Homification of the workplace

23 Jul 2015  |  Design

Just as the lines between home and work are becoming indistinguishable, the workplace is becoming increasingly domesticated: when we look back to the 1980s it was all big corner desks and status chairs. Think Michael Douglas in Wall Street, or Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. Now, thanks to concepts like activity-based and agile working, there are a whole variety of different spaces to work: café style spaces, kitchens, sofas, bean bags. All of which contribute to making the workplace more home-like.

The urban dictionary describes homification as ‘The act of decorating one’s office to make it more like home, since people spend more time at the office than with their families.’ The single most important thing about a workplace has to be its people. So making (and keeping) them happy and productive is imperative.

Then there’s the gamification of work – you get table tennis tables, pool tables, and such like to enable people to relax and feel at home. There are rooms for Pilates and yoga classes; some places even have full-blown gyms. Décor has also changed – bringing art and plants into the office to soften it.

Furniture manufacturers are producing soft furnishings such as cushions for the first time. Skype’s offices in California have grass areas inside, with wooden benches and plastic bucket seats, not only to give the illusion of being ‘homely’, but also to alleviate harsh working ambiances and further present employees with anti-traditional workspaces to inspire and delight.

The office is a key recruitment and retention tool. Many millenials live in shared houses, often which leave a lot to be desired, and want to spend more time in a decent office. Meanwile many organisations are finally recognising that the design of a workplace has a major role to play in the productivity of the business.

Think: increased productivity, through employee well-being and overall contentedness. It isn’t a big ask, ones workforce should be happy and comfortable after all, and the company rewards are huge.

The change in office design to encompass this home/club/lobby feel has been slowly developing over the past few years. It’s been driven more by the user than the manufacturer. Occupiers are looking to create an environment that matches their style and aspirations. Small start-up companies can’t necessarily afford high spec furniture and interiors so domestic furniture was re-used or up-cycled.

This new, relaxed style matched the companies and reflected some of their brand and “tech” coolness. It was also in step with the fast changing business attire revolution, gone are the ties and formal suits and in comes relaxed every day wear. This change happened and the interiors matched.

The rise then of an almost shabby chic hit mainstream. It was really at this point manufacturers started to design stand out pieces, which could be used in this new market opportunity. It was much easier to produce a smaller number of higher value soft armchairs than having to gear up for high volume low margin desking and commodity type office furniture. Commercially speaking, only now are manufacturers responding, starting to influence this sector.

Maybe the new start-up companies who require less people and have a much stronger social awareness will continue to shape this new style, perhaps the look will become just a bit too mainstream and a new style will emerge?

Justin Bass – Managing Director at Sketch Studios

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