Slides connecting different floors, unique work stations, and wacky meeting rooms; cutting edge offices are far removed from traditional workplaces. Whereas a traditional workplace has efficiency at its core, these new offices strive to provide a relaxed, social and homely working environment. Tech companies seem to be leading the way for these office styles, but are they just publicity gimmicks or do they actually have a long-term business purpose? Indeed, does good workplace design really improve productivity for example?
Companies like Google and Yahoo are undoubtedly experimenting with the way their staff work, but as businesses that are at the forefront of innovation and creation it is no wonder that they are pushing boundaries. What they have also found is that there are benefits to relaxed and social offices.
First of all these companies depend on attracting the most talented and committed employees and these offices help them to do this. Secondly, many tech employees tend to be young and, as such, these companies need to appeal to staff who are used to working in flexible and relaxed environments. Thirdly, they have found that these offices help to improve staff productivity.
Research has shown that happy and relaxed workers tend to be more creative, focused and generally more productive at work. If your employees like where they work they will be more likely to work overtime when needed without complaining, whereas if they feel stressed and anxious they will be counting the minutes until they can leave.
But you’re not Google or Yahoo and you can’t afford to re-fit your offices with on-site cafes and gyms. Fortunately, there are some simple changes you can make that will help your office design improve your staff’s productivity.
Getting regular doses of natural sunlight makes people happier, increases energy and improves creativity. So ensuring that your office lets in as much light as possible is a good way of improving your office design. A famous example is the Spanish architect, Selgas Cano, studio in Madrid, which has been designed almost entirely from glass with the idea that this will make his workers more creative and productive. So how do you replicate this? Unless you own the building, installing extra windows and skylights is not an option, but making sure you make the most of the ones you have is. By making sure nothing is blocking or obstructing windows and skylights, that they are cleaned regularly and that desks are positioned directly next to or under them will all help to increase the amount of natural light into your office.
Where and how desks are laid out will have a huge impact on the atmosphere of the office and even how people work. In the early 20th Century desks were often set out in rows, all facing forward that were meant to replicate a factory-style working environment. This fell out of fashion in the 1960s and 1970s when open plan offices became fashionable, which is how the majority of offices are designed today. Companies implementing cutting edge office designs are challenging this again by creating individual work stations and allowing employees to take their laptops with them to different areas around the building. There are pros and cons to all these office designs, you need to decide which is best for your business.
Often good ideas spring from ad-hoc conversations between colleagues, so look at your office design and consider if it encourages openness and communication. Try and take away any physical barriers that separate workers and departments and consider creating an area that all staff can use as a meeting point to discuss projects and ideas.
Adding an element of fun to your office can help to break down barriers, increase positivity and create a relaxed working atmosphere. The more stressful your workplace can be the more important it is that employees are encouraged to let off steam by having fun, as this helps to prevent conflicts and tension between colleagues. Simple things like radios and iPod docks in offices are tactics that have been used by employers for years, while some are taking this one step further and adding foosball tables and other entertainment games into the workplace.