Today's workplaces contain employees spanning four generations. They have to serve both employees that work long hours in the office as well as accommodate road warriors that spend little, if any, time at the office. With all of these different demands, it can be challenging to design an office space that will keep every employee happy and productive. However, there are three great rules that can help to make every office work better for every worker and executive.
1. Remember the Basics
Uncomfortable employees are unproductive employees and, ultimately, unhappy employees. While it might seem obvious than an office should be a comfortable place to work, many workplaces have harsh lighting, off odors from a poorly ventilated lunch room, or drafty spaces that are too cool in the winter and too warm in the summer. The best real estate managers walk their offices, looking for employees that bring in fans, heaters or their own lighting, since all of those items can be signs that the space is not adequately comfortable.
2. Assign Office Space Strategically
The traditional office model where executives occupy windowed offices around the perimeter and everyone else occupies cubicles in the middle does not always make sense. For instance, what if the executives are frequently gone? This creates a space where the best part of the office -- the glass line -- stays vacant most of the time while the people that spend all of their time in the office lose access to natural sunlight. Paying attention to how the space is being used can help site managers better assign space.
Another important factor is to have people that work together located physically close to each other. Many offices are organized to keep departments together, but the team-based atmosphere in modern workplaces may require a marketing employee to work with IT and sales. If they spend their time working together, putting them close to each other makes it easier for them to collaborate and makes them more productive.
3. Create Space for Collaboration
Given the fluidity of many work teams, having a great deal of collaborative space is very important. The best office designs go well beyond increasing the number of their formal conference room seats by one per employee. They add additional informal collaborative spaces. These let people have impromptu meetings so that they can work through problems, have group calls, or find alternative methods accomplish their goals. Spaces like these are typically also more inviting for employees that are not always in the office.
One excellent way to carve more collaborative space out of a workspace is to reduce the quantity and size of private offices. In their stead, companies offer small private spaces where a single person or two can duck in and make a call. These mini-offices complement the larger collaborative spaces and formal conference rooms to create an open workplace that still gives employees the space they need to make a private call or have some solitary think-time. This can sometimes be a rather difficult change to make for several reasons. The biggest and typically most important is the expense involved. Building out your space to reflect a more desirable open layout can be very costly and temporarily counter-productive. For tips on how to maximize your build-out, visit this article: 5 Ways to Stretch Your Tenant Improvement Allowance.
A comfortable, open office does more than just boost morale. It also boosts productivity by giving teams the right space at the right time so that they can do their jobs. These qualities also boost retention by reducing dissatisfaction with the office and increasing each employee's sense of connection to their company and to their cohort of coworkers.
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