Focus-based office

The open layout has its advantages: with employees able to work together, it eliminates a hierarchy and also ensures that individuals are included in important decisions and projects. Bringing people together helps encourage faster learning, better communication, and more ideas. But as discussed in previous chapter, there is a growing dissatisfaction among employees who are working in that environment. Different tasks require different settings and that is what the focus-based office means. 

As workplace environments continually change to accommodate the diversity of today’s employee workstyles, choosing the most appropriate furniture is an increasingly important aspect of the design process. Furniture can impact workplace change initiatives by empowering employees, improving employee satisfaction and productivity, enhancing collaboration, and improving overall organizational efficiencies. 

The right layout

Organizations are moving to the flexible model, which is a workplace with a variety of seating in a mostly free-address, unassigned environment.

Focus-based office provides different seating areas from private to public or from personal to shared space. For making everyone feel comfortable and productive in open-plan offices, it is wise to plan zones for taking a break and chatting with colleagues; more secluded sofas with high walls for individual work; creative corners for meetings and brainstorming sessions; small boxes for phone calls and private conversations

This way everyone can choose the right setting for their tasks on the current day. Employee’s tasks also vary from day to day so they can be the most productive at the same place. The point of focus-based office is to best support person’s daily activities and help reach daily goals.


Acoustic furniture

When walls vanish and an office opens up, you develop a need for places that can be described as rooms within rooms. Such places can be created using removable screens and furniture that absorbs sound, thereby allowing you to have a more private conversation or a place to contemplate things in peace. Our acoustic environment plays a major role in our lives. It affects our working efficiency and ultimately also our health.

Sound perception 

Public space and open offices often have problems with resonance, meaning that sounds reverberate for too long. Creating a more pleasant environment requires us to dampen all kinds of different sounds, such as fans, people’s footsteps, conversations and phone calls. People’s perception of sound depends on a variety of factors, including level and frequency, but also the type of the sound: whether it is constant or fragmented, noise or music.

The ear is highly sensitive and sound waves don’t have to be particularly strong to be heard. People hear sounds from 0 dB to 120 dB (the pain threshold) at the frequency range of 20-20000 Hz. Sounds that are at a lower frequency than the limit of human hearing, are called infrasound, while sounds exceeding that limit are called ultrasound. For voice and speech recognition, the most important frequency range is 300-3000 Hz.

People perceive sound differently. Something barely audible to one person may disturb another. Even one person can perceive the same sound differently depending on the situation. A 10 dB increase in the level of sound is considered to double the loudness of the sound. A change of 1-2 dB is considered to be the smallest alteration that humans can perceive.


Acoustic absorption

Sound waves cannot move freely in a closed room and bounce off the structure of the room. Some of the sound is absorbed by surfaces, while some reflects from them. Monitoring sound absorption and achieving the recommended reverberation duration is one of the principal tasks in the acoustic design of rooms.

Acoustic absorption means that sound does not reflect off a material after reaching it. That is also the principle of designing furniture with acoustic properties: furniture has to absorb the sound that would otherwise reflect back and contribute to unwelcome noise. Materials with good sound absorption are porous and breathable. Synthetic felt and a range of foams are among the materials with such properties.

Read more

Life in the open-plan office >
Case study: Softrend’s Office >

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