This month we are delighted to welcome Janne Keihokari, interior architect at Pearco Oy, to explore how the global pandemic has changed our working patterns and why this will affect the future of office design.
Based in Helsinki, Janne is an interior designer and work environment developer, working on long term projects as well as ongoing maintenance schemes. His clients include businesses and construction companies both in Finland and across central European countries.
Designflooring: During the pandemic we have all spent many months working differently, for example from home and holding meetings virtually. Has this affected your clients’ space requirements and how office design can realise their business goals?
Janne: The way we work has experienced a big change and this is having a unique impact on the demands we place on our office workspaces. For designers, this situation can be really challenging and the key is the analytical identification of the user’s needs.
The growing importance of user orientation has been discussed for some time. Spatial planning and interior design is returning to a deeper and more carefully considered “feet on the ground” approach. The decisive factor for success will be the right changes rather than the speed of implementation as a sustainable future does not provide opportunities for disposability and waste of resources.
Designflooring: With the needs of workspace users changing so drastically, do you think the traditional office space has been made redundant in favour of alternative office layouts, for example flexible spaces, hot desking, remote working and the use of technology?
Janne: The most important thing now is to notice the varying, individual needs of employees. There is no one right or wrong truth about a functioning workspace. However, an exceptional situation reveals weaknesses and past mistakes. I believe that offices will become more diverse and there will be more adapted and multi-purpose spaces.
Employees returning to the workplace after the lockdown period are quite differently aware of working conditions. Having become accustomed to the benefits of remote working, there will be a greater demand for comfort and even homeliness.
Designflooring: One thing that we’ve all missed while working at home is the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues. How do you see these new alternatives promoting team-working environments?
Janne: The conditions for working in a group must be taken into account more than before when planning workspaces. Technical aids like space reservation systems by mobile control will help teams get together and also support health and safety. I think offices may become places for meetings and group work while individual working may take place remotely.
Designflooring: Is this new approach changing how your clients are investing in their workspaces or are businesses still keen to provide high quality environments?
Janne: If companies need the most productive and skilled workforce, they will soon find that their workspaces will be important when competing for the best professionals. I imagine that in the future, headquarters will be located in finer but perhaps smaller premises in city centres. Business parks in the suburbs may be left to less market-critical players and functions.
Designflooring: With an increasing priority being placed on sustainable designs, are office refurbishments now including materials specified for their longevity or other environmental values?
Janne: It is clear that the quality of construction and the compliance with sustainable development of the materials used is growing in importance. Companies are driven by their customers’ demands for sustainability. On the other hand, in the new ‘normal’ companies will also have to adapt to the demands of the employees in order to get them back into the workplace. All this can be seen as the result of an awareness of the environmental improvements that have come about due to reduced consumption and pollution during this short ‘mandatory test period’.
Designflooring: When you are specifying materials for office spaces, how does the design flexibility and hygiene of luxury vinyl flooring meet the key features you are looking for?
Janne: In general, vinyl floors are popular in Finland for office premises, especially in entrance, kitchen and break out areas. The weather conditions here can be challenging, especially during winter, and therefore durable and easy-care floors are desirable. These areas should also look good and attractive so here luxury vinyl is superior even to natural stone and ceramic tiles.
Designflooring: We all hope that we are now emerging from the pandemic. Are your clients now giving more attention to health and wellbeing as part of the design process and rationale for specifying materials?
Janne: Of course, when the world has suffered from such a crisis it is natural that health and wellbeing are strong considerations when choosing between products. I hope that this isn’t a fashion phenomenon, dependant on market forces, but instead that those responsible for planning will use their influence to promote these important factors.
The objective of reinventing the office is what well-functioning companies have always wanted and what we as designers can achieve; a safe environment where people can enjoy their work, collaborate with their colleagues, and achieve their organisation’s goals.
Thank you so much to Janne for taking the time to talk with us and sharing his design insights. To find out more about his work and Pearco Oy, visit www.pearco.fi