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WELL interior design standards in Dubai and Abu Dhabi: Shifting Office Fundamentals in 2017

In recent years we have seen an increase in innovative offices spanning across the globe. Trends began with implementing in-house company gyms, bike storage to encourage a more environmentally friendly and fitness-orientated lifestyle, as well as colourful conference rooms and canteen menu’s designed by leading nutritionists. From these subtle changes have emerged studies documenting the positive effects office design has on business performance. In 2015 Robertson Cooper studied 7,600 employees from 16 countries and found that office design is affected by both the “presence (or absence) of natural light, decorative plants, windows, and a private desk space.” Without just one of these elements, the employees experience a negative effect, which is both detrimental to business performance and mental health. In response to this shift, the WELL Building Standard™ was created. WELL interior design focuses on seven elements they believe are imperative for a positive workplace: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. These standards reflect the evolving office which parallel’s the evolving demographic. Millennial’s now dominate the work stratosphere in the world’s professional cities.  Nowhere is this more evident than in Dubai, where 80% of the professional population is made up of people under 45 years of age. With the freelance business booming, it is vital that employers adopt these modern improvements to attract this socially conscious and forward-thinking group of employees. Millennial’s will continue to influence change in office innovation in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They desire a career that provides a sense of purpose and contributes to the greater good – office design in Dubai must reflect these goals. 2017 is set to be a pioneering year in conscious office design in the UAE. Here are some of the trends that can boost positivity and business performance: THE OFFICE DESK Jeff Pochepan, the president of leading office design company Strong Project states, “Adjustable height desks, treadmill workstations, data-integrated personal tables, and "wireless" desks are swiftly dominating modern commercial workplaces for one simple reason: they adapt to the employee's needs, they don't require the employee to adapt to it”. COLLABORATIVE FURNITURE Collaborative furniture encourages conversation and collaboration, which in turn fuels ideas and creativity. These pieces are shaped to bring people together. Whether it’s bench seating, or inward facing sofa’s, collaborative furniture facilitates interconnectedness within the team. NATURE Studies show that psychological health can be improved through the mere presence of “nature”. Spaces that have natural light, potted plants to circulate oxygen and engage workers in gardening practices – these are two ways to bring nature to your workplace and interior design in Dubai. Dr. Chris Knight from Exeter University and his team traveled around the world experimenting with different methods in order to discover how to boost office morale. One of their most exciting findings included emptying offices completely, and then introducing plants. “When plants were brought into the offices –employee performance on memory retention and other basic tests improved substantially.” FITNESS We are all aware of how important physical fitness is for our overall health and happiness, but the nature of the office can be sedentary and mentally exhausting. Incorporating exercise into the work place is a sure fire way to keep your employees happy and energetic. The leading office interior design team, Xworks, is the first company in Dubai to receive Gold WELL accreditation. Kaj Helstrand, the Managing director of Xworks, developed a clever way to get their employees moving: “To achieve the Fitness standard, we will be giving all employees a band to track how many steps they take during the day, as part of an internal competition,” They stress movement within their office, and have set it up to encourage people to walk from one station to another. This in turn promotes collaboration. THE CONCLUSION Embracing a more “homey” feel in the office is now proven to increase productivity, which can only mean success for your business. Implementing these factors into interior design is the way forward in 2017. Blend the professional with the residential and you will achieve positive results. Xworks CEO, Soren Kraen, emphasizes, “As workplace design trends in the region begin to move beyond the purely functional, the line between the residential and commercial spaces is becoming blurred. The overarching theme is humanising the workplace.”

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