Why Workspaces Need that Human Touch

Christopher Brooks of GARDE Co., Ltd. shares his insights into creating spaces that make people want to come to work

When MetLife Japan appointed GARDE Co., Ltd. Japan to work on their Japan workspaces, they had an unusual request. They asked GARDE to merge seven different offices under two roofs, and to help unify their corporate culture and work environments. It was a task GARDE was uniquely set up to undertake. With its spread of services covering interior design, branding and project coordination at every level, and offices across Asia, Europe and the US, the studio can clearly see the big picture.

It’s a talent that came through in the two offices GARDE created for MetLife. Wellness spaces, innovation rooms, cafes and ‘Neighbourhoods’ all indicate that which is of paramount importance to MetLife: its people. With such a human-centric approach to design, it comes as no surprise that GARDE has worked on headquarters for the likes of adidas, Bandai Namco Studios, and Kojima Productions. It also makes sense that the MetLife projects got the nod at Herman Miller Asia’s Liveable Office Award 2017-2018. The GARDE team were second runners up in the Commercial Business – Workspace Design award category.

Here, Christopher Brooks, executive officer and design director at GARDE, talks about the workspace of the future, and why the human touch matters.

Why is it important to create people-oriented workplaces?

A company’s most valuable asset are its people. And in order to maximise efficiency and productivity, we must create an environment that allows people to connect, share and create/produce, and the results will be something greater than the sum of the parts.

What effect does this approach have on the work environment, and on productivity?

Each person is different; each of us is stimulated and inspired by different things or respond to different conditions. This affects how we design the work environment in that it must be multi-functional, multi-dimensional, and cater to a wide spectrum of people with different backgrounds, education and cultures.

How do you use design to unify different corporate cultures under one roof? What are some methods you have used in the past?

In trying to connect different corporate cultures, you have to search for commonality and then develop that into an over-arching concept for the design. In some cases, taking a more neutral approach can also be very successful, especially if you are dealing with creative cultures that require their own expression.

What do you find most challenging about designing around people?

The most challenging aspect of designing around people is that the workplace has become increasingly more diverse across different generations, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. The workplace must become increasingly more accommodating of diversity and therefore our design approach must take on a more inclusive approach towards the users.

Is it difficult to persuade clients to take this approach? Do you think a shift is underway here?

I think clients will have no choice but to quickly come to this realisation as the majority of talented people begin to migrate towards more innovative offices. This has been the case recently, and we are seeing major changes in how the clients define the requirements for their projects.

Christopher Brooks, executive officer and design director from GARDE Co., Ltd.

The biannual Herman Miller Liveable Office Award raises awareness of the importance of good workspace design as a tool for companies to achieve their organisational goals. The award recognises and rewards designers and organisations for creating innovative, agile workspaces that support the people working in them.