My wife and I recently adjusted our living room: we sold our couch on craigslist, bought a new one at ikea, and switched its placement within the room. We've found that our new arrangement improved the space exponentially. What used to be a stodgy and uncomfortable seating area was now open and inviting. And to our surprise, the upgrade had only set us back $100.
Good design seems expensive (and often is), but this experience showed me that small changes and a meager budget can make a huge difference in the form and function of a space.
The same is true in office design.
Office design is for everyone – from small startup companies to large multinational corporations; from at-home businesses to industry leaders.
What is Office Design?
It is pretty easy to get all high-and-mighty about what exactly constitutes design and whether aesthetics and decoration are included, but for our purposes none of that is really that important.
The question I like to ask is whether or not the changes I am proposing will improve the space for the occupants of that space.
The updates to an office space might be functional, aesthetic, or organizational in nature, but in the end it doesn't really matter what is changed, so long as the office is improved.
And what are some of the areas in an office that can be improved regardless of budget size? I'm glad you asked, because I've outlined a few below:
When making changes to an office space, effectiveness is an important aspect to consider – no matter the size of the company.
Are you changing the workspace layout? Updating the seating? Moving teams? Changing density? You should probably consider whether the changes will improve the effectiveness of your employees to complete their work.
Is the workplace tuned to help staff do their work in a way that is tuned to company goals and ideals? Or is it not? Workplaces should be about promoting work and output that aligns with stated company goals. Good office design should help you get there.
Another area to consider when making changes is creativity – and whether your office design promotes and encourages it.
But "Just Add Some Whiteboards" is the wrong attitude to have with regard to creativity. Color and space for creative output can indeed be indicators of a creative company culture, but they can also just as easily indicate an office design that is out of touch with company culture.
If your aim is to boost creativity, you should look at how your employees do creative work, and see how you can enhance it. If they are problem solving, whiteboards could help, but pads of paper might be just as effective. The important thing here is to enhance how your staff is already being creative, but not to force creative solutions down their throats.
Health & Wellbeing
Health seems to be the last thing most office designs are about, but maintaining a healthy workplace should be something all companies and workers strive for.
Some companies purposely arrange their space to promote movement between the departments. Others include a gym and paid gym time. Still others provide rewards for healthy lifestyle choices like biking to work. And yet others aim to create more ergonomic and body-friendly workstations.
There are literally a thousand ways to promote a healthy office and overall wellbeing without having to buy $5000 desks for everyone.
I know that you're not supposed to conclude writing with a 'conclusion' section, but I'm going to anyway. The entire point of this post is to try and break down office design into more manageable and bite-size parts.
If you have a gigantic budget, you might be able to improve your office design in many areas. If so, that is awesome and you should make it happen. But if your budget is small, don't worry about not doing a complete redesign and buying all new everything.
Remember how I was able to make a small change in my home that had a big impact? Well you can do that too, just choose one small area to improve and improve it. Your employees will thank you.
What small design changes have you made that had the biggest impact at your office?