How the acoustics of your office impact your team's productivity

How the acoustics of your office impact your team's productivity

The competition to recruit, train and retain talent has become fierce in the last few years. Businesses are constantly looking and trying new ways that will ensure that their employees have a healthy and positive work environment.

At the same time, they are also working to save on office space and cut on their expenditure. The real challenge is finding the balance between the two – don’t overspend, but keep your employees happy and productive.

This is where the open space comes into play.

One of the obvious advantages of having an open space is the ability to fit a large number of employees in a small space.

But do they work for your employees?

They are unique and make strong statements in terms of office culture. They also offer more benefits including the provision of natural light that keeps people active. Natural light makes workers patient, less frustrated, productive and healthier.

There is a need for open office layouts for employers who want to enhance employee creativity, boost collaboration and encourage innovation.

However, these spaces have a downside: the lack of sound privacy. These open space environments drain employees’ morale due to noise pollution, according to research.

Noise pollution is a huge contributor to poor productivity at work. It’s difficult to perform tasks that need high concentration in such spaces.

Employees are dissatisfied with the level of speech privacy and how it leads to work disruption.

A study by Udemy supports this with 80 percent of respondents claiming chatty coworkers are the biggest distraction, while office noise was cited by 70 percent of them.

Another reason for noise distraction is mobile technology. Employees now have access to a vast number of devices that distract them.

Office acoustics impact your team's productivity

People can put up with noise only for so long before it becomes annoying. Most employees work without realising that office noise is affecting their productivity. Some of the noise sources include:

  • Background noises from mechanical and technical issues in the office. These include noises from pumps, boilers, chillers, air handling units, circulation fans, ventilation rooms, etc.  The same goes for noise from electronic equipment like vending machines, printers, keyboard strokes, and fax machines.

  • Fluctuating sounds from laughter, loud speech, and the phones ringing

  • Activity noises from loud footsteps, loud messaging and chat beeps, loud chewing noises and cursing/muttering from colleagues.

  • Transportation noises coming from road traffic, planes and trains. Some traffic noise is inevitable, and can be tolerated, but too much noise may cause concentration and productivity issues.

  • Use of speakerphones that lead workers to speak even more loudly

  • HVAC noises

  • High frequency sounds from keyboards as people type or other mechanical issues

  • Too quiet spaces can also be problematic for employees. Not all sound is noise. It becomes noise depending on the task at hand. Low background noises affect privacy.

  • Noise from leakages, for example through gaps and cracks in buildings. These could include keyholes or air vents, wall openings catering for pipes, ducts and wiring, joints between raised floors, ceilings, and partitions, etc.

Research shows that noise distraction leads to loss of productivity and the more intense a task is, the more noise disturbs those performing it.

Another study found that participants who worked in a loud noise environment were more tired, less motivated at work and remembered only a few words of what they were studying, compared to those working in a low noise environment.

A TED talk by Julian Treasure shows that noise pollution in open offices reduces employee productivity by 66 percent:

Poor acoustics lead to more noise, which causes stress on employees. Stressed employees are vulnerable to high blood pressure, headaches, digestive disorders, ulcers, and hypertension.

Noise will also affect motivation, in that one will not be willing to adjust their workstations, even though another setting would be more comfortable and reduce injury risks.

Indeed, controlling sound distraction in an otherwise busy work environment is a tough balancing act. But it can be done.

Your office interior design and its acoustics is a good place to start.

Think about your layout and how it will protect your employees from distractions related to office noise.

You can protect their physical and emotional wellbeing, too, by ensuring that every office component works to provide an ideal acoustic setting. Some of these components include:

  • Furniture

  • Space

  • Partition composition and height

  • Ceiling material and height

  • Wall materials, treatment, placement and shape

  • Flooring

  • Hanging materials

  • Screens

  • Furnishings

  • Lighting

  • Biophilia

  • Rooms depth, mechanical systems, and materials

Abstracta Airflake is fabric-covered moulded fibre felt that absorbs sound and prevents echoes. Designed by Stefan Borselius.

Designing an effective open office space leads to a robust business environment. You save money with space, while enabling easy communication and collaboration.

To achieve this, consider the design, installation and how to maintain each specified component to ensure an innovative open office system.

Seventy percent of employees said their productivity would increase if offices became less noisy in a study by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

Their perceived effectiveness increased when noise from office equipment, background conversations, and mechanical systems was reduced.  

Studies on speech privacy and conversational distractions have shown that making effective acoustic adjustments to open office environments, improves productivity and mental wellbeing.

It allows the employee to focus on tasks at hand – a 48 percent increase, decreases conversational distractions by 51 percent, leads to reduced errors on tasks by 10 percent and reduces stress (measured in terms of physical symptoms) by 27 percent.

Ready to make your office space a haven of productivity by taking control of its acoustics?

If so, great choice!

Acoustic control is an investment that pays for itself through better productivity of employees and lower churn rate.

Acoustic office design at Help Musicians at The Briggait in Glasgow

Office Acoustic Control – What You Need to Know

A Guide to Office Acoustics defines acoustics as the science of sound. Its history started with the Greeks who understood sound travel and used this information to build amphitheaters.

Sound is a series of pressure fluctuations or waves. They start when an object vibrates from its source, for example, a vocal cord. It moves in all directions in the air at the speed of sound which is around 786mph.

What sound encounters or its distance from the source determines what happens after. The arc of the imaginary sound line grows larger while energy dissipates.

If it encounters a hard surface, it's reflected, leading to a sound energy buildup that amplifies the sound. Some of this energy is absorbed if it hits a soft surface leading to a reduction in sound.

Acoustic engineers use this information to combat potential acoustic problems. They use the ABC method that controls certain factors to achieve the right acoustic environment. This method includes:

  •          A - absorption of sound waves done by absorbing sound before reaching the listener's ears

  •          B - blocking the right amount of sound

  •          C - covering or masking the unwanted sound

To solve noise issues, the acoustic technician must know what kind of noise problem your office has. They must put into consideration what acoustic goals you have.

Are your employees suffering from concentration issues, lack of speech privacy or a combination of these?

Understanding the problem will help you undertake a gap analysis to establish the correct way to deal with noise issues.

Lack of speech privacy mostly happens in closed office spaces. It mainly occurs in sectors where consultations with clients should be confidential, like in the medical, financial or human resource sectors.

In this case, you have to provide sound absorptive surfaces and raise the background level to allow concentration.

Noise and concentration issues occur in open office spaces where buildings have hard reflective interiors. The sounds continually reverberate leading to increased noise levels as staff communicate with each other and attend to their usual tasks.

Employees can hear conversations held across the office space; they can hear keyboard strokes and phone conversations that lead to less concentration and, therefore, less productivity.

A combination of these two issues will occur where noise and lack of speech privacy affect the employees. They will have problems in all their working spaces including the boardroom, the client meeting areas and the open plan spaces.

In order to provide your employees with a space where they can work effectively, these agile environments require an acoustic landscape carefully designed to cater for all noise-related issues.

Measures will include having some level of noise absorption and privacy at the desks, controlling common area noises and having private spaces for confidential discussions.

Acoustics Solutions that Lead to Improved Team Productivity

Some of the areas to focus on include:

1.    Furniture and Screens

Furniture can affect acoustic properties either positively or negatively. Hard surfaces reflect sound and things like glass-topped tables amplify sound. Soft surfaces absorb sound. You can use fabric covered soft panels or screens (free standing or placed between desks).

In open-plan spaces, furniture should prevent sound travel from one cubicle to the next. The divider panels should be at least 60 inches in height. Seventy-two inches is usually the best height, while 48 inches does not help block conversation noise.

Buy furniture with a sound blocking rating of about 18-20 Sound Transmission Class (STC). Consider the height, position, quantity, absorption properties, and background sound levels when installing screens.

Consider your furniture layout, too. Avoid furniture placement that has employees seeing each other. If they can see each other, they can hear each other. If you choose to use glass, then it’s acceptable, since glass is an excellent sound barrier.

2.   Ceiling

Sound also travels up and bounces off the ceiling. The type of ceiling you choose can either insulate sound, absorb it or do both. Sound absorbing products differ depending on density, thickness, weight, and surface finish.

Their merits also vary in terms of whether they provide absorption or insulation.

Sound insulation depends on mass, density and the ability of the material to block sound passage from a room to another or block noise from outside. The types of ceilings you can choose from are: mineral fibre, plasterboards, metal, wood, stretch or exposed concrete.

When doing sound insulation, make sure you don’t compromise the ceiling performance when putting speakers, lighting fixtures, ventilation, ducting grilles, etc.  In some cases, you may need to add ducting dampers, and acoustic hoods to maintain the quality of insulation.

3.   Flooring

Carpets not only reduce footfalls, but they also absorb sound and block noise from the floor below. A well-cushioned carpet can provide acoustical insulation properties. Choose a thick permeable carpet for maximum sound absorption.

You can also use raised access flooring. These are individual panels continuously decked and supported on pedestals to attain a certain height. To achieve excellent sound absorption qualities, cover them with a carpet.

For insulation, compartmentalize the underfloor using either low-level plasterboard drywalls or high-density wool bats under the partitioning. You can also use acoustic pads.

During installation, be careful when introducing grilles, air ventilation, and open cable apertures.

4.   Sound Masking

If you already designed your open office space, think of improving the work environment using sound masking.

Sound masking devices help by slightly raising the background sound level of a building. It makes it hard for employees to get distracted by conversations from coworkers.

5.   Partitions

Partitions are great for insulation, but not so good in sound absorption. They are, however, used to support acoustic wall panels. Walls may not as good for sound absorption like ceilings since they have interruptions like windows, artwork, furniture, and doors.

However, where space is available, wall mounted sound absorbers will reduce reverberation time or complement ceiling absorption.

Acoustic wall paper covering

Some companies develop wall coverings with sound-absorbing properties used as part of a holistic approach. You can also use synthetic acoustic plasters through spraying or troweling for a smooth finish. Types of partitioning include plasterboards, modular/relocatable, glazed partitions, and operable/movable walls.

Make the partition airtight, since any hole, no matter how small, weakens wall performance.

6.   Doors

Doors are tricky since they are a weak point in partitions. However, you can use this weakness as a privacy strategy by allowing background sound to leak to the room.

When the background noise is too low, problems with privacy arise. The best doors for acoustics are airtight doors.

Sliding doors have a space between the partition and the door that could affect performance. Use acoustic seals to enhance performance or increase door thickness. 

7.   Acoustic Lighting

Combine noise absorption with acoustic lighting without taking much space or interrupting it physically. Acoustic lighting hangs elegantly and improves flexibility, productivity, and overall happiness.

Good sound absorbing light will balance light and ambiance while offering comfort, tranquility, and space.

Board room acoustic lighting panels

8.   Biophilia

There is an undeniable connection between humans and nature. We simply perform better and are happier when surrounded by nature.

Biophilic design makes it possible for you to leverage the benefits of this connection even in indoor office space. It integrates natural materials with modern architecture by providing visual privacy and reducing noise levels.

Green walls provide better acoustic absorption than conventional building materials. Plants diffuse and deflect sound, but only if you spread them evenly in the available space, use green modular walls tested for effective acoustic properties and use large plant containers that can accommodate more compost and top dressing.

9.   Internal Finishes

Consider the orientation of absorption, the location, and whether the finish is reflective or deflective. They are great at promoting intelligibility and privacy.

For example, you can control the spread of noise by placing highly absorptive furniture near the source of the noise. Using absorptive materials can improve acoustics. Acoustic furnishings include absorptive rugs, soundproofing curtains, dividing screens, and absorption panels.

Conclusion

The acoustic performance of a room will also depend on factors like the size of the room, its shape, other elements in the room and their relationship.

For instance, when designing acoustics consider balancing it with the needs of other users in the building. Take a holistic designing approach that considers acoustic comfort, visual comfort, cost, sustainability, and thermal comfort.

When dealing with an open plan environment, consider the requirements that will improve productivity in various rooms.

Offices, conference rooms, and meeting rooms must have appropriate use of space so that people in a large room can hear the speaker while those in small rooms do not encounter echoes.

Avoid acoustic leakages so that employees can maintain confidentiality when needed. Background noise should not be at a minimum and fail to mask other office sounds. It should also not be too loud that it disrupts communication and concentration.

You can achieve increased productivity by considering the sound absorption rates your office needs, the reflective needs, fittings, furniture, and background sound level. These changes will enhance office space aesthetically and acoustically. 

Do you want to read more about:

  1. Moving or refurbishing?

  2. Space planning and utilisation study?

  3. Branding in office design?

  4. Attracting and retaining talent?

    Click here:

52 Trees for Life thanks to MNM Developments and Tours by Locals

52 Trees for Life thanks to MNM Developments and Tours by Locals

When we were discussing the introduction of the launch of our new branding early in 2017, the idea came up to video the planting of Amos Beech ‘trees’ on various locations in Scotland. The locations that we choose were those where you normally would have to go through lengthy planning applications, only to discover to end up nowhere:

It was then that somebody here in the office mentioned the Trees For Life project. Trees For Life plants trees in The Caledonian Forest. Trees for Life helps nature to restore in the Scottish Highlands and helps people reconnect with their spirit, with hope and with the land.

Trees for Life

The Caledonian Forest once covered a large part of the Highlands as extensive stands of majestic Scots pines, interspersed with birch, rowan, juniper and aspen trees. It was the UK's equivalent of the rainforest but has been reduced to just a tiny fraction of its former range. Most of the surviving forests now consist of old trees reaching the end of their lifespan.

In 2008 Trees for Life purchased the Dundreggan Estate, an area of 10,000 acres of wild land near Loch Ness to establish a major forest restoration programme. To date the conservation volunteering charity have planted over 1.6 million trees!

(A film by The Big Picture, a non-profit social enterprise founded by a group of professional photographers, filmmakers, writers, designers and educators, motivated by the need to rebuild healthy ecosystems where wildlife and people flourish.)

Amos Beech contributed 474 trees to date.

Under the slogan ‘every little helps’, we here Amos Beech started our own grove in August 2017 and are proud to have recently added 52 trees for MNM Developments and Tours by Locals.

MNM Developments

MNM develop high-value, luxury properties that respect and enhance their surroundings and have a minimal environmental footprint. We designed and fitted out their 1846 sq ft of new office space in Leith Edinburgh.

Michaela Teague receives the certificate for 24 trees.

Tours by Locals

Tours by Locals brings local people with their knowledge and expertise together with travelers who are looking for an authentic cultural experience. We designed and fitted out their 2153 sq ft of new office space in Glasgow.

Paul Melhus, CEO and Founder of Tours By Locals, receives the tree certificate (28 trees) from Kit-Har McLaughlin, interior designer @Amos_Beech, during a great office opening party in January 2019.

More trees to come!

Unsurprisingly, the tree planting scheme is very well received by our clients and we feel well doing it, so also this year we will be planting 13 trees per 1000 sq ft of interior design, office fit-out and furniture project.

But did you know that you can contribute yourself?

Sit stand desking and seating for HW Energy

Sit stand desking and seating for HW Energy

HW Energy are a progressive and dynamic company who design and install bio-mass heating systems for their clients all over the UK.  Of particular note though, is their office location – sitting under the north west slopes of Britains highest mountain – Ben Nevis and conveniently close to Aonach Mor where you can take a Gondola ride up the mountain. 

HW Energy purpose built their offices 10 years ago and the intervening years have seen their workforce grow which meant that the office space had been altered bit by bit over the years too.  The result’s left a lot to be desired and did not use the available space very efficiently and with more staff joining, they knew that a refurbishment was required.

Sit stand desking and seating for HW Energy in Fort William

Amos Beech were asked to visit and were more than happy to, given that the initial visit was during what proved to be an amazing summer and a lovely day out of the office was enjoyed by Vincent and Sam

Over a few weeks and some inevitable bumps and hurdles over budgets and layouts, HWE chose to order sit/stand desking for all their staff along with the Viasit Drumback task chair. The new layout has transformed the space and now feels a lot more airy and less cluttered than it did previously. 

Upgrades to flooring throughout the space have been carried out and the Amos Beech team will be on site again soon to complete the refurbishment of their break-out space.  So look out for the update and we may well include some pictures of Ben Nevis in the springtime!

Design consultancy and furniture specification

Design consultancy and furniture specification

The young, fun and vibrant creative company Sunshine Communications moved offices to future proof themselves for further team growth and increase their ability of creative outputs. So what is a better place to move to than Commercial Quay in Leith Edinburgh? Commercial Quay lies at the heart of the popular shore area of Leith and has a mix of cafés, bars and restaurants. 

Commercial Quay in Leith Edinburgh

Our design team worked closely with Sunshine Communications to provide a fit out and soft furniture items that meet tight budgets, functionality and aesthetics. A space full of colour and plants, a home away from home.

Design consultancy and furniture specification Sunshine Communications Edinburgh 

As you enter into the workspace, you're greeted by a neon pink side profile face - illuminating the essence of Sunshine Communication, a talking head. Social by nature, social by trade – they gain traction with everyone they work with. 

The geometric shapes painted in soft pastels add interest to the back wall. The paints used in the scheme are from Craig & Rose, the oldest independent paint manufacture in the UK, a nod to their origins on Leith Walks. The colours echo Sunshine Communications branding without being overpowering to the entirety of the space. As the office is also a working photography studio, we had to consider colour balance.

 For the meeting room, we needed to create privacy but also wanted to make a statement. The dichroic film is beautiful, constantly reflecting shifting colours and radiance depending on the perspective of the viewer. Inside we placed a large brass conical base table that balances a glass top to contrast from the pink velvet seats sat below.  

And to continue the velvet, we placed two green velvet sofas facing each other as an informal meeting space with plant pots on stands help to separate it from the open workspace as well as adding biophilia.

And of course featuring in their offices: “Sunshine on Leith”, the Scottish musical film directed by Dexter Fletcher featuring songs by The Proclaimers:

For more inspiration click here:

and here:

Design & text: Flora Hogg.

Interior Photography: Architectural Photographer Edinburgh.

Business Disruption – Moving or Refurbishing Offices is every MD’s nightmare

Business Disruption – Moving or Refurbishing Offices is every MD’s nightmare

Should I Move or Refurbish My Current Office?

Tough question, right?

Moving to a new office entails a lot of stress. You need to find the right real estate agency to help you find the right property. Then you need to negotiate and decorate. Plus, should you keep some or all of your existing furniture? Should you buy everything new?

Refurbishing isn’t that easy, either. The main challenge is that you have to keep operations going, stay productive and minimise business disruption. All this while you also supervise a project that can take weeks or months.

Can you really find out what’s the best alternative on your own? Can you factor in all the business hours lost in both cases, along with the investment? And, more importantly, how do you know for sure that you’ve outgrown your current office space?

At Amos Beech, we have consulted dozens of companies that were ready to spend a lot because they thought they needed a bigger space. Our research and expertise revealed that all they needed was to get more out of their current one.

Yes, a skilled team of designers and office refurbishing experts can help you save a lot on office real estate by ‘simply’ re-arranging the furniture in your office.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you really need to move. The same team of expert designers and contractors can help you turn your new office into a space that every single employee loves.

A blog by Roy James:

Moving a business is not easy, there are so many things to think about, so much to do, along with minimising the disruption to your organisation, so its little wonder that moving or refurbishing offices is often low on the agenda until the last minute. That brings about its pressures as you realise too late that you may have to make a rushed decision.

Moving or refurbishing offices?

Refurbishing an existing office is almost harder. Although there is less to arrange, in one sense, there is the added complication of trying to maintain the services and revenue of your company yet expect it to bear with the disruption which potentially can run from weeks to months.

Edinburgh Park, Scotland’s premier business park

Even when you have made the decision of whether to move or refurbish, where do you start? Where did that decision come from? Was it rushed or an informed, logical decision based on robust consideration and challenged against the strategic growth plans of the company?

This is clearly outside your comfort zone. You want the best for your company – minimal disruption and continuity for your customer but along with it you need to deliver on company goals and maintain value to shareholders.

Let’s explore this scenario. Your lease is up for renewal - you obviously have two options - do you stay or do you move? And, as we all know, there are pros and cons to moving or refurbishing offices. The question is, how can I make an informed decision?

One way to do it

Who should you ask? Or is it my decision? Should I know what to do?

Yes, there are consultants out there that would advise and give well informed advice but it doesn’t end there. They are often from a big, even global company and before you know it you are in the maze of consultancy that is both expensive and protracted as you engage with just about every consultant under the sun.

Maxim Office Park Lanarkshire, between Glasgow and Edinburgh designed by Keppie Design

Don’t get me wrong, you will end up with first class advice but I have two arguments - it will be both expensive, and quite frankly, take months which as I started with, it is time you often don’t have.

But is there really another way?

Actually, there is, it’s based on trust and comes from a sector of the market you least expect.

Before I start, though, let’s talk about trust as it’s one of the most valuable and effective attributes in business. In scenarios such as this it’s pretty crucial. For this to work we need to engage with someone who is wanting to help you and trust is a two-way street.

This sector is quite unique, often labelled as office furniture suppliers or fit out companies but actually quite different.

And, yes, just like any other company, they are looking to create revenue and grow profits but you are talking to the right person one time here!

Okay, that sounds hackneyed and I apologise but it’s true, just please let me explain.

So, let’s briefly (if I can) expand this scenario out a little further.

Your lease is expiring and you need to make a decision on what to do. You realise this is not a decision you can make without being informed so you go to a reputable consultancy firm who, for a fee, help you evaluate the space you have, the growth plans of the company, the vision and strategic plan and come back with a suggestion of what they feel is what you need to do. But that’s it, they suggest for you to move, they have suggested how much space you need to achieve your growth plans and now… now what?

From here you are often now on a journey with this consultancy as they offer to find you space. They even offer to manage the whole project for you (what a relief!) and go down a merry passage of contracting interior designers, electrical engineers, mechanical and ventilation consultants, quantity surveyors and project managers as they create the perfect solution for you (oh and they take a cut of everything that happens).

Moving or refurbishing offices, is there another way?

But there’s just a few points they missed.

You are now pretty alienated from the process; all these consultants are designing something that they want to be proud of (and rightly so) but that tends to drift away from any budget you may have had. You end up with a Rolls Royce design and, although you have fallen in love with it, you just can’t really justify the expenditure, and more than this to get this far the process has cost you a lot of money!

So here you are with a project over-budget, with a re-look only going to cost more money and time and this is the point that if you hadn’t already been disillusioned by this whole process you are now.

I could go on. Say you even get on site, you have a consultancy pulling together different trades to realise the project, they have ever so cleverly gone to tender to get you the `best price’ but the disconnection carries on site. The electricians fit the floor boxes, the furniture company fit the desking, and, lo and behold, they weren’t communicating with each other during the final design and half of it doesn’t match up creating more delays and potential cost.

The other way

As I said, it’s a different approach and it’s a single, unified one to all of the above. These companies come in and work with CEO’s and MD’s to evaluate the needs of the business. They have no ulterior motive as to whether you move or stay, they aren’t looking for a cut on any third party consultancy, they just have a great understanding of what is important to business.

So you go through the same process of answering the questions about moving or refurbishing offices, but in a completely different way. Yes you will need to engage with a property agent to find a property but you are looking for one based on a decision made by someone who has no interest in property letting. Going on from that they are not just trying to provide a solution, they are working to a budget, have in-house capabilities that do not require expensive third party input and, most importantly, are keeping you engaged and close to the decision whilst co-ordinating all the different phases of the project.

Maxim Office Park between Glasgow and Edinburgh, state of the art architectural design

On site, being the client, connection is much closer, things happen so much quicker, changes you may need to make don’t need to through a long process, (and believe me it is long) it goes direct, costs a lot less and contractors are working to a common goal rather than just focusing on their own scope of works.

So where is the catch?

There is none, but as I said it’s based on trust. These companies invest a lot of time up-front helping companies make informed decisions and often it’s not until a lease is signed, when they have done months of work, that they get a return. For them it’s a worthwhile investment, for the client it is good value as they get what they need, when they need, with direct input whenever they like and a partner that is only interested in delivering something fit for purpose.

The hard bit is when corporate say `we need to go to tender’ as often they say that at the point when these companies have invested heavily in the project, especially as they don’t say that when they are using a paid consultancy as they know they are getting competitive comparative quotes from them . It feels good value but all you are actually getting is a protracted, expensive solution that can be scarily detached from the original CEO’s vision. Please everyone let us understand and embrace the speed of trust.

I know blogs are meant to be informative, unbiased (not long – please forgive me) and not `selling’ but sorry, I can’t say all this and not tell you where to go, I’m too obsessed, too passionate and believe in ourselves to this extent (and I’m only writing this as it was an in-house competition) but you need to talk to Amos Beech.

Contact me or one of my colleagues via:

This was a blog by Roy James

Amos Beech ran an internal blog competition. The above article, written by Roy James, won the category for being ‘website worthy’. Roy is the Operations Director (see video below) and he is known for being a man of few words. Consequentially, we were all very impressed with his 1300 word blog!  He has made his point very well.

Read another blog from the same competition from our sister company on their website: Incognito Underfloor Heating.

For more info about some of the fit out and refurbishment projects that we have done click on the button below:

A new office and furniture for Help Musicians Glasgow

A new office and furniture for Help Musicians Glasgow

“Good things come in small packages”

You don’t need to be doing a major refurbishment when you come to Amos Beech for advice. This was demonstrated earlier this year when Help Musicians UK approached us to provide interior design ideas and costs to refurbish a small office that they had taken a lease on in the Briggait, Glasgow.

A new office with new office furniture for Help Musicians at the Briggait in Glasgow

The Briggait, in Glasgow’s Merchant City was built in 1873 and was once the city’s fish market.  It now houses creative and cultural organisations including workspaces for artists, so the choice of location for the leading UK charity for musicians, seemed perfect.

The size of the unit was only 387.5 sq ft but the charity had a need to create an environment that offered desk space for their Scottish staff, as well as a hot desking area for visiting staff and a small breakout area.  Importantly, the office area had to reflect the branding of HMUK , in particular their logo and colour scheme.

The interior design team here at Amos Beech worked closely with HMUK’s London based Operations Officer and produced interior design schemes which included furniture layouts and colour suggestions for flooring and fabrics which kept in line with the brand guidelines. Also taken in to consideration was the need for AV facilities to allow for video conferencing.

The building itself being over 100 years old comes with high ceilings and beautiful tall windows. However, this feature challenged us in terms of acoustics and so we suggested ceiling hung acoustic panels again in the strong brand colours, which helps in some way to absorb sound.

What has been created is small and concise but really packs a punch and the just demonstrates that no matter how big or small your project is, the team here at Amos Beech can deliver.

For more projects click here:

Date of publication: October 24th 2018

Text: Lesley McKerral

Photography: Interior Photographer Glasgow

For other blogs see below:

42 new trees planted thanks to Scotland Food and Drink

42 new trees planted thanks to Scotland Food and Drink

Today we were lucky enough to join the board of Scotland Food And Drink for lunch in their newly fitted out offices at Ratho Park Edinburgh.

The Scottish food and drink industry has become the best performing industry in Scotland, worth today about £14 billion. No surprise to us as we were enjoying the great tasting sandwiches from Patti & Jules, a recent addition to Edinburgh's catering scene. Obviously our experiences with the Scottish delicatessens don’t stop there.

So you could say that Scotland Food and Drink and Amos Beech were natural partners for their move to their new offices. Chief Executive, James Withers described the tremendous difference the new office layout made to their office life. The open plan space with plenty of natural light has a positive influence on internal communication. Facilities like a spacious boardroom, meeting spaces, break out area’s and hot desking make the new offices suddenly attract employees that previously preferred to work from home. As well as that the space is now more in line with their culture and branding, so now a perfect place to invite and meet people as well.

Corporate social Responsibility

What we didn’t know was that the chair of Scotland Food and Drink, Dennis Overton, lives close to Glen Affric and he has been following the great work of Trees For Live since it’s inception.

As part of Amos Beech’s Corporate Social Responsibility we plant 13 trees per 1000 SqFt of refurbished office space. In the case of Scotland Food and Drink’s new offices that equates to 42 trees!

Operations director Roy James hands over the Trees for Life certificate to Dennis Overton, chairman of Scotland Food and Drink

This brings the number of trees in our grove up to a total of 244 and there is more to come!

You can plant trees yourself!

We encourage you to plant trees yourself. You can add trees to our grove via the link under the image below or you can start your own grove. Why not consider giving somebody a dedicated tree? Planting a tree is a special gift for any occasion. It's the perfect way to celebrate an event or remember a loved one.

When you order your Tree via Trees for Life, a native tree will be planted for you by Trees for Life in the Scottish Highlands, creating a home for wildlife and forests for the future as well as improving the quality of the air we breathe every day.

If you click on the image above you will get to The Amos Beech Trees For Life grove

If you click on the image above you will get to The Amos Beech Trees For Life grove

What Is Activity-Based Working?

What Is Activity-Based Working?

In simple terms, activity-based working or ABW, refers to providing employees with a location choice. This means that employees get to choose a location that is most suitable for them to work from. They do not have a designated workstation, but the workplace has several areas where they can do specific tasks like focusing, socialising, collaborating and learning.

Today’s workplace has been transformed by technologies like laptops and mobile phones. These have made workers more productive by freeing them from their desks. People can work from anywhere due to their ability to access information easily from the cloud.

Business models as we used to know them are also being disrupted today and new approaches geared towards making employees more flexible and productive are needed. Activity-based working is one of these business models that provide workers with options tailored to their needs.

The driving principle behind the activity-based workplace design is that offices should be flexible enough to adapt to the diverse tasks performed by employees. Traditionally, employees were assigned a single workstation. In the activity-based workplace, employees can move around depending on the task at hand. The flexibility is built into the company’s physical office through its culture, spaceplan, workspaces and furniture.

For example, an employee can start her morning with a brainstorming session at the coffee bar, then move to a conference room for a client meeting and then move to a more private workstation to make calls and work tasks that require extra focus.

ABW @ Orchard Newcstle

In this case, she has no fixed desk and can move around freely to the area that provides the best environment for the activity she is handling. All she needs is her mobile phone, a laptop, and a company network.

What exactly does activity-based working bring to the table for both the company and the employees? Let’s see!

6 Undeniable Benefits of Activity-Based Working

  • Improves Collaboration and Communication

In an ABW environment, employees from different departments can easily collaborate on tasks and projects. This increases productivity and output since they are no longer tied to a desk all day.

Team members can seamlessly move around the workspace. In turn, this leads to better communication, easy sharing of ideas and more. This is the perfect setting for innovative ideas to be born.

  • Attracts and Retains Good Talent

Adopting a dynamic workplace helps engage staff, stakeholders, and visitors. You can attract the best talent by providing them with something that others don’t – unparalleled flexibility and freedom. Existing employees are also likely to stay if their workspace meets all their needs both personally and professionally.

  • Boosts Concentration

An activity-based office has workspaces designed for specific tasks. These can include focus group areas, collaborative zones, and quiet places.

Such spaces allow employees to be alone when they need to and to sit comfortably with their colleagues when team work matters the most. Everyone works differently. Some thrive in large crowds, others need to be alone to get their best work done. This is what activity-based working is all about.

  • Increases Productivity

Traditional offices have been designed for desk work and meetings only. But an activity-based workspace will allow employees to choose how they work, when and where. This recognition of the difference that makes every employee important empowers them to be responsible for their work and decide where they want to work from and when.

  • Builds Trust

Employees get a sense of ownership, which makes them build trust in the organisation and vice versa. This ultimately leads to company and brand loyalty.

  • Boosts Flexibility and Sustainability

Letting your employees choose where and when they work can help them balance their personal and work lives, which, in turn, can improve their overall wellbeing.

Activity-based working is the sustainable way to grow. Since it’s better at using office space than the working styles, it will help you save a lot of money on real estate. Plus, it reduces the company’s carbon footprint through cutting down on energy and supplies in the office.

Activity-based working also gives you the flexibility to incorporate custom office furniture. Get an interior design expert to recommend the right furniture to support your new working environment.
 

Activity based workplace design at Orchard Newcastle

Before you dismiss it as “a new trend that will never catch on”, let us tell you that activity-based working has been around for some time now. And it’s not going anywhere.

A lot of research has been done on this topic. It all proves that it has unlimited benefits for employers and employees alike.

Of course, activity-based working is not without its challenges. They have also been exhaustively researched and documented. Read on to find out how to overcome them.

But first, let’s take a look at some of the most prominent studies.

Research on Activity-Based Working

In a survey of 400 multinational companies, two-thirds of them were open to implementing the shared desk workplace by the year 2020.

Before jumping to it, a lot of companies wanted to learn their employees’ take on the matter.

A recently published study tried to find out if 1000 Australian employees were okay with shared desk environments. Some of the challenges highlighted by the surveyed employees include distractions, increased distrust, negative relationships, uncooperative behavior, and a perceived distrust of supervisors in terms of support.

Another report on hot desking, which shares the activity-based workspace principle, identified challenges like indifference, marginalisation of employees, loss of identity, decreased commitment from organisations, and inattention to co-workers.

However, let’s take a look at the broader picture.

The activity-based workspace design provides different work settings for various activities like private work, meetings, collaborations, creativity, and concentration. The employees are, therefore, expected to make switches between the settings when necessary.

When asked how they feel about a new concept, most people shy away at first. This is why it’s important to test out an office setting before committing to it. Or, better yet, to make the change gradually.

Companies like Facebook and Google are at the forefront of innovation in this field. They adopted activity-based working “before it was cool” and never looked back.

Why?

Well, the reasons are numerous.

To begin with, in hot desking, employees share desks or find one when they need it. This caters well especially to employees who work outside the office often. Another plus side of using hot desking is that there are hot-desking apps available to help in the booking of space before arriving at the office.

In today's smart offices, hot desking applications such as the app marketed by iOt Space now enables employees to choose and book their desks in advance. This app helps avoid the confusion that could arise in case two people want to sit at the same desk. The apps help one find an available desk and they also navigate you to the desk with no delay, especially if you are visiting the office from out of town.

Office layout showing workspace occupancy

This way, some of the challenges that the studies above found are simply non-existent.

Positive research, however, has shown that employees who have self-contained work processes and who view themselves as independent and mobile thrive in activity-based work environments. They can therefore easily choose a workstation based on their preferences or needs. Another positive is that they can avoid social interaction when they need a quiet space to work from.

Its supporters say that the main reason companies implement activity-based working environments is to attract and retain talent. They also wish to take care of their employees’ sustainability and wellbeing while increasing innovation and collaboration.

Based on the various research findings discussed above, we can conclude that there is no one size fits all solution. ABW and hot desking will increase collaboration, efficiency, and communication but it will come with its own challenges.  

Of course, any challenge can be surmounted. Since every company is unique and has unique needs, you shouldn’t necessarily base your decision on research done on other companies.

You can use such reports as a way to get started. Afterwards, you should consider your own circumstances.

Factors You Should Consider Before Implement Activity Based Working

Think about it this way: the way people work changes throughout their life. It’s only natural that they can accommodate (and even expect) an evolution of their working environment.

During the school years, everyone knew a certain space was dedicated for a certain activity. There was no in-between. For example, the music room for music, the gym for sports and the laboratory for science.

When they got into a university, they had the choice to either get the group work done under a tree, at the café, or in the library. A traditional workspace may therefore not work for them. Organisations have no choice but to embrace these new ways of working if they want to retain and attract new talent.

Before making the change, however, employers have to consider some important factors including:

  • What Are the Reasons for the Change?

Why do you want to implement activity-based working? Are you doing it because everyone else is? Do you feel like your peeps could benefit from more interaction?

Activity-based working encourages collaboration and therefore your business can easily pull a team from different departments in your organization to work on a project if everyone is mobile. Employees are different, and this difference is what makes activity-based working a good model.

Those who require isolation can work at their own stations while those who thrive in a noisy work environment can also do their thing. It encourages responsibility. More importantly, employees are treated as adults who can choose an environment that makes them productive.

Before making the decision, consider your employees. Ask them how they feel about it.

  • Make Sure Your C-Suite Supports the Move

If they do, then they will offer you support and advocate for the chance by leading by example. Otherwise, everything may be doomed from the start.

If your employees see that C-level execs never step foot in the common workspace, they will feel discriminated and treated as less important.

Of course, we all know that C-level execs need privacy. But they also need to be among their team every once in a while, don’t they?

  • Choose the Best Model for Your Team

As previously mentioned, there is no one size fits all when it comes to designing your office. Do a thorough research on the different models available and then choose one that suits your organisation’s needs. Obiously you can ask the workplace consultants here at Amos Beech for help.

  • Take Change Management Seriously

As you invest in this move, make sure your employees are educated on why the move is necessary, the benefits of the move, what will be changing, and why this particular model has been chosen. Use an effective communication plan that will involve different mediums and engage employees at all the levels of the organization.

  • Test Drive before Purchasing

Test whether the change will be effective using a pilot workspace. This is an effective change tool because, from it, you can tell whether the move will benefit the company or not.

The pilot will also be a learning phase that will help you tailor a suitable working model as per your needs. Plus, it will help the employees warm up to the new way of doing things and how it will eventually affect them.

  • Don’t Be Discouraged by Negativity

Change is hard and some of your employees will not be thrilled by it. Learn from them but do not let them bring you down.

  • Recruit the Right People and Rid the Company of Paper

Activity-based working can enable you to manage all your records electronically. This will reduce your carbon footprint and turn you into a more desirable employer and business partner for your clients.

Also, make sure you recruit leaders with skills and expertise in activity-based working so they can help other employees easily adapt to the new move. Safeguard your investment by choosing the right people to handle it.

Final Thoughts

According to a case study by UK’s HR Magazine on Atlas Copco’s introduction of activity-based working at their UK office, the exercise proved to be successful.

The company implemented a cockpit for individuals needing privacy, a larger cabin that allowed for small groups to work together, and an open space furnished with multiple desks. This gave them a digital workspace that can be reconfigured whenever the needs of an employee change. The employees are now more connected and engaged since their working conditions have changed for the better.

Activity-based working benefits may not be felt immediately, but they are broader and long-term. And if they are properly executed, they can foster the wellness of the employees by improving their mental, physical, and social wellbeing.

Got 4 minutes?

Go and watch a really great video! Veldhoen + Company have created a great animation about what Activity Based Working is and what it isn't:

Most important takeaway:

"Whats really needed is a workplace tailored to the actual needs of people.”

A bigger forest and more wildlife thanks to Axon Cable!

A bigger forest and more wildlife thanks to Axon Cable!

Axon Cable had their offices refurbished and re-furnished. Their 6146 Sq Ft office space now equates to 80 new trees to be planted in the Caledonian forest!

80 new trees to be planted in the Caledonian forest

Axon Cable has been committed to meeting environmental challenges for a number years now. Just like Amos Beech, Axon complies to ISO 14001, a standard to help organisations create an effective Environmental Management System (EMS), to benchmark the environmental performance (energy use, recycling rate and waste created). Axon also already complies to the new ISO 45001 Health and Safety standard which is set to replace OHSAS 18001, the standard that Amos Beech currently complies to.

In 2017, Axon recycled the equivalent of 43 tons of steel. By enhancing the value of 27 tons of cartons in 2017, Axon' saved 460 trees.
The company also invested in a machine which transforms cartons into material for packaging.

Now by using Amos Beech as their interior design and office fit out company they haven’t saved trees but actually planted 80 of them!

Patricia Weir holding the certificate

To see their new interiors, click on the image below:

But more importantly, you can plan trees yourself!

For only £6 per tree you can contribute to the new forest which will be a home for wildlife and an adsorbent of CO2 as well.

Every tree helps so go for it: