Finding Your Office Chi: The rules of workplace design are almost non-existent at this point. The days of uniformity and isolation are over, but so is the need to have the trendiest and most open layouts possible. The best way to create a workable and adaptable space for your employees is finding the right balance of it all. Too much of one thing is usually a recipe for disaster no matter what it refers to, and in the case of office design, it’s a fast track to inefficiency and unhappy employees. The key to a well-balanced workplace is not only providing the right functionality throughout the space, but creating the right feel for the people using it. Here’s what we mean.
Mental health is just as important as the physical. Our body has basic needs (water, shelter, oxygen, etc.), but so does our mind and psyche. It’s natural for us to crave a sense of purpose, autonomy, belonging and achievement in our everyday lives. Since our job is where we send most of our time, it’s where we foster most of these feelings, and our surroundings will either help or hurt our ability to attain the satisfaction they provide. These feelings may be consistent for everyone, but how we achieve them and how important they each are depends on individual personality. For this reason, workplaces should encompass a variety of workspaces that can adapt to each and every need.
We Like Choices
Our need for autonomy comes from our desire to have choices. We like having options and enjoy variety throughout a long workday. Depending on the task at hand, we like to be able to decide between the type of environment and people in which we surround ourselves. That’s why neither an open office environment or a private one is enough to do the trick. Even the type of employees that enjoy routine and structure still have the need to socialize or collaborate at different times. The right design can give even the most outgoing or introverted workers the ability to decide how they work day by day. If there is enough balance, even the most extreme personalities can have things the way they want/need it.
Working Remote is Not the Solution
Working remotely may be a temporary solution for certain situations, but in the long run, it only encourages a disconnect and makes it difficult for your company to build a unique culture in which employees enjoy working. Incorporating spaces within your office that maybe feel homey or like your typical coffee shop allow workers to satisfy this need for remoteness without really removing themselves from everything.
Another concern for today’s employee is a sense of privacy and safety for their work and personal belongings. In the modern workplace, sharing information and news is easier than ever, and people have access to whatever they need, whenever they need it. This has been a great thing for businesses with multiple locations or large client bases, but it can also negatively create a sense of vulnerability and overexposure for the people that work for them. Just like we try to set certain privacy controls over who views our personal information and social channels online, we want that sense of selective protection in our workspace. This includes the ability to control our surroundings and how accessible we are. There should be an outlet for employees to remove themselves from the distractions that make them feel overstimulated or overwhelmed. Not only do these distractions rob one’s focus, but they can also be draining or exhausting.
So How Do We Do it?
One of the most popular types of a balanced office design involves the use of large open work spaces complimented by smaller, secluded meeting or focus areas. Designs like this encourage a collaborative and a communicative environment through the larger, open spaces, while the private rooms can be geared toward a place to rest, to think, to meet privately or simply change up the scenery.
You can choose to blend these types of private spaces throughout the office, or isolate them in their own area. When they’re distributed across the office, they provide workers quick acces and a smooth transition from one environment to the other, no matter where they typically work. When you choose to isolate the area, whether it be an entire floor or section of the office, it is easier to define the goal of that particular spot, so that everyone who enters is on the same page. What that goal is is ultimately up to you, but make sure it is clearly delegated that way. In addition, separating the space can be better for noise management.
If full privacy isn’t necessary, there are ways to semi-enclose certain areas as well. Privacy screens or partial height-walls can achieve a division of the space without isolating people completely. Even bookcases or plants could do the trick as a cost-effective solution. There are also numerous furniture pieces that send the do not disturb message to coworkers while you work. Modular workstations, such as the Brody by Steelcase, are great examples.
Find the right way to create this feel of balance within your office. If you’re looking for more ideas or want to start designing a new layout for your office, contact us. We’re happy to help!
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2014/10/balancing-we-and-me-the-best-collaborative-spaces-also-support-solitude
Herman Miller Blog: http://www.hermanmiller.com/why/a-well-balanced-feel.html