November 2016 archive

How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Office Design

Identifying the Issue

The office is somewhere that we spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week for over 300 days a year. For most of us, we end up spending more of our lives in an office than relaxing at home. What a wonderful thought. This fact is made altogether worse when the office is cramped, too hot, noisy and whatever else grinds your gears. When the first offices started to spring up, they looked to adapt the model of industrial revolution factories. Rows upon rows of workers, furiously working for hours while being overseen by the head of the company. Some modern-day companies may even still run this way, but for the majority, times have changed and office designers are showing a bit more concern for the people who must sit in them all day.

When you spend time in the same environment repeatedly, you will begin to notice the tiniest of details. Cracks in the walls, mysterious smells and creaks in the floorboards, your brain naturally begins to process everything around you. When you work in an office, the same process happens. When the job starts out, everything is fine as you try to absorb the new surroundings. But after a few days, weeks or months, you will unwittingly begin to identify all the sights, smells and noises all around you. The colleagues who you try so hard to get along with can quickly become associated with their mannerisms and these will grow ever worse day by day, unless they are resolved.

Addressing the Prominent Issues with Office Design

With no signs that the open office layout will be fading away any time soon, modern offices are increasingly looking to adapt to some of the major issues which arise from these ‘collaborative workspaces’. The whole idea behind them in the first place is that by placing employees next to each other in a block design will help them to collaborate more as they never have to leave their desk. It serves that purpose fine, but what happens when deadlines begin to loom and pressure starts to mount? How collaborative do you think people are when stress levels begin to reach an unbearable amount? If you have worked in an open office, then you will already know the answer to this.

While open style, collaborative spaces have their benefits, it is still necessary to create areas which allow people to have privacy and the conditions to concentrate. Fortunately, it is not necessary to create permanent, separate spaces. Instead, modern furniture and technology can help to transform existing spaces, making them more effective and ultimately more productive. These also need to take into consideration that individuals will often have different work styles. While some may thrive in busy spaces, others can begin to feel overwhelmed and it is important to have those quiet areas where they can retreat to.

Distractions, Distractions, Distractions

There are three main factors which drag the concept of the open plan office down; noise, privacy and comfort. One of the main reasons why the trend of working from home is on the rise is the fact that it directly addresses these three issues. Unfortunately, the nature of the work that many office workers do means that this arrangement is not always possible, which is why interior designers are increasingly working towards replicating the same conditions of a home into the office. In essence, this means cutting down on both audible and visual distractions.

One of the major flaws with a lot of solutions that you find online is that they call for modern office design to create separate areas which are adapted to either a collaborative space or a private space. This is fine for organisations with large offices, but as a result, this hardly leaves many options for small businesses. Fortunately, with products like desk dividers and partition screens available, it is possible to recreate the conditions without making a large investment.

Noise is perhaps going to be the trickier of the two distractions to combat, especially in small spaces. Considering that sound by nature is very unpredictable, creating an environment which combats it can take some testing to perfect. The solution to combating this is to introduce soft surfaces and if your budget can extend so far, ensure they incorporate acoustic foam. This innovative material is increasingly being used in desk dividers, wall panels, padded flooring… you get the picture. On a basic level, sound reverberates by bouncing off hard surfaces, so if you fill the area with soft surfaces equipped with acoustic foam, this will actively combat reverberation time, effectively reducing ambient background noise.

The Benefits of Perfecting Office Design

The perks of creating an effective workspace can often be hidden, however it will begin to reflect on your business long term. While it is perhaps unreasonable to expect all your employees to be giving 110% as soon as the new design installed, the biggest difference will start to appear once crunch time begins to hit. With a work space, which promotes collaboration while still providing privacy, this provides employees with more freedom to concentrate and get on with their work. If working with colleagues is required, then the proximity means that this is easy to achieve. Yet if they require peace and quiet to focus, they can retreat behind the desk dividers and block the most prominent distractions.

For over 40 years, Rap Industries have been designing and manufacturing office furniture which is tailored to meet the changing needs of clients. With partition screens, desk dividers and much more available, each is extensively tested to ensure they can improve any office environment. For more information on the services provided, please visit the site, give us a call on 01733 394941 or send an e-mail to sales@rapind.com.

 

 Office Design

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Find the Perfect Office Partitions

Office Partitions

How to Get the Most Out of Office Partitions

Okay, we’ll admit, office partitions are not going to be the most exciting part of re-designing your office or open plan space. That said, they do serve a crucial practical aspect of office design which you cannot afford to ignore in the long run. Why? Because lacking due care and attention for the practicalities of the design can lead to major issues in the future concerning stress, health and wellbeing. Quite important considering these have occasionally been enamoured as a ‘glorified sheet of wood’. Most offices, classrooms and meeting rooms appear to the naked eye as a naturally forming collection of chairs and desks, so it might come as a surprise that some interior designers get paid thousands to design these things.

So why? Assuming you have ever worked in an office, then you are probably already quite aware of some of the perennial issues. Chatty neighbours who have yet to find the mute volume; colleagues attempting to block everyone else out in the room with headphones, yet inadvertently annoying everyone else with that tin-like crackle escaping from the pods and your boss who spends the majority of the day, furiously rattling out e-mails by punching the keys into their keyboard. Each environment is unique and everyone has their own pet peeves, but once we latch onto one of these, they are nigh-on impossible to escape.

What Is the Point?

If you were around in the 70s, 80s or even 90s then you might have had the pleasure of working in what is now affectionately known as the cubicle. This represented the first and what we now know as a misguided attempt to address noise and distractions which grew horribly out of control in plain open plan environments. Rather than going back to that open design, reform is required in order to find a balance between the idyllic, collaborative workspace and a private area which provides the conditions which humans need to concentrate and thrive.

Office partitions feature many tailored designs which are aimed towards addressing this exact issue. Their main purpose is to create privacy in areas where it is not normally found. While the screen itself is effective in addressing visual distractions which are commonplace in environments such as these, it is the options available with them which enables them to be incredibly effective in a variety of different spaces. Productivity is one of the main beneficiaries of successfully installed office partitions, however they can also be effective at boosting wellbeing and even happiness.

The Fine Details:

Thinking of stereotypical partition screens and often one of the first things which comes to mind is that murky looking fabric, available in miserable greens and depressing shades of red. Fortunately, some scientists also did some research into how our surroundings affect our brain, so now they can be customised in a number of ways which is going to ‘stimulate our minds and get the creative juices flowing’. The possibilities do not stop there either, instead, many suppliers can finish the screens with a variety of different materials, which allows them to adapt to different environments. Safeguard medical screens for example incorporate an anti-bacterial fabric, which actively combats the spread of illness and disease. Modern day office partitions offer substantially more to your business now; epitomising the term, multi-purpose.

One of the options which is incredibly useful, but you would never notice is the introduction of acoustic foam. If you have ever set foot into some fancy offices, then chances are, there is acoustic foam integrated all around you. Into wall panels, ceilings, screens and more, acoustic foam which is traditionally used in recording studios is increasingly being used in offices to help create more productive work environments. So why bother? We’ve already identified that audible distractions are one of the biggest nuances in the modern day office and acoustic foam is designed to directly address that. It is never going to be able to block out the sound of your noisy colleagues completely, but it is incredibly effective at soaking up soundwaves, which reduces the reverberation time and altogether ‘dampening’ the noise in busy offices.

How Can I Make the Most of Them?

Start by looking around at the options available as many manufacturers will create them in different styles with a myriad of options. Office partitions should be viewed as a long term investment, so be on the lookout for good quality screens which you know will actively be able to improve your office. If you wish to reduce the ambient background noise in your environment, then be sure to find acoustic screens which are legitimately tested, tried and proven to work. Then once they arrive, experiment with how they integrate in your environment. Soundwaves are incredibly unpredictable and completely invisible, so while a layout may look great, you may not be getting the best acoustic result.

Most of the office partitions which you will find are available in three different styles; free-standing, desk screens and desk dividers. Free-standing screens are ideal for completely separating a space, essentially creating the illusion of two separate rooms while allowing them to be merged back into one of it is ever required. Desk screens on the other hand do the bulk of the work when combatting noisy colleagues. These simply stand in between desks, allowing the design to retain that open office style whilst installing an acoustic-proof panel which in the long term will be able to help your employees to concentrate. Finally, there are desk dividers, these will simply clamp to the desk and offer a more convenient if slightly less-effective solution for creating office partitions.

If you are looking for a place to start when it comes to office partitions, then we manufacture a wide range high quality screens which will give you a good place to begin the search. With fabrics such as anti-bacterial and acoustic screens included, as manufacturers we can tailor office partitions to ensure they actively improve your office environment. For further guidance on the service we provide, you can either give us a call on 01733 394941 or send an e-mail to sales@rapind.com.

 

Office Partitions

How Room Dividers Can Be Used to Solve Your Privacy Crisis

Acoustic Pods

How Room Dividers Can Be Used to Solve Your Privacy Crisis

Why Privacy Matters So Much to Us

Every business relies on its workforce to succeed which means that every business is always striving to find the means to squeeze every last bit of effort out of them. The past century has seen some innovative and creative ideas implemented while others borderline the ridiculous. However, often the factors that many designers and business owners overlook are the simple necessities in life. If your open plan environment is still rife with stress, discomfort and bears no resemblance to a productive workspace even after a re-design, then chances are you need to look between the lines to find a solution.

Rather than blaming workplace inefficiency on employees in a whim, take step back and look at the environment as a whole and if necessary, call in an objective voice to help. While many modern office designs can look stunning and more than enough to feature in your monthly newsletter, the real root of their success runs much deeper. If you were to hire a professional interior designer, chances are they would begin to explain the concept of human needs. While open plan environments can look remarkable, they are often built around the idea of keeping employees warm, well fed, well-watered and ultimately comfortable within their environment.

Prioritising Effective Work Spaces

When you are hearing about these wonderful new offices that Silicon Valley start-ups are creating; the idea that having food within 100 metres of every employee sounds like a ridiculous luxury. But it should not be. The fact is that this is a feature that we enjoy at home and it is that atmosphere which modern day design is attempting to re-create. Rather than moving our living rooms into the office, the aim is to create environments which are comfortable for people to work in. Once they are satisfied and devoid of distractions, this is when they can work efficiently and effectively.

There was once a stigma over working from home, that it provided the opportunity to slack off and rush whatever work had to be done in an hour. The reality has been very different. By working in a comfortable environment, the benefit for employees has been comfortable surroundings which allow them to operate at an effective level throughout the day. Rather than procrastinating in the office, waiting for the ambience of the surroundings to die down, instead they are able to work, distraction free for short and frequent intervals.

Common Invasions of Privacy While Working

Now, the issue is finding the right balance between the comfortable environment of home and integrating it with the often manic style of the modern day office. Other than creating individual, private offices, there is no way of removing distractions completely. Larger companies tend to work around this with completely separate workspaces tailored to different moods, but we understand that this kind of setup is incredibly unrealistic for smaller businesses. Therefore, the solution needs to be a compromise, creating a pseudo-private environment with all of the perks of a collaborative workspace.

This is what room dividers and acoustic screens are tailored towards. The nature of their design is focused towards cutting down on some of the more common distractions that you tend to run into in any office. The drone of conversations and seemingly perennial phone ringing are a couple of the worst culprits. Meanwhile, visual distractions are a regular disturbance, even if you rarely notice. I would wager that at some point whilst reading this post, you will have glanced up for some reason, whether to look out of the window, checked out what your colleague is harking and raving about and so on.

Using Room Dividers to Create Privacy in Any Environment

At which point, you are probably wondering why room dividers have any impact at all considering distractions are often an issue in close-knit environments. Well, firstly their obvious design focuses on diving open plan spaces, creating this idea that the space is separate, without the need for a brick & mortar wall. If you consider why homeowners use room dividers in their home, then chances are there is a more practical element behind the decision, rather than just a stylistic one. In terms of office design, room dividers come in many different shapes and sizes, some allow natural light to flow through, others are completely mobile and many can even be finished with a variety of different materials.

Where room dividers and office screens really come into their own is the introduction of acoustic foam. This is a material which you may commonly associate with fancy recording studios, equipped with that strange triangular material on the walls which supposedly block the noise and prevent it from escaping. Well, that last part is somewhat a myth, but acoustic foam is incredibly effective at absorbing soundwaves; not entirely, but enough to regain control of volume levels in open plan office environments. If you are constantly being harassed by a particularly boisterous colleague across the room, then acoustic room dividers can be extremely effective at soaking a lot of it up, before it becomes a constant niggle.

Resolving the Privacy Crisis

Creating environments which are comfortable for employees can take time and a little bit of investment. While large organisations may be able to afford to bring in an acoustic engineer, small businesses would be better off experimenting with soft furniture and soft surfaces which are naturally effective at absorbing ambient noise. The issues with each office will be unique, so there will need to be extensive self-examination to determine which solution will work best in your environment. On a basic level though, room dividers and office screens can go a long way to creating a degree of privacy for employees as they are able to address both audible and visual distractions.

If room dividers and office screens sound as though they could be effective in your office, then we do design and manufacture a variety of styles here at Rap Industries. We’ve been in the industry for over 40 years, which has allowed us to develop extensive expertise in the sector while working with clients to address the issues in their workplace.

 

Room Dividers

Why Acoustic Screens are the Future of Modern Office Design

Acoustic Screens

Creating Workspaces Which Optimise and Energise Employees

Office design has been the subject of a great deal of study over the past few decades and for good reason. Considering millions of us spend up to and beyond eight hours a day sat behind a desk, it makes sense that we try to understand that environment as much as possible. Our careers and the job we do is often about much more than the work involved and employers as well as designers are constantly trying to find ways to make employees more productive and more effective. Some may take a traditional approach of bonuses and prizes, while others take a more practical approach and attempt to find the means to help employees enjoy their job.

While the design of the office may seem unsuspecting, it can actually have a major influence on employee satisfaction and productivity. The reality is, if we hate the place where we work for just one of a number of reasons, then this crushes motivation and begins to decrease efficiency. Ultimately, it can be a revolving cycle unless the route cause is addressed. Distractions are one of the major causes of disruption, especially within open plan offices and these can often spawn further complications with stress and anxiety further along the road.

The Key for Managing Distractions

In recent years, there has been a huge upswing in the number of people working from home and according to them, this has made them more efficient. The main reason for this is that there is more privacy in the home. You are not constantly interrupted by the constant hum of background chatter or regularly interrupted by a telephone crying out to be picked up. Instead, they are able to take work at their pace, without the constant distractions and this has actually led to improvement. The result has seen modern office designs try to adopt what makes this approach to working so successful; comfort.

Cutting out distractions altogether in open plan environments is pretty much impossible thanks to physics, which is why many of the modern offices that you read about today take a slightly different approach. Often this is to create separate areas; one for communal work, where employees can communicate and liaise while working on a project and then another which encourages silence, privacy and the space for employees to concentrate when they really need it. Sounds simple enough, but for the majority of small businesses, being able to integrate this is not feasible. There is no room for a huge office, instead employees are housed in enclosed spaces which can become a cacophony of noise.

What Makes Acoustic Screens So Effective?

This is where Acoustic Screens are becoming such an effective solution. The cubicle office design of the 1960s may have been an unmitigated mess, but it did strike upon a few key points which have a positive impact for employers. Modern day acoustic screens often come in three different forms; as standalone screens, desk dividers and as wall panels. On a base level, these help to create partial partitions in office environments, which when used correctly, can drastically reduce the number of visual distractions and creating an element of privacy for employees. In particular, this can reduce a common worry of people looking over your shoulder at what you are doing as well as becoming distracted by what others are doing across the office.

But what really sets them apart compared to other elements which are part of modern office design is their introduction of acoustic foam. Tackling acoustical design is often one of the hidden demons in any open environment. It is pretty easy to make it look glamorous when you use your eyes, but protecting against sound waves presents a completely different challenge. They cannot be seen by the naked eye, they are unpredictable and they can niggle away at you every day before they simply become too much.

At the core of solving this is introducing soft surfaces which absorb some of these sound waves, rather than letting them bound from surface to surface until they run out of energy. So if you were considering a stylish hardwood floor for your new office, perhaps reconsider unless you enjoy listening to recurring echoes for eight hours and more a day. Instead, acoustic screens ensure you don’t have to cover the walls with carpet as the acoustic foam integrated within the screen is clinically proven to help absorb soundwaves and reduce reverberation time. While it is impossible to block out ambient noise altogether, an acoustically controlled environment can make life easier for everyone when they don’t have to hear every word of every conversation throughout the day.

Integrating Acoustic Screens into a Modern Design

So acoustic screens can be remarkably effective in busy open plan environments, the next step is to fit them in with the design you have in mind in the first place. Options such as acoustic wall panels are clever ways of introducing the acoustic foam without having screens scattered through the space. While they may struggle to absorb noise coming straight towards you, they will help to absorb ambient background noise which is bouncing across the office. Alternatively, acoustic screens excel the most when used in between desks. Creating a collaborative workspace requires tender balance, and quality screens help to achieve this. They soak up soundwaves heading towards you from across the office, while they also provide relief from visual distractions when you are trying to concentrate.

If you approach a specialist manufacturer, there are a huge number of variations available which can be tailored with your office space in mind. This includes straight or curved panels; fabric or glazed panels and a wide range of customisations such as colour and size, meaning they are able to enhance the office environment. Especially in smaller spaces, acoustic screens are an increasingly effective way to create privacy and comfort for employees, providing them with a solid foundation from which to work and concentrate.

As a manufacturer of acoustic screens and room dividers, here at Rap Industries we have a number of ranges which are tailored towards making your office environment more practical. You can check them out online, or alternatively you can get in touch with our advisors who can provide additional information. They can be reached by calling 01733 394941 or by sending an e-mail to sales@rapdind.com.

 

Acoustic Screens