Commercial Interior Design steps inside Xworks’ new Dubai office, which has been designed and built according to LEED and WELL building standards and aims to become the first corporate office in the Middle East to achieve Gold WELL accreditation.
Showcasing concepts of human-centric design, and incorporating the latest technologies and office furniture, Xworks’ new 250m2office on Shekih Zayed Road offers an insight into the workplace of tomorrow.
“The way we designed our office demonstrates the direction we think workplace design will be taking in the future,” explains Kaj Helstrand, managing director at Xworks, an office design and fit-out company.
The team Xworks team hopes the new office will receive LEED Gold accreditation next month. “We are confident that in the next few months we will also receive Gold WELL,” adds the company’s founder, Soren Kraen. “WELL accreditation is relatively new to this market. With its seven elements of human-centric design, it doesn’t substitute, but rather complements LEED.”
The seven elements of the WELL Building standard are Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind.
“When it comes to Nourishment, over next year we will be educating our staff about healthy eating. 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,” Kraen explains. He adds that Helstrand and another member of Xworks’ staff are undergoing WELL professional accreditation, a six-month course that will enable them to guide the firm’s clients through the WELL certification process.
Throughout the new office, Xworks’ choice of colour scheme and accessories, and use of natural materials, make the space feel comfortable and homey, responding to the WELL Comfort and Mind standards.
The reception area has a quirky design, featuring high chairs made out of recycled rubber, and a wooden swing with a sign engraved, “Don’t forget to play”. In the office’s open-plan area, the design team left the ceiling exposed and added plants in copper holders.
The office’s collaboration space includes a library across one wall, as well as a long table with a rustic reclaimed wood plank top.
A glass-enclosed meeting room features a brick wall and industrial-looking pendant lights. A fireplace, set against a black wall, makes a statement, as does a sculptural ceiling made of individually carved blocks of wood.
As Xworks represents several furniture manufacturers, its office also functions as a showcase for their products.
Kraen explains: “We chose 10 different types of chairs from different suppliers, but we matched the colours.”
A lot of the brands that are represented within the design are from Denmark. “One thing the Danish do well is design things,” Helstrand laughs. “It’s part of our history.”
He concedes, however, that Danish designers tend to be perceived as expensive. “For the last decade or two, this market has been overrun with cheap Chinese copies of products,” he adds. “It’s very difficult to justify that you want a chair that costs AED 10,000 when you can buy a copy for AED 1,500.
“On the flip side, anyone who is wearing a copied Rolex is dreaming of getting the real thing one day,” he continues. “If there’s a market for copies, there is also market for originals. It’s just a matter of waiting for market to mature.”
In addition to ergonomic chairs, Xwork staff also use height-adjustable tables, alleviating the issues that can arise if employees are required to sit for long periods.
“In an open-plan office, people are less likely to engage with their peers when sitting at their desks,” adds Helstrand. “Height-adjustable tables encourage a standing posture that can promote informal collaboration.”
He adds that staying in any position for too long can negatively impact employees’ productivity, however. “Movement is what we need to promote, by encouraging people to walk from one setting to another throughout the day.”
Kraen adds that minimising noise can also be a challenge in open-plan offices, but there are many options to address this. In the Xworks office, for example, Clouds by Kvadrat hang from the ceiling.
“Acoustics goes beyond the traditional approach of simply carpeting the floor, or installing a suspended ceiling. Screens with textile panels, or padded partitions, can offer effective sound insulation,” he says.
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, says Kraen.
“The workplace is embracing notions of hospitality and residential design. The overarching theme is humanising the workplace,” he concludes.