporate identity; it’s about using every surface to also create strong and effective color associations.
In an office environment, it really does start from the floor upwards, with carpet having one distinct advantage over other materials. Quite simply, we associate soft carpet with a sense of home – walking on carpet makes us relaxed. Again, it’s about workplace and home and building bridges between the two.
But there’s more to carpet than its soft texture, because modern carpets are now available in a huge range of patterns and colors – each able, if required, to enhance mood or change spatial awareness. For example, lighter color carpet can make a smaller room appear larger and a dark carpet will make a room appear more intimate.
Combined with paint colors, a short narrow office can be transformed by matching light carpet colors to deeper color on the short walls and lighter color on the long walls.
Color is central to an office’s coherence because we react instinctively to it.
Red means “stop” and green means “go.” Our brains are hot-wired to respond to color and, for today’s office designer, the trick to using color is to understand both its physiological and psychological influences.
We react fundamentally to colors because they help us make sense of our surroundings; indeed, some 80 percent of information reaches our brains via our eyes.
It means that we are instinctively more comfortable when colors remind us of something familiar – for example, a soft shade of blue triggers associations with the sky or sea and a psychological sense of calm.
Color psychology perhaps explains why people are allegedly more relaxed in a green room and why weightlifters seem to perform better in blue gyms. It’s certainly the reason why some paint manufacturers now have color cards setting out the therapeutic aspects of each color, and why some cosmetic companies have introduced “color therapy” ranges.
Color can have both a cultural and practical dimension.
We all share similar responses to color although, as an international company selling in more than 100 countries, we have to also understand cultural variation.
For example, white is the color of marriage in western societies but is the color of death in China. In Brazil, purple is the color of death. Yellow is sacred to the Chinese, but signifies sadness in Greece and jealousy in France. People from tropical countries respond most favourably to warm colors; people from northern climates prefer cooler colors.
Practically speaking, our heart rate and blood pressure rise when we look at intense reds; conversely, we can become tired or anxious by looking at large areas of bright whites or greys.
If we have to constantly shift our eyes from a dark surface to a computer screen, our eyes have to adjust to the color change, producing eyestrain and headaches. (A recent survey found that more than 40 percent of office workers said that eyestrain in the workplace was a problem).
For some years now we’ve been gaining insight into those more philosophical trends by listening to those people at the forefront of interior design. More recently, we’ve gone further by initiating “circles of architects” in our main markets internationally. It has allowed us to test our thinking on design leaders, and to benefit from their professional insight.
Until recently, our business was about anticipating design trends and designing new carpet to meet them. Now, in a more complex office environment, it’s also about understanding what technological or other changes are just around the corner – the design dynamics that will influence what the office of tomorrow will look like and how we will work within it.
Basically, I believe that there are three emerging factors:
Although there are marked differences worldwide, there is the challenge of an aging population, with age and disability legislation giving them greater rights.
Indeed, in the current downturn, many older people may have no option but to defer retirement. In the United States in 2009, there were 39.6 million people over the age of 65; by 2030, there will be 72.1 million. That’s going to be reflected in an aging workforce and will have an impact on office design — from creating soft seating areas to giving people an ergonomic break from sitting at a desk to sit-stand desks that can be used either standing or sitting.
2. Technological Change
The pace of technological development shows no sign of slowing, and modern wire-free information systems are radically changing how we work. With next-generation applications and technologies on the horizon, the concept of the office is bound to be an evolving one – as more and more of us opt to work from home, at least for periods in the week, using the office as a transient place to meet virtual colleagues.
3. Climate Change
Offices are responsible for some 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and building regulations around the world are targeting greater sustainability. That is already having a considerable impact on the use of materials used in building construction and fit-out and how offices are organized to better use green energies and incorporate recycling programs.
As the green agenda evolves, it will also impact on space utilization – with companies adopting more flexible employment practices to further reduce carbon footprints.
These three trends represent a step-change in office design because it is bringing together technologists, architects, interior designers and FM and HR managers in a different and collaborative way.
It’s no longer simply about understanding the emerging technologies, but about involving everyone in an evolving design journey to create work environments in which people are put first.
Desso carpets can be found in offices worldwide. Among their product ranges are carpet types to improve indoor air quality and reduce impact sound, which support wellness and wellbeing in the workplace.