Designing Effective Workspaces

By Jane Kennelly, Director, Frog Recruitment

Afraid that your Feng Shui is messing up your Karma? Take the confusion out of workspace design with these easy principles.

As more and more business pay special attention to designing out of the ordinary office spaces, you don’t need to look far to find the latest study on the link between great workspaces and a host of positive benefits. So what can we do if we can’t afford to remodel our building to include a slide instead of a stairwell?  First, some background…

Traditionally office space is thought of as a cost; an overhead, something to be managed efficiently from a financial perspective. An office is a necessary expense, with optimised floor space metrics to create a financially viable ratio of square meters to total cost per person.

In recent times a new line of thinking is emerging where office space is viewed as an incubator of ideas, an engine of collaboration, and generator of revenue. We have already seen this thinking in action with the cubicle going the way of the dodo, and we now almost instinctively see the value in open plan office spaces, low partitions, and common areas.

The world is fast-moving, adaptable, and social. Our offices are increasingly demanding these new realities be reflected in our physical spaces.

Workspaces – what’s all the fuss?

Studies by The Russel Investment Group revealed that great places to work (as rated by staff) provided more than twice the return of those who are not. While a ‘great place to work’ comprises of many factors, physical space and office environment plays a major role in metrics of employee satisfaction and productivity.

A great working space can lead to lower levels of absenteeism, higher levels of collaboration and innovation, and higher engagement, to name a few. And not to mention Gen Y workers who tend to go for flexible and cool options over the monoliths of yesteryear…

So what can we do to future-proof our working spaces, attract top talent, and better serve our existing staff? Consider the three following key aspects:

Culture

You wouldn’t much like being a graphic designer working within four drab grey walls, or an architect in a concrete box. Matching business goals with office design is an obvious yet easily overlooked part of connecting everyday tasks with a meaningful goal or purpose.

Consider the personality of your business in the use of colour and furniture. What parts of the environment will give you staff a sense of belonging, and inspire them to live your business values? Also consider what technological tool forms part of the workspace, such as portable workstations or even Segways, and how they reflect the personality of your business.

Collaboration

With increasingly sophisticated collaboration tools such as VOIP and enterprise social media, a convincing reason to actually show up at the office on a daily basis is becoming more and more difficult to come by. With the right office design, opportunities for serendipity are a strong contender for being this reason.

The changing concept of an office is one where it becomes a nucleus where ideas smash together and spawn off new ones. We believe that work is still largely a social activity, with pockets of isolation counterproductive to much needed innovation and fresh thinking in rapidly changing markets.

Design a workspace to promote and catch new ideas. Consider creating activity-based centres in the workspace, such as idea spaces, meeting spaces, and social spaces. Increase internal mobility to create chance encounters.

Concentration

While there is certainly much hype about collaboration and open plan settings, it is pertinent to recognize that most of the work still happens at the point where individuals knuckle down and take care of business.

While some organisations have done away with personal desks spaces all together, the underlying principle of creating spaces where personal productivity is harnessed and amplified still stands. For many staff, simply changing lighting, or move to a room where colours are more conducive to their desired mood, will greatly increase productivity and satisfaction.

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