Is It Time to Stop Talking About Efficiency?

According Darryl Balaski, a workplace design expert and principal at Toronto-based design firm, figure3, efficiency doesn’t mean much if the workplace isn’t also expressive and effective. Here, he shares examples of projects that are first and foremost the latter.

At the Enirgi HQ in Toronto, a ‘50s style lunchroom adds a sense of playfulness to the day-to-day employee experience. All images courtesy of figure3.

One of the major trends in workplace design is a movement toward spaces that are less prescribed and far more tailored to the distinct focus of a business and its people. Why? Because space has to work harder today—it’s not just about efficiency anymore; it’s about creating effective and expressive spaces that communicate the purpose of the business.

Making changes to increase the effectiveness, expressiveness, and efficiency of the workplace is an example of what architect and thinker Frank Duffy describes as the “Three E’s” of a quality work environment:

  • Efficiency:  Doing more with less

  • Effectiveness:  Adding value through clever design

  • Expressiveness:  Broadcasting values and aspirations

In designing offices for 50 to 100 people, it is increasingly common for businesses to forgo single purpose spaces in favor of flexible spaces that serve day-to-day staff and visitor needs. For example, at figure3, we’ve encountered product-focused clients where marketing by effectively showcasing recognizable products in their office is critical. The design of their workplace can support the overall brand strategy.

At the Tetra Pak HQ in Toronto, Tetra Pak products are featured front and center. From the entrance to the shared spaces, Tetra Pak products are showcased in a medley of creative applications, as shown in the display case and mural pictured below.

In a series of comfortable, branded settings, visiting business partners are invited into the heart of the workplace, which increases the effectiveness of the Tetra Pak space through enhanced engagement with people and products.

At Avaya, a global leader in business communications, their new Canadian HQ needed to efficiently house 90 employees but even more importantly, it needed to bring their products to life. To achieve this, we replaced a traditional reception area with a customer-focused demo space. Avaya’s interactive showroom invites visitors to engage with products and technology in an effective, branded setting that captures the capabilities of Avaya’s products and services.

Meanwhile, at the Enirgi HQ in Toronto (pictured at top of article), a ‘50s-style lunchroom adds a sense of playfulness to the day-to-day employee experience. From hosting guests to holding impromptu meetings, the unconventional lunchroom has become a multipurpose destination space for the company, adding an expressive element to this innovative energy company.

Environics Analytics approached figure3 to design an effective office that would support various work styles and an increasingly mobile workforce, while complementing the dynamism of the agency culture. The open concept workplace measurably reduces the square footage of the previous footprint, while a new workstation standard, advanced technology, and furniture solutions push innovation and collaboration.

Again, the new Environics Analytics office has no dedicated receptionist. Instead, a small reception lounge sits next to a multi-function space for breakouts and town halls, all anchored by a bold, branded feature wall. Small telephone and meeting rooms provide the requisite private spaces for the open agency environment, while touch-down stations and soft lounge chairs provide space to mobile workers to set up for short periods, supporting diverse working styles and employee types.

Anchoring the benching workstations are glass panels glazed with privacy film. The workstations also include storage pedestals outfitted with guest seating pads to allow for mini-meetings around one’s desk or screen.

From Environics’ buzzing office and Avaya’s customer-focused demo space, to Tetra Pak’s clever product displays and Enirgi’s nod to the unconventional, we see how businesses are increasingly rewriting the rules of the workplace. They’re creating effective and expressive spaces that communicate the purpose of the business to both employees and to customers.

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