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A new space race

Fleur Carson, commercial sales director at Karndean Designflooring, discusses the future of flooring space in the workplace and how rapidly changing developments can reassure employees returning to the office.

OVER the past two years, the world of work has certainly changed. Gone forever are nine-to-five days spent in a specified location. For many, work has become more about what they do than where they do it and more people are balancing time spent in the office with working at home or remotely in co-working settings.

To encourage employees back into the workplace and help them feel comfortable there, companies are increasingly looking to offer a home from home feel with a focus on natural design which can support a sense of wellbeing and facilitate collaboration and creativity.

This has brought a new word into the design vocabulary – workspitality. An idea that originated with digital nomads and millennial entrepreneurs, the concept combines the practicality of a workplace with the welcoming aesthetics of hospitality venues.

Moving away from pure functionality to focus on wellbeing, these new workplaces are helping employees feel comfortable being back in the office again and creating a new atmosphere of collaboration and innovation.

Wellbeing is very much at the top of today’s agenda and this is inevitably focussing attention on how interior spaces are used and the ways in which design and materials can support physical and mental health. It’s long been recognised that building layouts and interior design can greatly influence health and wellbeing, with an appreciation of the impact of natural light, air quality, acoustics, and access to the natural world. However, one thing the current situation has highlighted is the benefits of a sense of community. Workplaces that encourage colleagues to interact, to chat over ideas and share a few lighter moments can bring this sense of belonging that will support mental health and emotional resilience.

Biophilic design
Our biological connection with nature can be brought into play with materials authentic to the locality to create an inside-outside feel that will reduce stress and anxiety. Introducing organic materials such as wood, leather, and living plants creates a visual appeal and provides key environmental services such as cleaning the air of toxins and breaking up straight lines for softer ambience.

Specifying flooring that combines a realistic look of natural materials with the practical benefits of the latest technology can successfully introduce these biophilic benefits as well as meet those all important technical specifications for air quality, slip resistance, durability, and hygiene.

With fewer people in the office at any one time, space previously required to give everyone an individual workstation can be reallocated to shared hot desks, relaxing breakout zones, and comfortable seating where colleagues can meet informally to discuss projects or to brainstorm new ideas.

Subtle changes in materials can usefully communicate suggested uses for these different spaces. Colour choices can inspire concentration, increase energy, or encourage imagination while changes in flooring can unobtrusively mark boundaries between activity zones. The use of complementary or contrasting wood and stone designs can give different areas their own distinct personality while still providing enough style continuity to blend effortlessly into the overall look.

To ensure the safety of employees returning to the office and manage infection control, it will be beneficial to design for a degree of ongoing social distancing. Flooring designs can be used to help guide employees and visitors around the building and reduce aimless wondering around an open plan office with a change in tone or simply by altering the laying pattern.

In corridors or walkways, the use of a herringbone pattern can provide a sense of direction and pace and will encourage the use of these routes rather than cutting across colleagues’ personal spaces where softer textures and a less defined pattern will give a more restful feel and help concentration over longer periods.

Bespoke designs
Imaginative floor designs can connect the interior to its environment and introduce an individual style. Whether taking inspiration from the architectural style of the building itself with a geometric pattern or the organic curves of the landscape with a biophilic design, a bespoke floor offers the opportunity to reflect the personality of the business and its unique brand.

There are endless options available, from combining complementary or contrasting planks or tiles in a chequerboard or random pattern, to a one-off design with hand-cut tiles for a floor that stands out for all the right reasons.

Cutting edge materials
Key to meeting these wide-ranging needs, from visual style to environmental management and practical maintenance, is specifying the best materials. By choosing a product that’s designed to be aesthetically authentic as well as hardwearing and easy to keep clean, you can meet your client’s design preferences and technical specifications.

With three formats to suit different subfloor conditions, some types of flooring offer a realistic look of wood and stone, and support healthy environments. Look for flooring which makes it easy to retain design continuity over changing subfloor conditions, and which makes it possible to achieve an on-trend look even where an uneven subfloor would’ve previously precluded this option.

In multilevel developments or open-plan offices where managing noise is a priority, opting for a flooring with an enhanced acoustic backing can reduce noise transfer to floors below in order to meet current building regulations.

Also important is to buy from manufacturers whose products hold ISO 14001 environmental standard and ISO 9001 quality standard so you can be confident that specifying flooring will satisfy all your project’s sustainability and indoor environmental quality requirements.

It’s clear innovation, flexibility and efficiency will be key to adapting to our rapidly changing world but by choosing the right materials for each situation there’ll be no need to compromise style for function.
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