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Floor show

Cyril Parsons of Office Principles argues that flooring is a crucial factor in the design of open-plan and agile working environments

The trend for agile office design comes from a desire to introduce activity-based working spaces that allow us to choose how and where we work. This element of flexibility might appear carefree and easy, but in fact it takes a good deal of planning to make it work effectively.

Good design is everything. In order to achieve a fluid environment, there are various needs to consider and a mix of spaces that have to be included to cater for these needs. Flooring can play a key role in breaking up these spaces.

One new trend, which initially broke through from San Francisco and the west coast and their glut of tech companies (where else?) is for ‘neighbourhoods’. The term applies to an office that is divided into ‘communities’. Pioneered by tech company and app innovator, Uber, these work environments move away from the traditional open-plan office layout to embrace activity-based neighbourhoods, broadly following the agile working model.

The thinking is for workers to become members of a community, rather than to own their own desk space. These forward-thinking offices include ‘huddle rooms’, to accommodate very small groups and quiet spaces, alongside open spaces and individual project rooms.

Where much of the space remains open, there is a need to differentiate areas and provide unofficial boundaries. Workers need to be able to grasp the expectation for each particular part of the office, and where those set spaces begin and end.

The floor covering provides an immediate, visual differential, signalling to people that they’re crossing from one type of activity-based setting into the next. A simple indicator, like a pattern change or a contrasting colour of carpet tile, is particularly helpful when spaces superficially appear the same or don’t have any specific dividers.

Colour has to be carefully considered, as colour is known to affect mood by evoking certain feelings. A core psychological value is given to different colour choices, with specific colours identified as having a certain impact on those who are exposed to them, which may influence the ways they interact with others.

It’s not just mood that’s affected. In a work environment, it’s also about productivity. Natural tones, with shades of green and blue, are said to improve efficiency and focus, while warm yellows are associated with happiness, creativity and energy.

Shading and complementary patterns can also make a huge difference in terms of how the colour is perceived and the impact it makes. Colours don’t have to be bold or block to leave an impression. However, there will always be variables – different workers will react to colours in different ways, and visitors will have their own take on the décor.

Most businesses start by considering their branding: the logo and its colours. Although many companies will have specific brand colours, there will be various shades that can make up a colour palette, along with contrasting tones that can be selected to reflect the intended use of specific areas. Differently coloured floor tiles can be used to break up spaces and create an impact.

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