As a leader, I’ve learned that offices are a huge part of company culture. In fact, the Human Spaces report on workplace design found that employees in offices with natural elements reported 15 percent higher levels of well-being, were six percent more productive and experienced 15 percent more creativity. Perhaps most telling is that 33 percent of respondents said office design affects whether they even accept a job.
Top-level tech companies have known this for years. Many of them may have started in garages, but they’ve become famous for game rooms, kitchens and collaborative work areas.
After years of working wherever and whenever I could, it didn’t occur to me that design would matter to anyone. My tipping point came with a lag in productivity after a few years of the same walls, same chairs and same old traditional work functions. One rainy day, a star employee - not a typical complainer -- told me it was depressing to come to work. The dreary atmosphere had nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with our old fluorescent lights. It was time for a change.
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Feng shui had it right.
Prisons are intentionally designed to limit connections to the outside world - no views of the sky or natural elements. Don’t make your employees feel imprisoned. An atmosphere with natural sunlight, colorful paint, pleasant decor and even specific lightbulbs will help employees respond to the environment. Details, like pops of color used in desk accessories, can inspire “pops” of creativity.
Along with keeping the current team productive, great office design attracts talent.
First impressions are everything, and atmosphere absolutely dictates first impressions. My business isn’t located in Silicon Valley, but it’s important that my office embodies tech elements, like open communication space and room for creativity. When prospective employees visit, they know exactly what kind of company they’re walking into.
Balance is necessary, of course. Too much open space, and productivity drops because people can’t focus. Too many bright colors can hurt the eyes, and space that’s too homey might promote complacency.
While you may not actually employ feng shui in the design, as you plan your first offices, remember that space really does affect the team.
No office design trend is one-size-fits-all. Each company is different. The typical game room allows employees to blow off steam and collaborate, while nap spaces and relaxation areas are growing in popularity. And don’t forget the effect bringing natural elements inside can have on morale and productivity.
With all the design trends out there, how do you know which ones are right for your startup? Here are four tips to keep in mind while considering an upgraded office design.
1. Evaluate office weaknesses as a team.
My staff is small, under 25 employees, so group lunches with relaxed conversation are a great place to bring up the subject. Find out what’s working and what isn’t.
Does your team seem to need more or less collaborative space? Can employees not only be creative, but also focus? Are there times of day or whole seasons that seem to lag in productivity? If so, switch up your office space to wake everyone up.
Workers are typically more productive when they have some control. Start early by asking your team members what they prefer and how they would like the office designed, then continue the involvement by inviting everyone to execute the vision. The sense of ownership will go through the roof.
2. Seek outside input from all sides.
Talk to friends and family to find out what they love and hate about their offices. Different industries follow different norms, and chances are you’ll get some good ideas from other workplaces.
When you’re done collecting ideas from loved ones, research online, and watch TV. Yeah, I know - the great productivity killer. In reality, though, watching HGTV can give you a lot of insight into how young professionals prefer to live and work.
3. Have a graphic design roundtable session.
My office recently held a design roundtable so our entire team could discuss options and décor styles for our office space. The graphic design team took our words and thoughts and turned them into a working 3D model that let everyone visualize the results. This method of sharing our visions turned the project into more fun than stress and gave employees a chance to spark creativity in an unusual way.
4. Host a paint weekend.
Another way to get the whole team involved is by enlisting everyone in the decorating process with an open-invite paint weekend.
This is our current plan, and I told everyone they’re welcome to bring in their kids to help once the place is ready for some color. The idea is for everyone to have some hand in his or her own space while contributing as a group to the open spaces. My team actually asked for an activity of this sort, and I believe it will be a great team-building experience.
Ultimately, as you think about upgrading the office, it’s important to balance a good paint job with what your team actually needs. A motivated, productive team will be worth the effort.