Eeva Terävä, the recently appointed Workplace Consultant at Martela, develops workplaces of today that enhance performance and wellness. She also helps customers in change management.

We asked her seven questions about workplaces. With her answers she tells about the latest trends in workplaces.

1. What have been the biggest changes in working environments over the past five years?

The biggest change concerns the way of working. In any office, laptops and mobile devices are now a rule rather than an exception. I think that, even five years ago, most office workers would have been able to work independent of place in a paper-free environment. However, at that time, no one had heard of flexible activity-based offices. Instead, there were either open-plan offices or traditional ones with separate rooms.

Today, more and more people work in activity-based offices, and an even higher number of people have at least heard of this new, revolutionary way of working. I have noticed that, even if people are not aware of the concept of an activity-based office, many have realised that their working environment has changed or have at least heard of someone who has no designated desk or “has to make their phone calls from a booth”. Even though there are preconceived notions about them, activity-based offices have undisputed advantages over traditional offices.

2. How have companies succeeded in making use of new types of working environments?

As I said, more and more people have realised that an office can be much more than just endless lines of desks and chairs. Some companies are gradually becoming aware of the benefits of activity-based offices, while many transferred to such environments years ago. However, I still occasionally run into companies that have implemented extensive office renovations but have never heard of activity-based offices.

In my opinion, designers should be able to offer a more diverse range of options tailored to customers’ needs. It is no longer enough for the designer to visit an empty office with a tape measure and then sit down at a drawing board and design the same kind of office they have always designed. Modern designers listen to the people using the office and understand the nature of their work.

3. What are the greatest challenges concerning working environments at the moment?

I believe the greatest challenges concern well-being and coping at work. Everyone must have heard about reports stating that sitting at work is a major health threat. Topics related to coping and being able to work in peace have also provoked discussion for years.

These and many other challenges can be resolved by means of office design. When designed correctly, activity-based offices enable employees to move around more and change their working position more often than traditional open-plan offices and offices with separate rooms. Work management also improves when employees can retreat to a quiet space when they need to concentrate. These factors have a direct effect on productivity.

4. What are the most significant differences between open-plan and activity-based offices?

Open-plan and activity-based offices may look very similar. However, on closer examination, they have major differences.  In principle, only small changes are needed to convert any open-plan office into an activity-based office. This can be done by adding phone booths, spaces for withdrawal and quiet spaces. In addition, on closer examination, many employees spend only a fraction of their time at a workstation in an open-plan office. Giving up designated workstations is not absolutely necessary, but the costs can be reduced considerably compared to an open-plan office if it is found that designated workstations are not actually needed. This also frees up space for meeting rooms or pleasant and comfortable lounge areas, which many offices are short of.

5. How can user-friendly workspaces best be created?

User-friendliness is a cornerstone of activity-based office designs. Activity-based offices are always designed in line with the work, and the result may be far from satisfactory if the designer does not understand the nature of the work. By listening to the users of the office, designers can ensure that the activity-based office has all the facilities that the company needs.

It is also important that the employees have their say. In large offices, it often makes sense to collect information systematically from users by means of electronic surveys and workshops, for example. In smaller offices, this information may be available via a few key employees.

User-friendly design also ensures that the employees are committed to the change. Some companies can move into a new type of facility almost as a matter of course, but sometimes the changes are so extensive that additional support is needed for change management and communication.

6. What inspires you in a working environment?

Being able to work in an aesthetically beautiful environment is important for me. However, it is equally important for me to be able to control the environment in terms of peace and quiet. My duties vary greatly during the day. Sometimes I need help with brainstorming from colleagues, but I may need to be able to work in complete peace and quiet immediately after that. I am not good at concentrating in the hustle and bustle of an open-plan office. On the other hand, I do not want to spend the entire day isolated from others. The perfect combination of these aspects brings out the best in me.

7. What brought you to Martela?

A passion to keep on the move and always do things a little better than before. I cannot see myself designing the same kind of office year after year. I am genuinely interested in what our customers need and what the best working environment for them is. Martela has a broad range of experts, which makes the company a front-runner. We do not just manufacture furniture. We have a top team that comprehensively develops working environments that work best for each of our customers.

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