The need to boost employee engagement is spurring talk about the importance of office design. From the unwitting invention of the cubicle to the many variations on an open plan, the workplace environment remains endlessly fascinating.
As the nature of our work keeps changing, the spaces we work in will need to change too. It’s easy to get paralyzed by all the advice and new research supporting this or that theory of work or organizational culture. Even if you can’t get everything right, here are 7 pitfalls you can definitely avoid.
1. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead
Slow down for a second. Nothing is so urgent that you can’t plan for it. Think strategically about what you want your space to accomplish. Identify major goals and values, and research ways to design your offices in keeping with the culture you want to cultivate.
2. Nowhere to run
By now the open office has been roundly criticized for its many distractions, frustrations, and health hazards. Our work is as varied as our work styles, and your office needs space for both collaboration and privacy.
3. No place like home
One big problem with an open office is that there’s very little space for employees to call home. With no walls at all, where will they display the personal mementos that proclaim their identity and make them feel at home? Walls aren’t the only way to avoid this pitfall. Wireless technology makes it possible for an office to take on a more homelike feel.
4. All work and no play
You don’t want an office full of dull Jacks (or Jills!). If you’re redesigning, create some dedicated lounge areas. Creativity and innovation require healthy doses of play, so use your space to encourage employees to relax together, take breaks, and move around during the day.
5. Totally top-down decisions
In the age of collaboration, one of the worst things you can do is ask nobody’s opinion. Your employees are smart, and they know their needs. Ask them how they work best, what kinds of collaboration they want, and what they value most in a work environment.
6. Where’s your brand?
Your brand is inextricable from your company’s culture. If there’s no evidence of brand identity in the space where your people spend most of their waking hours, they’re going to start wondering what they’re even working for. On the flip side, incorporating brand identity into your design is a silent, daily reminder to everyone of why your company exists.
7. Bolting the chairs to the floor
In the modern workplace, the only constant is change. No space you design is going to serve your products or your people long-term. Technology is changing too quickly for that. Don’t fall for the myth of the final fix. Design space — both physical and virtual — that can accommodate your company’s growth.