A glimpse on the evolution of offices in the UAE

A glimpse on the evolution of offices in the UAEImage Credit: Supplied

Office decor has come a long way from a time when computers were heavier than the workload. Employees would previously labour in a monotonous nine-to-five shift, only to maintain a basic level of productivity and below basic level of innovation. Previously, even something as simple as wearing a tie with polka-dots instead of stripes could brand its wearer with titles ranging from crazy to unprofessional. But after renowned companies such as Google and Twitter began flaunting offices with twisting slides and ball pits, regular companies decided it was time for an upgrade. This was followed by a stunning makeover. Offices the world over began introducing quirky features including indoor lawns at TBWA Hakuhodo, Japan and vibrant thinking pods that brighten up offices at the BBC, United Kingdom.

Offices, once a place of nightmares are now evolving into dreams - the very ones our childhoods were made of.

A definite transformation

Conventional offices are the residue of military practices from the 1940s. Terms such as Chief Executive Officer are reflective of army jargon, while employees scuttle around in uniforms or business suits, as they are now called. As the corporate world is progressing into the future, antiquated traditions are being abandoned. Numerous surveys explain the importance of atmosphere in an office, and how it is conducive to overall productivity. Keeping this in mind, companies all over the globe have undertaken the decision to give their offices a drastic makeover.

''In a recently commissioned YouGov survey, we found that companies in the GCC are losing on an average $70,000 (about Dh257,131) per year due to poorly designed workplaces and old equipment. Breaking down the barriers of the traditional modular space allows for information sharing and a dynamic environment.

The International Design Exhibition (Index) is the only platform in the Middle East where you can source the latest trends and commercial interior design products to create such an office'', says Frederique Maurell, Group Event Director, Index.

All one has to do is sneak a peek under Dubai's corporate veil to discover its hidden wonders. The most some offices here can boast of is a high-power espresso machine. Like hamsters in a cage, employees are funnelled into insipid cubicles with just a computer and generic swivel chair. And then there are workspaces such as the Impact Hub, Make Business Hub and North SS that breach the norms and have fun while doing it. Some of these spaces are open to whoever needs a creative rush with their espresso.

Impact Hub

Part innovation lab, part business incubator, part community centre, Impact Hub offers its members a unique ecosystem of resources and collaboration opportunities.

Aman Merchant, CEO and co-founder of Impact Hub elaborates, ''As a startup the majority of your day is spent building the business, so recreation is generally also a time for networking. We organise a Hub lunch every Thesday to help our Hubsters interact and identify projects they can collaborate on. As might be expected in a creative environment, our Hubsters have in the past started impromptu activities such as inter-Hub basketball matches and a magic show!''

Impact Hub, located in Downtown Dubai, rents work spaces to companies looking for offices that double as a playground. Some attractive features of their cabins are glass walls that can be scribbled on, roller couches that can be adjusted into imaginative shapes for either group or singular meetings and a room populated with bean bags where Ted Talks are usually screened every Thursday night. Impact Hub's spacious courtyard also offers a great view of the Burj Khalifa.

Leo Burnett

This international advertising agency believes ''It's not only the work that defines a creative company, but also the people.'' Staying true to this notion, Leo Burnett's workspace is as awesome as the content it produces.

Every aspect from recreational rooms to its own café lends itself to creative thinking. The building and its offices, situated in Dubai Media City, have been designed to inspire people, and subsequently their ideas.

Taking a stroll through Leo Burnett's office is like walking yourself through a story. The graphic illustrations on the walls narrate gripping tales of adventure. The space comes equipped with a stimulating gym and game room.

North 55

North 55 is an independent design consultancy, focusing on branding, print and web design, and has called Dubai home since 1999.

Craig Falconer, Creative Partner says, ''We needed a practical office, but also wanted a space that was inspirational for our team and fun for our clients. The space was designed to be relaxed and informal, with hidden elements of practicality.''

Each member of staff at North 55 has their own pod hanging from the ceiling above their work space. Even the lighting is quirky. The walls of the office are blanketed in either bricks, graffiti or shag pile carpeting.

Make Business Hub

Make Business Hub is the perfect combination of an organic office and gourmet restaurant that has been beating in the heart of Dubai Marina for the past two years.

Tai Sariban, Manager, Make Business Hub, says, '''What we have here is a cool space. We have numerous recurring visitors, some of them being the local Facebook and Pepsi crew. We're the proud wearers of two black hats that have been awarded to us by What's On. We have also been shortlisted by TimeOut Dubai.''

Make Business Hub is a spacious loft, displaying vintage furniture and modern design. It offers packages comprising food and beverages with a side of Wi-Fi. It also has innovative transparent meeting pods with televisions for presentations or Skype conversations.

With workspaces like these becoming the future of offices, salaries won't be the primary reason people drive themselves to work. And the best part is those Sunday morning blues might become a thing of the past.

The age of wireless

According to statistics, people spend 10.3 solid years of their lives glued to the office desk. No amount of coffee breaks or lunch hours will change this figure. Although, what might change this figure is remodeling the dynamics of working hours. The solution to modernising offices seems to be deleting offices from the equation itself. In a world where technology is replacing practically everything. Aruba Networks and The Future Laboratory have spotted an opportunity. Everything, from the internet to telephone calls have become wireless, now offices will be too.

The concept of offices are becoming increasingly elastic. The possibility of them being completely redefined is imminent. Aruba Networks, in collaboration with The Future Laboratory, are taking their first steps in the direction of this imminent future. Both these companies aim to analyse the present and design a new future. Trends, consumer insight and brand innovation are their ammunition.

A new bandwagon

Introducing #GenMobile, a combination of everyone's favorite things - wireless technology and hashtags. After Aruba Networks conducted a survey involving 5,000 global respondents, they noticed a unique group of emerging employees. This group has been monickered the #GenMobile. The Mobile Generation is identified by its tendency of working in unconventional ways during equally unconventional hours. They prioritise flexible workspaces over higher salaries, and consider a reliable internet connection imperative to getting a good job done.

If you're addicted to your electronic gadgets and there is more internet than blood gushing through your veins, welcome to the Mobile Generation. ''#GenMobile are so attached to their mobile devices that they are 15 times more likely to give up coffee and seven times more likely to say goodbye to their televisions than their beloved smartphones'', describes Colin Saldhana who manages the public relations for Aruba Networks. The UAE ranks the highest in ownership of multiple mobile devices, making it a noteworthy total of 84 per cent.

Productivity over physical presence

An increasing number of companies are refurbishing their offices to attract enthusiasm from their employees. This has been done in several ways, including installing gaming arcades and indoor gymnasiums. Some companies are packing their entire offices into laptops and allowing employees to work from wherever they please. It doesn't matter whether people are answering their emails from a coffee house or the top of Mount Everest (which also has WiFi). Showing results has trumped the requirement of showing up. Freelancing is also growing into an industry of its own.

''As we become cloud collaborators rather than cogs in a machine, we no longer work simply because we have to enjoy doing it.

Part of that enjoyment comes from the fact that without oppressive hierarchies, we can now become 'Flexecutives','' says Chris Kozup, Director, Aruba Networks.

Around 14 percent of global businesses have partaken in this wireless movement, and the numbers are only increasing.

Did you know office rents rise in selective locations in Dubai

Source: Nichole Nikoliovich, Special to Property Weekly

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