Happy Working

An interview with office work researcher Dr. Stefan Rief

Good workplace design makes us more productive and more satisfied, says architect and office work researcher Dr. Stefan Rief. That raises some questions.

As a scientist at Fraunhofer IAO in Stuttgart, you deal with future scenarios and performance effects in office design. How can a workplace contribute to greater productivity and a better working atmosphere?

The future no longer lies in considering just a single workplace, but in a functional and mood-setting diversity of work situations that we will find ourselves in, depending on the current task as well as the current requirements such as the need for retreat or for proximity. All this will be digitally supported, for example by enabling people to get together easily with peers from their organisation, to be alerted to interesting events, or even to digitally adjust environmental factors such as temperature and light to suit their individual preferences.

What qualities does such a workplace of the future need to have?

In a nutshell, it needs to simultaneously offer people a perfect experience of productivity and a sense of identity. Of course, it also needs to be a healthy environment, and its environmental compatibility will increasingly come into focus too.

The Elbtower also stands for new forms of work and its organisation. How do the aesthetics of such an office space influence the workplace?

There is a positive correlation between satisfaction with the spatial environment and a comfortable design. Aesthetics have an influence because, for example, they are an expression of appreciation and are also perceived as such. 

How should the interior design signature be shown to the best advantage in the working environment?

I am sure that a successful interior design contributes to functionality, a sense of identity and appreciation. That’s why it should be visible and tangible.

So, how will we be working together in ten or twenty years?

We will also be using virtual and virtually superimposed reality – that is so-called augmented reality. There are exciting developments happening in this field. I recently took part in such a meeting using VR glasses in a really brilliantly designed space that doesn’t actually exist. However, we will still continue to meet in person, too. It’s a bit like with monuments that we may have seen umpteen times in the movies – there comes a point where you want to go there yourself. The same will be true with the people we have met virtually and have come to appreciate.