Jan 28, 2020 in Viewpoint

How to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the workforce

Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes is the founder of AKKA architects. She is driven by her vision of architecting interactions. Stephanie believes interactions are the seeds of innovation. With her company, she explores how spaces and contexts can foster those interactions. So, who better to ask about creating offices that spark innovation, than Stephanie? Let’s start off with what defines interactions in the office.

Esmeé van Vliet
by Esmeé van Vliet
Stephanie Hughes AKKA architects
Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes is the founder of AKKA architects. With her company, she explores how spaces and contexts can foster those interactions.

Interactions in the office

“The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions interaction is communication, collaboration, and people. Of course, that’s true, but interactions are more than the dynamics between people, they can happen between someone and space, or someone and an object. They should add value and spark innovation, especially in the workplace. You need interactions to create products, solve problems or think of new ideas. The workplace should support all interactions: formal, planned, spontaneous, social and individual. They are equally important. For example, when you bump into a co-worker in the corridor, that space should provide room for interactions. If not? People switch to digital tools like e-mail and the moment might be gone.”

Create spaces for interaction

“It all starts with asking the right questions. Architects can design the most beautiful offices, but employees still might not use them the way it was intended. That can be because it doesn’t match with the company culture or the behavior of the employees. And that isn’t asking whether or not someone wants to have more efficient meetings or what their personal preferences are. It’s understanding what kind of people they are, understanding the company’s vision, mission and values and translating them to the individual level of employees.

For every employee, choice and control are important. You need to give employees choice and variety during the day – think of rooms for relaxing, gaming and socializing, but also you have to give them control of their workplace. Make sure workplaces stimulate interactions and if employees bump into each other they can stay and talk. Old fashioned pantries, for example, don’t live up to either of those. They are small, tight spaces not made for interaction. A workplace should be able to anticipate employees' needs and poke them in the right direction.”

Build a future-proof office

“Designing a new office and leaving it the same for years won’t keep employees happy in the long run. An office should be designed knowing it has to change. So what are possible developments in the near future? Maybe teams will get bigger or more employees will be hired. Every company is different. And every office is an ongoing project. You need to build in room for change and keep track of how the office is being used. It’s like building a skyscraper in an earthquake zone. You build it so it can move. Sometimes it’s tearing down a wall, but maybe it’s only about turning a table. You can never underestimate the effect of small changes.”

Keep track of your office analytics

Adapting to the ever-changing needs of the workforce starts with insight into how the office is being used. Our office analytics gives you real-time occupancy numbers of the office, making it easier to build in room for change.

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