If I told you that a software engineer and salesperson need the exact same skills and tools to accomplish their job, you would call me crazy. Yet, when we take a software engineer and salesperson, stick them in the exact same office environment and expect them to thrive, why are we surprised when both are disgruntled and disengaged?
Researchers are discovering that using one uniform office design to serve very different departments and individuals is at best idealistic, and at worst, extremely detrimental to productivity and wellbeing.
The “open office” concept, with one space and shared tables for everyone, is a great example. People who are constantly distracted from their core work grow deeply frustrated and therefore less likely to socialize and collaborate with their co-workers.
The prevalence and impact of poor office is design is astounding. In an international survey, 84% of workers reported that their work environment did not allow them to concentrate easily, express ideas freely, work in teams without interruption, or choose where to work based on the task at hand. Here are 5 design principles that could benefit your office space;
- CUSTOMIZE EACH SPACE TO THE DEPARTMENT AND ITS MEMBERS
When an employee can’t work effectively, we try to adapt the space to the person rather than the person to the space. Design around each job function, not some ideology about how an office should be.
For example, engineers need to be in constant communication, so they need a separate space, closed off by a door, where they can collaborate without distracting other departments. In finance, people who deal with sensitive materials and conversations work in personal offices, while more collaborative groups like accounts payable work in the open with their desks clustered.
- USE LOTS OF GLASS
With the power to welcome natural light, unobstructed views, and freshness, glass is the single most important material we use at our office. In a real and metaphorical sense, it helps create a clear space for free thinking.
- OPEN SPACE ALONG THE WINDOWS
Most companies place individual offices on the exterior and open plan areas on the interior. While corner offices may be enviable, they block exterior light from reaching most employees.
- PROVIDE MULTIPLE COMMUNAL AREAS
Having areas with comfy couches where people from different departments socialize and often come up with awesome ideas, balanced with conference rooms for more formal meetings.
- MAKE YOUR WALLS INTERACTIVE
If you’re in a meeting and need to flesh out an idea, the wall’s right there. For note taking, virtually every employee is arm’s length from a wall, why not make them interactive? Ideas become contagious and we have a tendency to be more visual, we draw out relationships and connections in ways we wouldn’t if we were stuck on paper or limited writing surfaces.
FROM FUNCTION TO FASHION
If you redesign your office, let function inspire fashion. Personal taste, office culture and the community surrounding your office will all influence your style. In the process, ask employees about the office environment—find out what helps or inhibits their work before you assume that you have the answers.