With the onslaught of open office trend articles and and latest technologies, sometimes we forget what makes a great, classic, authentic office design. The deeper foundations of company culture are sacrificed for the new and shiny, and fast design is mistakenly favored over high quality furniture and thoughtful layouts.
A great work space for you and your employees requires attention, time, research, and consideration for the company culture you want to build. Here are some suggestions of what to do--and avoid--when designing your new office.
DO: focus on the psychological comfort of the employee
When you choose to isolate the I.T. department on the bottom floor, separate managers from entry-level employees, or allow one loud group to dominate a room where other employees need quiet, you risk sending the wrong message to the team you've spent months or years to build. Psychological comfort in the office is nurtured through one's environment: the ability to mingle with peers and mentors, regulate the room temperature, adjust noise levels, customize and personalize a desk or work areas, steer clear of distracting scents, or clearly see the company's values and promises. Whether it's an integrated layout where everyone meets up at a long table for lunch or you provide a simple respite from the constant Slack notifications, consider ways to make employees happier without lowering creative challenges and expectations for a quality of work.
DON'T: sacrifice your brand identity for discounted furniture
Raise your hand if you've browsed office chairs at a big box store or considered a discount warehouse to acquire hutches in bulk. If you're a small startup and have a limited budget, that's okay...we all begin somewhere. But eventually, you need to invest in your office like you do any other aspect of your business. You don't hire people at a discount, so why give them flimsy, poorly made, cheap furniture? Whether you buy a custom, hand-carved wood conference table from a local craftsman or order ten high-quality executive chairs in your brand's shade of orange, your company culture and values are reflected in where you work. And don't forget about warranties and protection on your brand's investment. Your people put your office furniture through a lot each day. With less frequent repairs or replacements, a higher initial investment saves in the long run. If your office depreciates the furniture on a ten-year term and your warranty runs out after 5 years, you could face replacement costs before your budget is ready, and it's back to square one with picking out new case goods.
DO: research the origin story of your office furniture
Someone made the chair you're sitting on. Do you know who? What kind of materials did they use? Are these processes in line with your company's values? Good furniture makers are proud to tell the stories of where their furniture is sourced, crafted, manufactured and shipped. From a multigenerational family-owned business in Italy to an all-American upcycling specialist, you should choose designers and suppliers whose stories resonate with you. Perhaps you are committed to outfitting your office with sustainably-sourced wood products and recycled materials. Look for furniture companies, or hire a furniture design and outfitting company, that can align with your values.
DON'T: forget to measure your work space
Simple advice, I know, but it's a common mistake. Don't forget to accurately measure the square footage of your work space. Account for employee movement, how far chairs need to move out of the way, how many people are passing each other in high traffic areas, where groups tend to gather, and how many people take breaks at the same time in the employee lounge. Is there a line for printing and filing? Is there an opportunity to add a second, smaller collaborative work room for video conferencing? Using a CAD design system or a furniture design expert will also save hours on notes and second-guessing what you'll need in each department.
DO: keep movement and wellness in mind when outfitting your office
Invest in your employee's physical well-being, and it will pay back doubly in their productivity and creative breakthroughs. This means considering biophilic elements and layouts that are conducive to maintaining physical health. You don't necessarily need to install treadmill desks every ten feet, but cover the basics. Offer adjustable height desk options and a gym or physical workout element in the building. Humans are naturally drawn to nature and prefer to be surrounded by these types of environments. Plants neutralize artificial lighting, balance humidity, and regulate temperatures, making your office a more suitable environment for your team to accomplish tasks and projects. Good lighting can make or break employee morale. Depending on the work requirements of your industry, try switching out florescent lights for touch lamps, dimmer switches, chandeliers, or individual desk lamps. Natural light has been proven to have a major effect on productivity and well-being. If you're a computer-loving office and can't take the screen glare, try solar shades...or at least position the employee lounge and cafeteria to receive the most natural light.
DON'T: jump on the open office trend if it's not right for your people
We're noticing a return to dedicated, individual workspaces from popular open office layouts. Does this mean we're about to experience a cubicle renaissance? Not necessarily. Whether you have an open office design or offer individual offices for each employee, make sure your commercial work space is suited for the types of tasks that need to be done. This is called "activity-based working" design. If you've already signed a long-term lease on that open space loft, there are contemporary furniture solutions to help you create modular or flexible private spaces. Acoustic furniture and sound-absorbing design options are perfect for any office. You can create quiet places for your team to get more work accomplished, host a one-on-one or small group meeting, or enjoy a cup of coffee on their break time. Whether you choose to incorporate this privacy trend in your current office by adding acoustic furniture to your layout, or you want to completely redesign your space as an completely quiet and focused office, start with an audit of your employees' daily activities to head in the right direction.