Leading organisations recognise that maintaining the status-quo is a failed strategy in today’s rapidly-shifting business climate. As a result, they need to continually innovate if they plan to thrive in a competitive marketplace. It is important to understand the driving factors behind the shift in climate. Technology, globalisation and the multi-generational workforces is influencing the way we work, times are changing, and it is no longer nine-to-five. New ways of working are evolving rapidly, and businesses require a creative, agile mind-set that fosters continuous innovation. The way in which people operate is also largely a function of the environment in which they work. Therefore, innovative designs in the workspace can foster innovative working.
With its underlying philosophy of creating future spaces, innovation plays a key role in Trend Group continually innovating to meet the specific requirements of its diverse customer base. This has resulted in bespoke work for a growing number of local and international brands.
Innovation is much more than embracing the latest fads. “Innovative trends are both beneficial and operational, and stand the test of time,” Trend Group Senior Designer Dorethe Swiegers comments. Trend Group specialises in creating unique workspaces for its clients that not only adhere to the prevailing trends, but which also meet their individual requirements, which differ from client to client.
The process for any project begins with fleshing out the initial brief prior to translating it into physical parameters. Trend Group has certain tools to structure these requirements, taking into account significant variables such as how the client operates, what works and does not work for that client, what it wants to achieve in the new space, and anything that it may want to change.
“Our responsibility to our clients extends to ensuring that our designs are both innovative and contextualised.” Swiegers comments. “It is important to understand the way people work when designing a new space for a certain company, we often undertake desk utilisation surveys and staff interviews to analyse the operational requirements of our clients, ensuring that we provide them with the right balance of work settings.”
What is important is that the process is flexible enough to cater for a small independent company to a global multinational. The client is involved in workshops to customise a specific solution. This means that, well before construction begins, all client expectations have been addressed.
“A company’s brand identity and philosophy should also translate into innovation within the office. For example, if a brand supports a fun, playful nature, design and innovation can enhance this through recreational rooms, games rooms, interactive pods, and unconventional workspaces. We have to be on top of what is driving and influencing the market. Everybody shares that understanding, as we work as a team to translate our ideas into a practical scope of work,” Trend Group Interior Designer Jean Swanepoel adds.
Innovation can drive health and well-being at the office, while at the same time increase productivity. Ergonomic design can get employees active and moving, and not sit at their desks all day. Productivity can also be increased through innovative designs in terms of layouts and aesthetics; certain areas can be more open-plan to allow for greater communication, creativity, and brainstorming; while other areas can create and foster a more private, contemplative setting.
Recently completed in Johannesburg, the new Africa headquarters for Oracle set a precedent where one can see these theories implemented. Apart from complete ergonomic workstations, the workspace offers employees away-from-desk settings such as collaboration booths, individual work lounges, and private phone booths. The balance was calculated carefully, based on a desk-utilisation study, and global guidelines to ensure all needs were catered for, ensuring ultimately that employee health and well-being is looked after, cultivating engagement and driving productivity.
“Often levels of innovation within companies are invariably budget-driven, which means innovation must focus on giving the client the best solution, which is efficient, timeless, and localised,” Swiegers comments. From design to delivery, all factors are taken into account, from constructability to budget and ultimately employee well-being, with innovation underpinning all phases. Trend Group’s designers provide a variety of space-plan options, based on costing levels ranging from base-level to medium and enhanced budgets. This ensures that both ‘nice-to-haves’ and operationally-critical elements are included.
“The fact that we differ from the European market does make a difference in that it allows us to come up with our own unique ideas,” Swanepoel concludes. Driving this innovation is that, from a craftmanship and design point of view, the local industry is world-class.
The selection and use of certain materials is also enhanced through innovation. For example, Trend Group tasked a local furniture designer to develop a local version of a sit-stand desk based on a gas cylinder, compared to the more costly hydraulic mechanisms of imported units. “Here we are highly innovative in being able to adapt an international trend to our local context, combining creativity with budget-consciousness,” Swanepoel says.
Innovation requires spaces for focus, rest, and the in-between. At the end of the day, office designs and the level of innovation must support the existing company culture in being successful. As well as addressing employees’ needs through smart workplace design for optimal creative performance, company culture is equally important. Employees thrive and are most productive when their workspace conveys that they are valued by their organisation. When they can focus on their work, it is then that they can create and innovate.