In recent years, design trends for office spaces have changed drastically. Workspace designs that used to be synonymous with startups are now becoming more popular in more traditional and corporate settings. A company’s office space plays an important role both internally and externally. Numerous studies show that workspace design can improve or hinder employee productivity. Externally, an office is often the first impression clients and potential employees have of the company. As such, it’s important that it accurately reflects the company’s culture.
Whether you are opening up a new office or looking to redesign a current space, there is more to office design than picking out furniture and work supplies. Everything from the lighting to the space itself influences the environment. For a long time, a company’s industry dictated how an office space would look. Now, companies are starting to place more value on the experiences and behaviors they want to cultivate in their spaces.
Consider Your Company Culture
The first thing to evaluate before getting started on an office design or redesign project is your company culture. Is the environment more collaborative or individualistic, innovative or traditional, goal-oriented or purpose-driven? Once you identify where your company falls, you can begin to design a space that embodies its culture. For a long time, companies in the financial services industry had an easily identifiable design, characterized by muted-colored walls, cubicles and rigid layouts. This mirrored the strict and traditional culture of the industry.
However, more recently, there has been a shift toward more open, brighter and collaborative offices. For instance, JP Morgan Chase contracted real estate development company, Hudson Yards, to build a new office in New York. Their goal was to have an office space that fosters collaboration and has a homely, communal feel. However, they still kept a few traditional touches that lined up with their culture.
Although a space may be aesthetically pleasing and comfortable, it may not fit with the organization. Ultimately, an effective office space should mirror its occupants while furthering their development. This is why it’s pivotal to know the type of environment you want before picking out locations.
Open and Agile Spaces
A common thread among modern offices is the use of open spaces. Many companies strive to improve collaboration and communication across departments. One of the solutions to this issue lies in the physical space. Studies have shown that close proximity between employees helps build relationships and create bonds. Modern offices often have white boards located throughout the space to promote the flow of ideas and facilitate communication. Agile spaces offer flexibility, allowing employees to communicate seamlessly, brainstorm ideas and strategize. It also gives companies freedom to repurpose the space depending on their needs.
Still, the use of open spaces doesn’t mean the end of cubicles. In some organizations, they are necessary to achieve certain goals. However, these cubicles may be reorganized for other uses. Comfort is another big consideration in modern office designs. Companies are now implementing the use of flexible furniture to remove the cramped constraints typical of older office spaces. Having flexible furniture allows employees to be adaptable in the way they work and find new ways to increase their performance. This leads to higher employee satisfaction and retention.
Above cafeterias and on-site childcare, one of the most requested office features from employees is natural light. Unfortunately, most traditional offices were not designed with employees’ wellness and performance in mind. However, more recently, companies are designing workspaces that maximize exposure to natural light through the use of large glass structures.
Exposure to natural lighting does more than just brighten up the room. It is known to reduce stress and anxiety levels as well as increase alertness and productivity. Employees in offices with poor, fluorescent lighting report more symptoms of eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision, which can lower performance. A recent study by the International Well Building Institute found that the farther employees are to outdoor windows, the lower their productivity.
Some studies have also found that employees with access to natural lighting at work have better sleep quality, as offices with little to no access to outdoor lighting can affect employees’ circadian rhythms. Workspaces that can only provide limited access to natural lighting can employ the use of electric lighting fixtures, built for sustainability and performance. LED lighting has revolutionized the way architects and designs approach lighting. They offer a more flexible integration in the space and better performance.
Although open plan layouts have great advantages conceptually, there are technical issues that arise in such a space, namely noise. Due to the nature of the space, they tend to be louder as there is more communication between employees and little privacy. While this space may work for internal discussions, it may pose a problem for communication with clients and external parties. Companies are increasingly adding audio privacy booths and rooms in their offices to address this issue. It provides quiet, isolated areas for employees who need it without disrupting the functionality of open spaces.
Ultimately, the goal of a great office design is to fuel employees’ creativity and productivity, providing an environment they want to be in. Once you evaluate your company’s specific needs, you can design a space that aligns with its goals and mirrors its culture.