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Working in 2019: quiet, playful ergonomics and green

30 October 2018

Acoustics, ergonomics and green are key ingredients in the ‘New World of Work’, but how do you incorporate these into your office environment? Siska Dhondt, interior architect at Intra Interieur, specialises in office design and supports companies with ‘The New World of Work’. At Interieur Kortrijk, she explained how she convinces clients of the importance of ergonomics, ‘We give them height-adjustable desks in an attempt to convince them that they really work and can be fun too.’

office design 2019

‘Of course I also listen to clients’ needs and expectations, but I have to challenge them a little as well,’ explains Siska. ‘The more traditional company is often much less flexible or needs to put everything before a management committee. It needs to keep to more agreements and works in a much more “serious” fashion. The CEO often wants his or her own office with a view over the company’s employees so they can be “monitored” to make sure they’re doing a good job.’

Siska Dhondt
Siska Dhondt

Landscape offices 2019

‘Landscape offices are still on the rise, but they’re not perfect: ‘A room in which you can use the phone in peace, a focus room for tasks that demand concentration. The large, chilly landscape offices are also disappearing. To maintain the sense of openness, offices are increasingly using glass separating walls to separate things into smaller units, often by team. You can still see one another, the connectedness and solidarity are still there, but working is that bit calmer.’ Siska also examines what certain roles needs, ‘Sales workers need to move around and they prefer to have lots of different types of space in which they can work more flexibly.’

We also create quiet landscape offices, that way you can divide the room up into an “active” area and a “quiet” area with less noise and no phones.

The co-working space at Intra Interieur has a dual function, a meeting area doubles up as a material library, while the kitchen is both a reception and an information meeting room. Source:

Acoustic values

Interior architects also consider other social trends. The World Heath Organization has recently published a report examining the health hazards of noise pollution. ‘We’re doing all we can to take into account acoustics by using ceilings with acoustic values or suggesting partitions and cladding. If you don’t pay attention to noise, you may find that a few months down the line, employees have their headphones in.’

office design 2019
Panels and partitions can help to improve the acoustic values of a space considerably. Source:

Trying out the ergonomics

You need to think as much about your employees’ backs as their ears. Siska continues, ‘We try to convince people to invest in office chairs that can be adjusted or in height-adjustable desks. We have them try things out to see what they think about them.’ Recreational options like table tennis and pool tables or outdoor space are also a form of ergonomics, ‘You can walk around and get some fresh air, otherwise you spend all your time in climate-controlled rooms.’

office design 2019
In Intra Interieur’s meeting room, the board table can be converted into a table tennis table.

Calm and focus with green

The benefits of plants in office spaces need little explanation. As human beings, we look for a link to nature, and green makes us calmer and helps us to focus. But how green does your office need to be? ‘What you do needs to be achievable. Plants and their care cost money. Consider vertical walls with a drip system. Who will care for the plants? In smaller offices, you can do it yourself, but in large offices, the cost is far higher. If you opt for plants, you need to start by thinking about where you will put them and what types of pot you are going to use. The base on which you place the plants is also important, that no marks are left and that you can clean easily.’

office design 2019
At Second Home, a co-working space in Lisbon, colleagues can play hide-and-seek between the plants. Source:

Being creative with space

As an interior architect, how do you respond to limited expansion options and growing staff numbers? Siska has a few solutions. ‘You can give spaces a dual function, such as a meeting room that also services as a virtual reality room or a mobile wall that doubles up as a projection screen. You need to be as efficient as possible with all of the space that you have.’ At the start of every project, future plans need to be taken into account. ‘Will there be any expansion? Where will things be after however many years? How many people is the company going to hire? Otherwise, you find yourself designing a great-looking office which, after six months, ends up being too small.’

office design 2019
When technology company Teamleader wanted to expand its offices, Intra Interieur faced a number of challenges, including existing lighting points. The result? An unusual lighting plan that runs through the different spaces like a polygon. Source:

‘When we look at the structure, we consider a three-year change cycle. We opt for system walls instead of gyproc walls as they emit less dust when they’re dismantled. Ceiling tiles might not look as nice, but they offer much more flexibility when pulling open rooms.’