We humans are a fickle bunch; as new technologies and practices emerge each day that change how we interact with the world around us, so too do our expectations change to match. This is particularly true in the working world, where companies who fail to keep up with the shifting demands of the modern workforce risk staff shortages, retention issues, or even mass exodus as skilled workers seek alternative and more-rewarding employment. To this end, Boss Design have partnered up with Workplace Insight to compile a detailed white paper which seeks to assist the modern employer by providing insight into what exactly is required in the creation of an appealing office environment. The White Paper, titled ‘Intuitive Design: The Changing Face of Workplace Interactions’, explores how the physical office is adapting in response to the changing expectations of users and companies alike, as well as delving into topics including workplace technology and skeuomorphic design.

Img: Boss Design/Workplace Insight
The report states that the primary demand of the modern workforce is choice; in other works they seek additional control and flexibility regarding when, where, how, and with whom they work. Flexible working arrangements are perhaps the most prominent example of this change in thinking being put into play, and it is now in fact a legal requirement that all UK employees be guaranteed the right to request flexible working arrangements. Reassuringly the figures suggest overall success in this regard with 76% of employers in the UK now offering at least one form of flexible working and 54% of employees reporting that they work flexibly in some way; in some cases companies are even exceeding their legal expectations in relation to the provision of flexible working.

Flexible working does not however, as many people believe, necessarily mean working from home. In fact the majority of those offered flexible working still opt to work from the office for a large part of the week, a fact which is attributed to a desire for a sense of belonging and the ability to easily communicate with colleagues. What this means is that employers must design the working environment in such a way that accommodates a wide variety of individual needs and preferences in order to get the best out of every member of the workforce, following intuitive design principles and responding to the wants of employees in a more individualised manner.

Technology too is having a significant effect upon the modern working environment, seamlessly integrating itself into many everyday operations in an effort to streamline processes and improve efficiency; this technology is increasingly becoming not just an asset, but a requirement. Wi-Fi connectivity for example is now seen as an outright essential as you likely expect, but it runs much deeper than that with many companies now utilising space management software along with other related apps and systems in order to help them better utilise available space in the office. Such technologies allow employees to streamline their day by reserving workspaces, arranging collaborative meetings, and just generally saving time once spent on mundane yet often-lengthy tasks. Some software even gives workers direct control of their environment, adjusting factors such as lighting and temperature as they please in a further effort to improve upon wellbeing and productivity.

The report asserts that the design process in general should take inspiration from the principles long used in the development of such technology, wherein the focus at least in regards to interface is to make an end product that feels intuitive. In the tech world this is achieved via the application of skeuomorphic design; a term most often used in interface design to describe the design of interfaces that draw on a cultural association or the experiences of users.

“The intuitive design of the workplace must reflect the same skeuomorphic principles that define the design of so much technology by tapping into the cultural and learned experiences and expectations of the individual,” the report claims.

“When we experience a design as intuitive, it is because we have encountered something like it before. It is something recognisable, comprehensible and friendly.”

Overall the modern office should provide an environment in which employees are able to work in the manner best suited to them as an individual, without being hindered by a need to be trained in the use of necessary software and technology. Remember though that this ‘ideal’ environment is not constant, and workers will require a variety of settings from which to draw inspiration if they are to regularly perform to the peak of their potential.

“In a world in which people have more and more choice about where and how to work, the challenge is to make the office better than all of the alternatives,” the report concludes.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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