Playroom That Gives Staff a Kick at Work; How Bosses Plan Offices to Woo Highfliers

Article excerpt

Byline: ALISON COLEMAN

DOES your office inspire you or make you feel ill?

One way or another, the places where we work can have a big influence on our careers and personal lives.

Colin Grange, clinical director of Ceridian Performance Partners, which describes itself as a work and life consultancy, says: 'It depends very much on individuals how their workplace affects them.

'Some people need to establish their own space at work and find difficulty with the idea of ''hot-desking'', where you sit at a different work station every day. Others are happier in an open-plan environment and can feel isolated and restricted by conventional office desk layout.' Employers are increasingly conscious of how a work environment and office layout can reflect the culture of an organisation.

Simon Jackson, a partner with London architecture and design firm Gensler, says: 'Work environment is high on the list of considerations for job candidates. Law firms, for example, are extremely competitive in recruiting the top people and some of our clients in that sector are spending a lot of money fitting out their offices to attract the best graduates.' Many traditional firms are moving away from conventional office design to a less formal open-plan layout, which can radically affect the way people work. Some modern designs incorporate recreational areas, complete with basketball hoops and table football, and 'breakout' space - a place where staff can meet, chat and relax.

Jackson says: 'The idea is that you have an area in the building where people from different departments, who might not normally meet during the day, can get together for a chat.

They may exchange ideas and come up with new ones as a result.

'It is an opportunity to increase productivity. A feeling of wellbeing that comes from being comfortable at work must have an effect on how efficiently people do their jobs.' Offices can literally make workers ill. Sick Building Syndrome has been a recognised menace for many years.

Symptoms can include tiredness, sore throat, headaches and generally feeling unwell.

Steve Klek, environmental manager of Staffordshire firm Shutlers, which investigates and 'cures' sick buildings, says the problem is not confined to old buildings. 'Recent buildings, too, often have problems with ventilation or air conditioning that can produce physical symptoms,' he says.

'But there are psychological aspects as well. For example, when people can't control the temperature or air conditioning in the office where they work, they feel they have no control over their environment as a whole.' ONE solution is to bring in the feng shui expert. More firms are turning to this ancient Chinese art to establish balance and harmony in the workplace.

Not all types of business want the same effects, according to Mary Young of London consultancy Feng Shui By Design. …