2 Questions You Should Ask About Your Hip New Office Space

October 16, 2014

You must have seen the pictures and heard the legends of the Google offices – some of the first work spaces that were fun, whimsical, and creative. They were so innovative and such a 180 from the boring corporate office set-up, that many companies are now following suit and rethinking their layouts.

When it comes to recruiting, this new type of fancy offices is definitely a draw. Who wouldn’t like to walk into an open floor plan complete with a ping pong table, comfy bean bag chairs, and a barista-staffed café nearby.

The design and layout of an office or workspace can say a lot about the culture of the company -- open and relaxed floor plans indicate that the company encourages collaboration, idea sharing, and informal social interactions. In other words, it’s cool, and there’s no denying that the cool factor plays a part when it comes time for candidates to make a decision.

But, while they’re both welcoming and entertaining, do these hip design elements really increase productivity? Is your organization truly setting up the best environment for the people you want to hire and supporting them in getting their job done?

If your company is pondering whether or how to redesign its workpace, here are questions you should bring up for the sake of maintaining productivity and employee comfort:

1. Is the space supportive of the work that needs to be done? Do people need collaboration or private focus time?

Many companies consider conversation and collaboration the primary ways to foster innovation. While creating informal meeting spaces and open floor plans to encourage idea sharing is certainly valuable, for staff whose jobs require them to spend the majority of their day on the phone, close quarters and face-to-face desks can be an incredibly distracting. Try talking on the phone while facing another individual less than two feet away who is also trying to have a phone conversation – it’s harder than you may think!

image by Peter Würmli, Camenzind Evolution

Think about what are the main goals of your employees while the office and voice these conclusions to the design team. Collaboration and brainstorming can be great, but if a team is required to be intensely focused then quiet private spaces would be much more useful.

2. Is the space right for the personalities of employees who you are hiring? Do you factor in both introverts and extroverts?

People come into your workforce with a wide variety of strengths and weaknesses. Seasoned recruiters are particularly good at identifying the motivators for individual candidates and promoting particular components of an offer package based on what might be most valuable for them. However, the work environment often lacks the same understanding of individual differences.

image by Peter Würmli, Camenzind Evolution

When we look at individuals on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, it is clear that people are affected by their environments in different ways. Regular interruptions, which can be welcome to some, can be incredibly disruptive to others. How much is that time worth? To support individuals that are more productive without interruptions, consider incorporating quiet zones or areas that are “distraction free.” These design components can provide value to those who prefer an environment that allows for more focused attention.

While staying up-to-date on workplace trends and creating an aesthetically pleasing environment for employees are certainly important, determining the needs of your specific employees is crucial. When designing your office space, make sure that you are providing an environment that is supportive of various individuals work needs. Doing this will provide a solid foundation for an engaged, productive, and satisfied workforce.

* images by Peter Würmli, Camenzind Evolution

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