Dods Group PLC, The Shard. Photography credit: Adam Dale Photography
Space design, mental wellbeing and business performance
Kristoff DuBose is the CEO and founder of Cirkularis8, an innovative take on a design consultancy, with a passion for both space design and its impact on wellness and business performance. Ahead of his appearance at the Mad World Summit, in conversation with Ian Jindal, Kristoff discussed his business, how design and the working space can positively affect employee wellbeing and performance,
About our business
We're a design and construction consultancy and we focus on office interiors as our core business. Our primary drive was born out of frustration of working on a project-by-project basis. Even where we undertook multiple projects with our clients over time. For complex projects that are meant to deliver benefits over many years, we didn’t like ‘just leaving’ the project since there are learnings over time that allow you to amend and improve the scheme. So now we have a process circular in nature and we keep working with clients on a continuous rather than project basis.
Workplaces, mental health and wellbeing
Our design process means we get under the skin of our clients to get to know them on a personal and psychological level. In today's knowledge economy your people’s talent is the number one asset that you've got.
For us, the design has everything to do with the people that are part of the business. What happens when more than one person shows up in a room together? Culture begins.
Characteristics of effective working space
There are a number of factors, but no silver bullet, in crafting a working space. Most of the time people complain about the physical space, but, usually in the context of choice. If people have a choice, they're less likely to complain about adverse conditions, as they can move about and change their scenery.
Human beings need a blend of stability and variety. We're finding if we create more social spaces and give people more options as to where they're going to be working, this increases their happiness. They are willing to put up with smaller spaces knowing that they don't have to sit in those space for eight hours a day.
There’s a spectrum of work and behaviours throughout the day. There are moments of deep focus when you need to keep your head down and stay focused. But there are also times of discussion and social interaction. Interestingly we see that in busy workplaces people are able to be productive (despite background noise) provided that they are left alone to concentrate uninterrupted. Noise is not the main challenge in design but rather finding that balance between space for concentration and space for interaction.
The traditional layout also needs to change in response to how we use spaces. We’ve always designed meeting spaces with a table and chairs and what we see now that the nature of meetings is radically changing. If we're being creative, solving problems, having to think probabilistically - do we want to sit on a chair with a desk or do we want to sit on a sofa? Our perspective can widen so we can start capturing ideas. Our formal settings are becoming more informal. In an informal setting, you can have moments where you can create and engineer moments for a realisation of ideas.
Another example is that we’re increasing the space within canteens because they're a workspace in their own right. This is partly because of familiarity with working in cafe settings, but also because food creates a moment of nourishment where everybody is going to eventually come together, because they need to be watered and fed. I have clients in San Francisco who used to have 200 or 300 offices and now have five.
It can be difficult to measure the impact of design directly. However, we see it in the growth of our clients. There isn't any metric other than a fact that they're outgrowing their spaces more quickly than expected as a result of business growth.
Productivity used to be measured by how much land you had and how many crops. After the industrial revolution the focus was upon hours worked and how quickly staff could undertake a given task.
We now have these knowledge workers and unless you’re in a manufacturing setting, everything we’re doing is intelligence-based; you are using the brainpower of your people more than anything else.
So, you need to really nourish that brainpower, and that’s why we’re supporting the Mad World Summit. We need to look after people’s mental wellbeing as well as their physical wellbeing. There’s an anomaly inasmuch as we’ll make sure that the ergonomics of a workstation are ideal for someone to sit at a desk for eight hours, but not give them variety, choice and flexible working methods during that day. We’re seeking to close that anomaly and ensure that staff - the brains in our business - are able to function well.
The world of work is changing and there’s no better way I can put it: get with it or get left behind. Really what needs to happen is we need to design as if people mattered – since they really do.
We can’t think of workspaces as ‘work’ anymore - we think of work as creation, as inspiration, as places where we make magic happen and dreams come true.
You can meet Kristoff and hear more about Cirkularis8 at the Mad World Summit in London on 9 October, 2018. We look forward to continuing the conversation. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to register here.
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