In our last article, we discussed the importance of aligning your office space with your company’s culture to get the most out of its most valuable asset: the people. By properly doing so, you can increase productivity, collaboration, and innovation. Now I want to share with you what a company should consider to pull this alignment off.
The workplace is not just where work happens; it’s also a place that determines how work happens. This is constantly changing over time, and companies that look to their physical offices as a strategic way to engage and attract top talent, cultivate personality, and stay competitive will remain flexible as the work they do changes. Tech companies have traditionally led the way in catering to the emerging, collaborative work style. However, a shift is occurring across all industries.
As the economy and workforce gradually improve, who is to say that a company’s needs today will stay the same three, five, or ten years from now? Why invest in an elaborate office setup when you don’t know what the next six months will bring? The key is developing and implementing a workplace strategy that adds value and can be adjusted to match your culture and needs at any given time. But which steps can take you there?
- Tear down the walls – but not all of them
Companies are striving for collaboration and are opting for an open office design, but these efforts can miss their mark if not done properly. Open spaces can be beautiful, energizing, cost-effective and, most importantly, flexible. However, designing an open office is far more complex than just sitting everyone in a big, open room. Poorly designed open offices provide distractions and lack privacy. A series of small, personal work booths with short walls feels communal and personal at the same time. This provides acoustic and visual relief between workers, but allows interaction, if desired, to still occur easily. Glass is also an important feature in an open environment as it allows natural light to pass through the area but also keeps noise out. Done correctly, a semi-open workspace creates a collaborative community of cross-functional peers and can dissolve physical hierarchies, encourage transparency, and enrich office culture.
- Organize by function
Not everyone works the same way. The main reason open offices fail is because they do not properly account for different work styles between employees and among tasks. Collaboration is made easier through a variety of thoughtfully conceived work spaces that are conducive to different needs. Diverse settings support the different ways people work, whether it is alone, in pairs, or in groups of different sizes. This could mean a collection of formal conference rooms, casual brainstorming spots, huddle rooms, and quiet zones strategically placed throughout the office. Different types of work areas should be acoustically isolated but still close in proximity so employees can easily transfer between work modes. When people have greater choice about how and where they work, they are empowered to choose the space that is most productive for the task at hand.
- Plan for the future
One of the best workspace investments you can make is a flexible infrastructure that will grow or contract with you into the future. Flexible workspace options enable quick and painless adjustment for short- and long-term use. This could be as simple as movable furniture and/or partitions. Modular pieces, meaning furniture built with similar dimensions, can be rearranged and repurposed easily. This means every wall, workstation, huddle room, team room, or conference room can be measured at 6, 12, 18 or 24 feet, providing endless possibilities to how the space is configured. In a fast-moving, ever-changing economy, your company needs to adapt to market and economic forces. In the event of major change, like rapid hiring, reorganization of teams or a merger/acquisition, employee disruption is minimized if your office space can flex with you.
- Invest in technology
Workplace technology should either maintain or enhance your workflow. You have to stay connected through strong and reliable mobile reception and Wi-Fi. And don’t forget power. Without enough outlets, employees will constantly be looking for a place to plug in, which will reduce their autonomy to work how and where they want. One of the biggest losses from poor technology is not cost nor convenience, it is innovation. When you remove the hassle of staying connected and allow employees to free flow, they are able to collaborate, be productive and innovate beyond their specific job duties. Powerful Wi-Fi and plentiful power sources in meeting rooms and throughout community spaces will make it easy for employees to maintain productivity from anywhere within your walls.
As you develop your workspace, it is important to understand that what works for one company does not work for all companies. Your workplace strategy needs to align with your business goals. The key is to find what works for you by understanding your workforce and how they work to best provide the right environment. Take time to understand the wide spectrum of solutions that are out there. Through careful planning and thoughtful design, your workplace can be a place where your employees want to go to work.