It can often be easy to dismiss the impact of commercial interior design on the morale of employees and efficiency of the workplace. Tech giants like Facebook and Google are known for their colorful, friendly spaces, encouraging socialization and activity.
AMEinfo had the opportunity to speak with Stacy Stewart, Regional Director, MEA, at Herman Miller, one of the companies at the heart of this workspace revolution. He shares with us market insights and trends in the region that will reshape the workplace as we know it.
What is the commercial interior design sector in the Middle East like today, and what are the trends impacting its development regionally?
Exciting developments such as Expo 2020 is bringing phenomenal growth to the UAE as well as the NEOM megacity development in Saudi Arabia. The other parts of the GCC are also seeing major developments across multi sectors, coupled with the fact that organizational change is happening more frequently and rapidly than ever. Fast-paced expansion and contraction of the workforce to meet the changing needs of the organization means organizations are quickly outgrowing or shrinking their office space. Many organizations now seek global experience and advice to help them remain agile and future-proof their environments. The workforce today now seeks out and stay in jobs that prioritize wellness, comfort, and flexibility, all of which can be supported by human centric workplace design and ergonomic furnishings.
Recent trends we have picked up from the designers we work with indicate that the first critical but basic element is color. Lively colors aren’t typically effective as softer tones in commercial design because they are more subtle and can allow the furniture to pop in the office space or open areas. The next critical element in interior design for commercial spaces is lighting. It is important to have strong lighting in the correct areas while soft lighting is also critical from an interior design perspective. The key in lighting for commercial design is to find light fixtures that provide sufficient illumination without being too strong. Finally, furniture is also important, and that’s where we come in. It is important for the designer to take into account the difference that can be made with the colors in the room while also making sure space planning and consistency is taken into account.
Why is commercial interior design important for businesses? Is it more important for larger corporations than SMEs?
Commercial interior design often at times includes a much larger scope of work. It is extremely important to keep your commercial space visually pleasing to the eye for your clients and also make it functional and conducive to create an effective environment for everyone. Every detail comes into account while creating the suitable atmosphere within the office or commercial space.
It is important to design an office around activity and efficiency, and creating diverse environments that would be appropriate for the kind of activities that happen throughout the day. As part of an ongoing series on the future of work, Herman Miller invited 80 up-and-coming designers across the US and Canada to four Future State workshops. They shared their hunches, blue-sky ideas, anxieties, and crazy bets about the future of work, offices, and the evolving role of designers. Future Staters predict that in the future, people and the organizations they work for will develop better boundaries between work and life to encourage deeper, more meaningful engagement with both. The designers we talked with anticipated that the benefits of working at home—pajamas, productivity—will only fulfill you for so long. Eventually, you’ll be drawn back to the in-person connections you can find in the office. They’re pushing designs that promote face time (the non-iPhone variety) in spaces that accelerate authentic connection. The designers dream that the impossibility of last-minute client requests—cutting half a million dollars from a budget, value engineering a 10-story building to eight—might soon be a thing of the past. Across our four events, we heard about robot contractors, next-level modeling software, and automated on-demand furniture manufacturing.
Despite some of the anxiety the designers tapped into about our personal relationships with tech, when it came to the promise of AI, big data, and robotics for aiding the design process, the group was enthusiastic. The designers share a belief that design should be both holistic and humanistic. Herman Miller’s methodology for transforming this belief into reality is Living Office—a research-based approach to placemaking that helps organizations create workplaces that are efficient, comfortable, and inspiring. As part of this approach, Herman Miller’s Living Office specialists team up with designers to fine-tune every element of a workplace so it reflects who people are and enhances the work they do. In this way, the office becomes a testament to an organization’s purpose and a vehicle for propelling everyone toward their goals.
As the co-working trend continues to pick up traction in the region, and especially in the GCC, what role will interior design play in creating the perfect co-working space?
Coworking spaces are gaining popularity as the rise of freelance work grows. These spaces offer shared facilities where professionals of various fields can work alongside each other and share resources, thus creating a synergetic relationship linked to a common workplace. Furthermore, it is speculated that freelancers with flexible work hours work better if surrounded by others. What makes coworking spaces successful? Working in a place away from home––where isolation could be a problem––or away from disruptions––which is a common problem when working in coffee shops––increases productivity. When working surrounded by others, the user feels encouraged to work and inspires others in return. Multidisciplinary collaboration can be a big bonus when it comes to sharing a common workplace, as it often leads to companies and long-term business relationships. Socialization and the change of scenery that accompanies working in a shared space can be beneficial for professionals in creative industries, through inspiring them and allowing them to perform by engaging with their peers in search of feedback or inspiration.
How will interior design factor into Dubai’s 10x vision, where IoT-enabled smart living will become ubiquitous?
At Herman Miller we’re taking a different approach to how we manage our work, the tools and technologies that enable it, and the places where we come together to do it. Truly global markets, seamless connectivity to people and machines, instantaneous access to information and ideas, a merging of life inside and outside the office, and the increasing creative and production capabilities of individuals—these are just a few of the trends coming together to define a new landscape of work. At Herman Miller, we’re building what’s next: a more natural and desirable way of working that fosters greater performance, engagement, well-being, and ultimately greater prosperity for all. A new digital platform designed to personalize and optimize the office for the people who use it. More than sticking sensors on furniture, this new technology which has already been launched in the US, offers people and their organizations unprecedented insight into what actually goes on in the office, and a chance to use real data to drive smarter decisions. People will suddenly have the ability to personalize their workspaces, book rooms on the fly, and digitally connect to chairs and tables for a more ergonomic day at the office. The term of art for this brand of user control is “consumerization,” and the market is moving toward this type of intuitive tech solution. And because so much work can now be accomplished digitally, that worker’s employer is looking to make the most effective use of their IRL infrastructure. That means making smarter decisions about space utilization and giving people the flexibility and control over their work experience that they’ve come to expect from their digital devices.