Room To Breathe

As female entrepreneurs with our own concerns for the well being and productivity of our team, people often ask us, 'What do you consider the perfect office for a happy workforce?' With years of experience between us working around the world in different companies, our observations have cemented the inkling that there is a traditional mindset governing how offices look, feel and perform.

Traditionally, offices were seen as no more than a space in which to work - no extra features to enable productivity or positivity for the workforce. Over time, particularly the past 10 years, offices have seen a rapid design change. Elements previously unthought of have become commonplace, particularly as our lifestyles have changed and finding a work/life balance becomes more important than ever before.

Challenging these traditional norms to the extreme, Silicon Valley has in recent years sold us on a futuristic and gender less ideal of the modern office, with open layouts, dynamic kitchens, removable walls, mini golf courses, standing desks and privacy pods geared towards employee happiness and productivity. Despite the undeniable perks of these eccentric and forward-thinking spaces, we're here to argue that what most employees want and need is a "feel good" space conducive to focus, self expression, privacy, collaboration, productivity, good health and lifestyle convenience.

So, what is the perfect work space? We believe it is a place so well-designed that it doesn't actually look complete; it gives the final user an opportunity to add that final, personalized touch to their space. It is an environment filled with opportunities to become creative. A space that nurtures potential and facilitates the expression of unique skills and passions. A place where both ourselves and our team can both focus and get distracted. A place which sounds, smells, looks and feels good.

People want to feel comfortable at work, not intimidated by aggressive impersonal environments. Future Laboratory released a report exploring how offices will evolve to meet the needs of an incredibly diverse workforce. The report presented contemporary working life as a mono culture created by and targeted at men between the ages of 25 and 40. Further, the report predicts a positive shift towards "sensitive workplaces", that are more reflective of an individuals' needs, using smart technology to adapt everything from local temperature to lighting preferences.

The Harvard Business Review recently reinforced this standpoint, concluding that "via a chain of psychological reactions, mood influences worker engagement, with more positive moods linked to higher levels of engagement". Therefore, we must also focus on designing for engagement, to make those positive moods more likely. Thankfully, more and more companies are beginning to take notice of the real impact workplace design has on a company's bottom line. Recent research from Gensler, a global architect and design firm, revealed that poor workplace design was estimated to cost US businesses a whopping $330 billion in lost productivity each year.

We believe the limitations of the current approach to standard office design may essentially lie in its male-driven approach. Spaces designed for men, by men. With this in mind, before designing our office, we tried and tested many different working arrangements - cafes, home, co-working spaces - to see what we could take from and what we could improve. We have channeled our frustration with all the worst aspects of office life - its sedentary nature, culture of presentation and sterile environments - into designing a space at Atteline that works with our natural instincts instead of against them. The result was an office designed with our client Medy Navani, architect, interior designer and Founder of Design Haus Medy.

It is a space with multi-faced functionality at its heart; there are areas for hosting client lunches, lounges for networking, work benches for collaboration and a private room for confidential meetings. Desks are not segregated and allow for open conversation and easy brainstorming sessions (that don't need to be planned!); and everything from lighting and temperature to the background music can be controlled. We also have scents to evoke a particular mood (lemongrass for concentration, lavender for relaxation) and there is a spectacular view with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the transient Dubai city landscape.

Proximate wellness and beauty facilities were also considered, including a Pilates studio in the building for easy access during and around the work day. The mix of ambiance - light and dark, open and enclosed, formal and informal - promotes creativity in all its forms. Additionally, we looked out for easy access to supermarkets, green spaces, walking tracks and Metro, to ensure individual lifestyle choices and responsibilities could be easily incorporated into the work day. That also includes flexibility in the return to work for new mothers, with an open door policy for all the little ones in our team to visit.

With newcomers always around the corner exposing the gap in the market for well-designed offices spaces, we are aiming to be a small rallying cry to ambitious women everywhere seeking to create the best possible environment for their team. We are not exploring radical changes here, just acknowledging the basic requirements of the modern worker, and the modern woman.

Matthew Watt