by Pallavi Shrivastava
Emerging Workplace Trends in India
Globalization has changed several facets of our everyday living. In responding to a widening set of opportunities and challenges that rise with this transformation, our nature of our work and workplaces have also needed to evolve. To better address the needs of a more sophisticated and demanding work force and the changing nature of work itself through this metamorphosis, corporations continue to refine their strategies to enhance and add value to workplaces. In doing so, corporations have to continuously undertake strategies that enhance their corporate real estate portfolio. Design principles which incorporate growing concerns related to sustainability, ergonomics, flexibility, the mood and loyalty disposition of employees to their employers, are certainly of interest to the contemporary businessmen and should also be to the designers who serve them. By incorporating changes that flow through into the work environment, business leaders can leverage on human capital which remains at the core of all the issues surrounding workplace solutions.
Looking at workplace evolution in India specifically, the changes that have taken place in last ten years have been enormous in scale and significant in impact. The shift towards effective global standards in design and the focus on efficient space allocation, planning, techniques and strategies, human factors (HR issues), ergonomics and most importantly, emphasis on overall quality driven end-results have been ascending in importance steadily. This coupled with dynamically evolving demographics of our work force and nature of work we must all undertake, necessitates that our workplace design integrates these factors smoothly.
Sustainability is another aspect of workplace design that has become a cornerstone of many built environment projects. Environmentally responsible products specification, efficient use of energy resources, source reduction and recycling has been motivating factors in making projects more nature friendly and sustainable.
Hindustan Unilever campus received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from USGBC under the ‘New Construction’ category. HUL campus is the only building campus to have received ‘Gold’ rating in Mumbai in the year 2011. So far, only 11 buildings in total have received LEED ratings under this category since the starting of this certification program in 2002 in India. The certification is a recognition of holistic environmental efforts that were sought right from the inception of the project and followed through concept, planning, implementation and commissioning of systems (a fundamental step towards LEED certification).
Strategies like open and natural daylighting have been effectively incorporated for efficient energy use. The campus houses resplendent and lavish green cover from about 800 trees. This significantly improves indoor environmental quality as it mitigates dust and particles quite adequately and accounts for healthier indoor environment for its inhabitants. It may not exhibit any direct impact but healthier indoor environmental quality can help reduce employee sick days, amounting to improved productive benefits.
The HUL Campus has been designed on the best ‘sustainability’ standards and practices for workplaces and it truly embodies HUL commitment to holistic and sustainable development as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
Why Design Matters
When there are several factors and dynamic forces at play, it is a challenge for designers of built spaces to come up with solutions that are visionary and in best interest of clients and the actual users of the spaces being created. Ultimately, we do spend a significant amount of time indoors and at our workplaces. To make work enjoyable and healthy it is our modern imperative as designers to carefully craft spaces that are enduring and lasting in effectiveness of both tangibles (durability) as well as intangibles (do not date quickly and avoid ‘trendy’ fashions or ‘fads’). As Paul Goldberger puts forward in his book, Why Architecture Matters, “ Architectural intent is not merely a matter of decoration, though it can be; it can emerge from the conscious crafting of space, the deliberate shaping of form, or the juxtaposition of well-considered materials. Architecture is largely defined by intention.” And this is going to be our cue in moving ahead as built environment professionals, a sensitive approach with careful crafting and enduring outcomes as aspirations.
Global is the New Local
Looking at the contemporary thinking which is emerging in workplace design and more specifically viewing it more holistically, we seem to be moving towards a greater global homogeneity of spaces (what’s in Manhattan may also be found in Mumbai). This has very much to do with designers and architects applying global design knowledge and influences that are more or less similar in nature.
Technology is being more and more uniformly available to work force world over. And this in return influences solutions which are more and more alike. So an office in New York, Singapore or Mumbai may look very similar. Sometimes it seems that you would hardly know where you are geographically unless you step out and feel the weather, smell the air or take the subtle cues like work force composition with respect to ethnicity. This phenomenon is very aptly observed by Paul Goldberger’s book when he states: “This is not the place to delve fully into the homogenization of culture. But it is impossible to think about the meaning of architecture in our time without this fact, for its impact on architecture is tremendous. In an age in which American architects design skyscrapers for Singapore and Shanghai, when Swiss architects design museums in San Francisco and Stadiums in Beijing, when McDonald’s restaurants are to be found in Tokyo and Paris, when expressways create a similar automobile landscape almost everywhere, and an age in which suburban sprawl has made the outskirts of London look not so different from the outskirts of Dallas- is the very concept of sense of place now a frivolous luxury?”
And we can apply the same logic in our workplace environment too. We as design professionals, will have to actively engage ourselves to find out if homogenization in built environment will benefit our human capital of the future. Diversity, which is at the core of our human existence and upon which we depend and thrive, provides our human capital, its interest, focus, personality and delight. It helps us to keep happy.
In creating similar built environment, is there a need to look more carefully and closely at uniformity as a lurking challenge? Is there a need to strike a fine balance between advancements and still playing by the strength of local diversity to benefit human ecology? Let’s simply ask ourselves – will being interested, healthy and happy help us to be more productive?