Interior designer Boris Bandyopadhyay on the office of the future, the positive effect of colorful walls and climbing keeps employees motivated.
The Westend district of Frankfurt is where Boris Bandyopadhyay lives and works. The designer’s office is simple, with sketches and photos of completed projects hanging on the walls. Bandyopadhyay even developed the chair he offers the reporter: The backrest is stable, but the seat is flexible. That way, the spine also stays active, Bandyopadhyay says. An indication of what the following conversation will be about: a different, more humane way of working in the offices of the future.
Sir. Bandyopadhyay, what does the office of the future look like?
It is an office that appeals to all sensory levels, working with colors, materials and surfaces and thus appealing not only to human cognitive abilities but also to their physical. For me, the office of the future is a place where I can work standing or in situations of my choice. I find it fascinating not to have to sit further down and perform my work of physical movement in space – almost like dancing.
So far, it has often been quite monotonous: white desk, white wall, screen, keyboard.
Colors, materials and surfaces appeal to our emotions and bring us into a special mood. Everyone knows that. I want to create diversity. Of course, you can also work in a white room with the classic office furniture, but variety is what makes it exciting. I imagine offices in the future in the way that we go from one room to another and really get into a different visual environment. Colors play a big role here.
“In my opinion, working from home is part of the corporate culture. This means that the company must think about how the employees can use their apartment as a home office. ”
Office of the future: Lots of colors and a little forest
Colors reminiscent of nature, that is, earth tones, green, but also blue, yellow, orange, and red tones, have a direct effect on the body. As you enter the woods, your heart rate drops a few beats. If you enter a room that is predominantly red, your heart rate will increase. The exciting thing is to know how to use the colors: For example, you work with relaxing colors for a quiet space. Natural elements also play a big role: Through urbanization, we lose contact with nature. It is therefore important to integrate references to nature in everyday office life. Natural materials and interior elements reminiscent of nature, such as the colors mentioned, but also sounds from wind and water, animal sounds and natural scents or images of nature and their abstractions create a reference to nature and help increase the ability to concentrate and regenerate in stressful situations and have a motivating effect that inspires and supports people’s ability to relax. It is important that these elements do not appear intrusive, but are used individually adapted to the respective work and space situation.
But sensory impressions and emotions are very subjective. What I find relaxing can be pure stress for my colleague.
How do you find a balance?
One approach is co-determination, ie the employees’ ability to decide more about when, how and where they want to work. The office must come from the people. Currently, the office is seen as the place where the work is performed. Starting with people, however, means bringing out what people really want and what moves them. Of course, we can not turn employees into office planners, but we can confront them with ideas, materials and surfaces and concretely find out what appeals, motivates and inspires them.
Boris Bandyopadhyay gets up while still talking. He pulls a small, green mat out of a cupboard on the other side of his study and places it on the table.
What is it?
This is natural moss, real moss from Iceland. This is preserved without chemical additives and is often used as a wall element in offices. Not only does it have a calming effect on many people – especially when you touch it – but it also absorbs sound very well. To return to your question: We involve the workers in the idea process from the very beginning, and not only with studies, but also with the help of concrete tangible original samples of colors, materials and surfaces as well as clearly visualized planning variants. And we must do this more and more to understand the employees’ ideas and requirements and at the same time increase the acceptance of new work environments.
For many managers, it is certainly a change if employees are to have an impact on the layout of the office.
Boris Bandyopadhyay designs offices for start-ups, tech companies and innovation networks. The German-Indian interior designer studied at the Cologne International School of Design before starting the design studio Atlante with friends. In 2011, Bandyopadhyay founded his own studio. He lives and works in Berlin and Frankfurt. FR
Absolutely, but the question is: Why should we do this? The reason is that in the knowledge society, people make a greater contribution to value creation in the company than before. Focus shifts from technologies to employees. Companies are no longer characterized by technology, but by their employees. With the cell phone, the office initially moved out of the office, then Corona exacerbated the situation because we also began to think of our home as an office. These are major challenges for the employees, and therefore the office must now also focus on people.
You showed the moss. Are there other things you can do to make the office more humane?
For example with Bark Cloth, which is bark from an African tree. Attached to the wall, this bark not only has an acoustic quality, but also has a light cedar scent. So you can also bring an odor level into the office without, of course, flooding the entire room. There are wallpapers made from natural materials such as hay. These wallpapers also smell of hay and look smart. Such materials directly bring a completely different level of association into the office and create opportunities for communication.
Home office: The office comes home
Communication is more important than ever, keyword video conferencing.
It is correct. So far, we have often only seen colleagues working remotely as stamps on the screen. To change that, you can create spaces where the mobile workers are brought into an environment reminiscent of a campfire, for example, via body-sized screens. This means: The employees in the office sit in a circle, and where remote employees are connected, there are screens in portrait format instead of chairs, on which you can see your colleagues in life size. If the camera and acoustics are good, it creates a sense of closeness. But you really have to have special communication spaces for that, you can’t do that at your desk.
And in the home office?
Basically, the home office has grown wild. Hardly anyone took the time to think about it: How do I set up my home office? How is the apartment decorated? What kind of work am I doing here? But that is exactly what is important now. I’ve always had the idea of a theater.
What does it mean?
That you make different scenarios at home that suit the different activities. When I call without looking at the screen, I look for a place with a view of nature and go to the window. A corner in the hallway can be particularly suitable for undisturbed work.
Participation in office work
The line between work and leisure is blurred. It is also a problem.
It’s a problem. Therefore, we can not delegate the home office to the employees. In my opinion, the home office is part of the corporate culture. This means that the company must think about how the employees could use their apartment as a home office. So know-how about flexible interior design or lighting design must be gathered in the company, and the employees must have the opportunity to get advice there. Of course, it goes beyond the limit when the company is talking about something that is private. You have to be very careful – and see it as an offer to the employees.
Back to the office. It’s not just about the workplaces there, but also about the paths in between.
So far, the workflow has often also been a guideline for division of jobs and office planning: Teams working together sit close together. This is based on the idea of efficiency and it is correct. But if we integrate an element of movement into planning, then that changes: We want employees to be active, get up, and move. It is about creating new areas of movement – on the one hand in the normal work process, eg by teams not sitting together, and on the other hand through conscious movement offers, eg two or three handles on a wall that employees can climb. You will find that as soon as you hang on the wall, your mind withdraws a little and you have a completely different feeling for your body. But new technologies can also encourage movement in the office in a playful way, for example with augmented reality glasses that allow you to navigate through a virtual space while standing. Your whole body follows and you do not even notice that you are moving.
You suggested that this contradicts the employer’s idea of efficiency.
People are the key to success in the office of the future. It’s about how they feel in the work environment. And the better the experience, the better they work, the more loyal they are. But it’s also about hard facts: If employees are less ill, then companies save money.
Interview: Steffen Herrmann