Posts in Workplace
The Essential Guide To: Activity Based Working

The best way to think of activity-based working is in providing your employee the choice in where, when and how they work. We see it as an opportunity to boost employee productivity and innovation. Activity-based working recognizes that people perform better in differing environments. Therefore, removing physical work constraints, such as a desk and an office, provides greater flexibility for the employee.

This concept flies in the face of workspace concepts of the 1980s and earlier, where employees were expected to remain at their desks from 9-5, Monday through Friday. As an employee, your physical environment defined your company status. The technological revolution has gone a long way in redefining the workplace and blurred the boundaries. One's office can now extend from home, in cafes, on planes, trains, and cars – wherever you are on the move.

This ultimately results in the workspace needs of employees being greatly expanded; since everyone won't be in the building at the same time. Individual employees may work mornings, while others may dip in to refuel, socialize, relax or even exercise. For your staff to thrive, your workspace needs to reflect these changing dynamics.

 This post should be used as guide in your process in engineering a workspace that reflects the changing needs of your team, and caters to the individual needs and provides environments to boost employees’ morale, motivation, and productivity.

Planning the Re-design

Once the decision has been made to embrace activity-based working, a huge culture change will be taking place. Putting together a brief for staff and a subsequent action plan is key to proper execution. Our team can help you with this deployment plan.

 Whether you're changing locations or staying put, what is your reason for the change?  Are there workflow issues, personal objectives, a need to better reflect your culture and vision or a desire to refresh your surroundings, work smarter, retain your best people and attract new talent?

 Regardless of your reasons, you need to be able to convey them to staff and get them on board sooner than later. Once you get your team in the loop, they can advise areas for improvement and feel more empowered and receptive to change.  

Some Tips on Creating Your Brief

With your team in place, it's time to start thinking about your new activity-based workspace brief and understand how to divide up the space. This chart summarizes some of the most common activities that make up a cohesive workplace.


The workplace needs to have a variety of space conducive to these activities. Many can be used for more than one, but some, for example ‘focus’ requires somewhere quiet and not distracting.

Consider the visitor experience and how it will impact your team. How can you maximize the utility of your space?

For example, when creating a brainstorming space for your team, ask yourself if the space is designed to facilitate collaboration and the creative energy required for a successful brainstorming session.

Setting the correct environment, specific to the needs and desired output of the space, will ensure that you are creating a comfortable workplace for your team that maximizes their outcome.

(All photographs are of SDI Design projects)

Setting Employee Expectations

Integrating an activity-based work can bring challenges as well as benefits. It has the advantage of optimizing the performance of your team. However, you need to identify rules to be followed.

These expectations can include quiet zones, scheduling conference rooms, a clear desk policy, specified eating areas, and co-working spaces. Maps detailing the available facilities and resources are also useful.

To embrace activity-based working to its fullest extent, it's imperative to trust your workforce, give them choice and flexibility. Empower them to organize their work in a productive way which delivers results. If your workspace recognizes the differing personalities, needs and comfort zones of your workforce, you will have environments all will be happy to work and relax in.

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Noam is the creative director of SDI Design.

Educated and trained as an Architect in London, England. Noam has also worked in London, New York and Toronto for well renowned Architecture practices such as Foster + Partners and Richard Meier. 

As a designer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Noam  founded a coworking space in North York which was recognised in Forbes, Blog TO and Toronto Life. in 2017 Noam was nominated by the City of Vaughan as a candidate for 40 under 40 in Canada for 2017.  

Noam regularly gives talks on office design and has had articles on the subject published. | Instagram | Linkedin

6 Design Features to Improve Workplace Wellness
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The office should be an enjoyable workspace for you and your employees. It is the de-facto home away from home for most of us. You spend ample amounts of time ensuring every detail of your home is idealized right? So why not your workspace?

 We've seen a gradual change in people's attitudes towards workplace design and the investment they're willing to put into improving it. No longer are we satisfied with the endless facade of fluorescent lights and cubicles. Gone are the utilitarian and drab acoustical tile ceilings and plain interiors.

 There is a new, better workspace being created. An environment designed to be holistic and people friendly. You want to keep up with the times, but remodeling and updating your office with every changing trend is cost prohibitive and inefficient.  Therefore you need to invest in something timeless. Perhaps you should consider these six workplace design trends that will improve not only your life, but the lives of your team members.

As wellbeing continues to be a huge trend in workplace design, care should be taken to embrace a work environment that fosters mindfulness among the staff. This can be accomplished by providing good air quality, good drinking water, plentiful natural light, and a variety of quiet spaces.

Utilizing these spaces is also essential and companies are beginning to offer wellness and meditation programs, exercise facilities, healthcare services and importantly, opportunities for social engagement. In a digital-centric environment, it's important to provide an opportunity to decompress psychologically.

Meeting room at SDI’s Studio

Meeting room at SDI’s Studio


 One of the biggest trends of workplace design as of late has been what is known as biophilic design. The concept of biophilic design is the ideation of indoor spaces as natural-feeling, holistic environments. This aesthetic is accomplished by including natural elements in the design, such as living walls and natural materials like stone and wood.

 Soft, natural lighting is also essential so toss out those fluorescents in the trash and go LED! We discuss several concepts for green spaces in a prior blog post. The benefit of integrating biophilic design into your workspace include improved productivity, reduced stress, and improved creative thinking.

Novo Nordisk Cafeteria

Novo Nordisk Cafeteria


For years now workspace trends have been moving towards open and flexible environments. However, consideration also needs to be made for providing quiet, private spaces.

The heyday of the open workspace may be coming to a close and the day of the cubicle has no hope of coming back either. It ultimately depends on the dynamic of your team. Joanne Chan of SDI explains “people are intrinsically different, some argue that they require silence to be productive, while others succeed in being surrounded by their colleagues, stimulated by their energy.”

What we suggest is a hybrid model, where private working spaces are prioritized, and communal working spaces are made available. Adjust the ratio of each space as you see fit for the overall productivity of your team.  


Yes. Lighting has been mentioned in term of biophilic design standards, but we'd like to get a bit more specific. When it comes to workplace lighting, there is a direct correlation to absenteeism in office environments (as in a 15% adverse effect.) That's a huge productivity issue!

 Providing sufficient daylight and windows, along with opportunities for nature to office variability have been proven to have a positive impact on people’s well-being.

Acoustical Ceiling Tiles

Acoustical Ceiling Tiles


 In line with appropriately managing open space. Providing an environment with the appropriate acoustical elements is somewhat new in the workspace design acumen, but an idea that will be around for some time.

 Take time to plan and design your office to contribute to performance and well-being in the workplace. In acoustical terms, that means accommodating individuals that seek out quiet places. While also enabling team members the opportunity to spontaneous interactions without disturbing others.



 The co-mingling of wellness culture with sustainable design results in eco-friendly offices.  This all-encompassing design element is as much ethos as it is logos. It entails everything from running a good recycling program, sourcing furniture, and office supplies responsibly and making sure to reduce waste wherever possible.

Embracing a sustainable design will keep your employees happy; which will, in turn, increase productivity, improve client interactions and add your overall bottom line.



 The time and effort you put into designing your employees workspace is essential for their satisfaction and your bottom line. Why not invest in upgrading your office by integrating any of these six trends that will improve and promote wellness.

 Remember: The focus has shifted from the drudgery cubicles to that of an integrated holistic workspace. A place where you and your team want to be every day. Create a space where people want to work.

All photographs are of SDI Design projects

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Noam is the creative director of SDI Design.

Educated and trained as an Architect in London, England. Noam has also worked in London, New York and Toronto for well renowned Architecture practices such as Foster + Partners and Richard Meier. 

As a designer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Noam  founded a coworking space in North York which was recognised in Forbes, Blog TO and Toronto Life. in 2017 Noam was nominated by the City of Vaughan as a candidate for 40 under 40 in Canada for 2017.  

Noam regularly gives talks on office design and has had articles on the subject published. | Instagram | Linkedin

How My Smartphone Made Me a 'Brighter' Designer.
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I recently discovered one of my favorite toys; a really simple app that measures light levels!  How exciting, right!? Okay, okay, so it probably won’t break the internet with millions of downloads, but I have found it to be one of the most enlightening (pun intended) tools I have on my phone.

As an interior designer, I am currently involved in two projects with clients who have been sensitive to lighting levels within their space. In one case the functional focal point of the space, a very large digital display screen, was critically sensitive to lighting levels. The other case was merely an informed client who was concerned with computer screen fatigue among his staff and wanted a lighting solution that was both appropriate in level as well as adjustable to individual needs.

light-level standards chart

light-level standards chart

We designers are trained to know what light levels are appropriate for different uses - check out the chart above (click here for a larger version) for the standards. Furthermore, our experience gives us the ability to create effective moods - low light to create intimacy; bright light for vibrancy; high contrast for drama, etc. – but when challenged to provide empirical evidence, I only had the accepted standards to rely on.  That’s when I was inspired to find a new tool…to the internet!

Now, a light meter is not a new invention. My father gave me his, built circa 1950, that looks like a prop from a Tim Burton movie, but it’s buried in the bottom of a box somewhere, disregarded as being cumbersome. Having one on your phone, on the other hand, and turning it on wherever you go will open your eyes to the varied conditions of our lit world. There are a bunch of apps, but the one use on my Android phone is called Light Meter by Trajkovski Labs. There are many others but what attracted me to this one is the added bonus that it measures colour temperature as well!


My random testing of light conditions and environments has been a journey of discovery. One of the most surprising things I’ve found is the wide range of conditions within which my eyes are able to function.  I’ve noticed that I’m just as comfortable navigating obstacles on a bright sunny afternoon as I am at night when the app measures no appreciable light – navigate, sure, but don’t ask me to read a menu in a steak house!  I’ve also discovered that most of our lighting designs are, in fact, over designed and I can see that as a result of this growing body of empirical data that I will become a more responsible and efficient designer.

I embarked on a mission to find a tool to help me provide an accurate and informed solution and I wound up finding an app that has been truly enlightening.  Check out one of these apps, you’ll see that it’s fun!  Okay, maybe only “designer-nerd” fun…”

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Brian Schindler, B.E.S., M. Arch., NCIDQ

With a Master of Architecture degree and 30+ years of experience in architecture and interior design, Brian brings a unique perspective to projects in any capacity.  He was an owner/principal of an award winning commercial interior design firm for 21 years.  He has contributed to the shaping of the interior design industry as a member of both the executive board of ARIDO and its committees. | Linkedin

Preparing for Gen Z in the Workplace

Generation Z will soon be graduating from university and there is a massive new cohort about to enter the workforce.

So who is the Gen Z?


Gen Z is anyone born between 1995 and 2012 and the oldest of them are creeping into their 20’s.

Designers and corporations need to plan ahead to be ready for this diverse and technologically advanced generation, mitigating any challenges and utilizing opportunities.

Unlike the previous generation of early digital adopters, Gen Z are digital natives who likely grew up with a smartphone and have never spent a day offline.

They are the first generation to get instant access to information and are growing up in a world post the Great Recession, global warming and artificial intelligence.

So how have these events and lifestyle affected their needs, work-styles and what can you do to help them and your workplace flourish?


Most Advanced Technologically  

As Digital Innates, Gen Z will expect the latest technology to be integrated into the workplace. How does this translate into design?

Building smart workspaces is critical. This means seamless connections between technologies, for example being able to connect your laptop or smartphone to any screen. (airtame is a great app for this) or fast enough computer to handle heavier software. 

Smart infrastructure could include personal temperature and lighting control. Companies such as Cisco are integrating mechanical and lighting systems to provide personal comfort experiences so that your preset environments travel with you around the space when you plug and play. This also plays into wellness, which will be elaborated upon below.


"In a world that's changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks". Mark Zuckerberg.

Wall quote at Smart & Biggar, Toronto, by SDI-Design

Help them change the world

Nearly a third of gen Z would take a 10-20% pay cut to work for a company whose mission they deeply care about. Many companies are already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and buy products that have a smaller impact on the world. An astonishing 93% will consider a company’s impact on society when deciding whether to work there.

When designing a new space, be mindful to use materials that have a low impact on the environment. For instance, Interface flooring are actively working on not just have a zero carbon footprint, but are developing products that are actually carbon negative.


Variety of workspaces at Nulogy, SDI Design. Photo Credit: Steve Tsai

Workspace Variety

35% of Gen Z have or plan to own their own businesses. In fact 72% of Gen Z high schoolers want to start a business. They are highly entrepreneurial and in the era of Starbucks "offices", they are much more comfortable working nomadically. One of the entrepreneurial driving factors is that they value independence and it ties into their competitiveness.

Although they are naturally collaborative (%56 believe their colleagues enable them to do their best work), they will not be happy if they have to work all of the time in an open environment.

Private head-down spaces, where one can have some alone time is important in refreshing and focusing. 

Having a balance of working environments allows employees to move around depending on the task at hand.

A Gen-Z employee might start working on a document in the afternoon, open it on their phone on the subway ride home and pull it up again on their laptop while watching TV.  Sharp delineation between work and home are not prevalent, in fact, a new design genre has emerge coined as ‘resimmercial’. This has led many office furniture companies to move away from the stuffy traditional office, making their furniture with materials and styles you would typically find in a home or hotel. Companies that are doing this include Steelcase, Haworth, Knoll and Teknion 

When designing workspaces, designers should delve deeper and think in terms of activity base working, rather than the traditional categories of workspaces. Spaces should be designed to cater for the purpose of the user. For example: Individual focus, Individual process, re-energize space, dialogue spaces, socializing spaces, creation and inspiration spaces and coordination and collaboration spaces.


Soft lighting and natural materials in the cafeteria at Postmedia, SDI Design.

Wellness in the workplace

Over the last few years, the importance of wellness in the workplace has not only gained traction in the workplace design industry but as a lifestyle choice that people are taking seriously.  

With the rise of fitness trends, veganism and healthy foodporn all over social media, Gen Z are becoming the most health conscious generation. By example, this generation has a much smaller percentage taking up smoking and drink compared to previous generations.

An interior can have a tremendous impact on a person mental health. Bad design can cause stress, effect career growth and be a major factor in job satisfaction. On the flip slide, good design can calm the mind and improve health and wellness. Use the Well guidelines as a initial checklist to make sure you tick all the boxes. These includes: air quality, water quality, nourishment, natural light, fitness, comfort, mind and innovation. 


Gen Z were still kids during the Great Recession and may have seen their parents take huge financial hits. A significant portion of their lives may have been defined by struggles related to that. While Millennials are often seen as more idealistic, and more motivated by purpose than a paycheck, Generation Z may lean more toward security and money. This is a pragmatic generation — they care about making a difference, but are ultimately motivated by ensuring they have a secure life outside of work.

Safety is just as applicable in the workplace as the home. Safe workplaces educate and protect workers against internal threats such as harassment and intimidation, as well as external concerns, be they virtual or real. Simon Sineks 'Circle of Safety' is most true for this generation. In short, this basically means that employees have a sense of security in the workplace that encourages open dialogue and speaking freely to suggesting ideas or give critique without the fear of being scolded. Whilst design can only go so far, good leadership (often influenced by design) is what helps bring the most out of employees.   

Many of this cohort are still in high school and only time will tell how current trends will evolve. In the meantime, many design considerations noted above are commendable in their own right and are worth implementing to improve the workplace for all employees regardless of the demographic group.

The world is changing at an immense rate, so stay aware and stay tuned...

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Noam is the creative director of SDI Design.

Educated and trained as an Architect in London, England. Noam has also worked in London, New York and Toronto for well renowned Architecture practices such as Foster + Partners and Richard Meier. 

As a designer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Noam  founded a coworking space in North York which was recognised in Forbes, Blog TO and Toronto Life. in 2017 Noam was nominated by the City of Vaughan as a candidate for 40 under 40 in Canada for 2017.  

Noam regularly gives talks on office design and has had articles on the subject published. | Instagram | Linkedin

How Becoming A Parent Has Taught Me About Accessible Design
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I must admit that before studying design, and specifically the building code, I was somewhat uniformed and even oblivious to the various accessibility challenges that many people experience in everyday life.

I think for the most part when you ask people what barrier free or accessible design means to them, they would associate it with someone being in a wheelchair or in crutches, which I’ve learned is only a small piece of the pie.  

This perception would perhaps lead people to feel that there isn’t much of a need to consider accessible design on a day to day basis as the frequency of a person requiring accessible design might be ‘highly infrequent’. It is important to remember that the term “accessible design” addresses a broad range of physical limitations, many of which are not always visible and in the following example, not always because of a disability.

I came to this realization when my daughter was about eight weeks old. We were at a restaurant when the inevitable happened, she needed a diaper change.

With a crying baby in one hand and a diaper bag in the other, I made my way to the restroom. A journey that would have been so simple had I been alone, felt like a small obstacle course. There was a long narrow hallway with no turning space, a door handle (as opposed to a push open door for people that have difficulty with grip) and no push-button to open the washroom door.

Getting into the restroom was a challenge, but when I realised there was no change table I had to call my partner to help. My next instinct was to look for the barrier free stall so that we would have more room to maneuver, but of course it didn’t exist.

As a new mother it made me realise the challenges that millions of mothers experience everyday as well as the millions of people that struggle in spaces that do not take their requirements into account. 

In the restaurant, where I had my bad experience, a person in a wheelchair or using a walker would have found it extremely difficult, if not  impossible to access the washroom stall.

Considering other limitations, this could also pose difficulty for someone dealing with an adult that needs an area to be changed or who needs extra space and support to sit down and stand up.

Accessibility takes in many factors, by way of example, the design and height of sinks. Perhaps you are below the “average” height. Are the knobs easy to turn or could they pose limitations to someone who has arthritis or difficulty with their grip? Does a paper towel dispenser work for everyone?

These challenges go outside and beyond the restroom. For example, reaching for items at the grocery store, walking up to a teller at the bank, opening a heavy door, were the transition between steps visible to everyone? All these mundane actions that most of us take for granted may cause incredible moments of stress and anxiety for others.

This experience highlights the importance of accessible design in everything we do and provides us an opportunity to create spaces that are truly inclusive for all people to enjoy.

Pushing design to the limit, even beyond the minimum requirements, only creates more ideas and possibilities, rather than restrictions. To me this is one step in the right direction to changing the world people live in and experience every day.

Below are some resources to help you with you AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). /

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Project Coordinator at SDI Interior Design & Project Coordination

Formally trained as a designer, Terilyn has a thorough understanding of the design process and uses her knowledge to ensure projects get done on time and on budget. | Linkedin