December 7, 2016

A Workplace That Works: Designing an Inspiring Office

If you feel like you’re having a “case of the Mondays” all week, every week, it may be time to evaluate your professional environment. Inspiration can run dry for a number of reasons, but it shouldn’t be due to your daily workspace.

An office makeover may help, but before you start repainting and refurbishing, think carefully about how you want to design your space, and whether it’s conducive to the company culture you want to promote. Workplace experts weighed in on how to design both an office and a culture that encourage productivity.

Where you work matters

A recent survey by office furniture retailer Steelcase and research firm Ipsos found that nearly 90% of workers around the world are less than satisfied with their work environments, primarily due to a lack of privacy. Open-office plans are great for facilitating collaboration and transparency, but these setups also make privacy and focus a real challenge for today’s workers, said Meg O’Neil, senior designer and developer.

One of the greatest benefits of a well-designed workspace, which offers privacy in the office, is an increase in engagement and productivity among workers. Of the 11% of survey respondents who were highly satisfied with their work environments, the majority (88%) said their workplaces allowed them to concentrate easily, work in teams without being interrupted, choose where to work based on their tasks, and feel a sense of belonging to the company and its culture.

“In any office, having a variety of workspaces that are suited to different work styles and tasks is the key to ensuring that every employee can do his or her best work,” O’Neil said. “Individually owned workspaces are getting smaller and smaller [with fewer] boundaries, making a series of interdependent spaces in an [office] ecosystem that much more important.”

Morris Levy, co-founder of co-working space The Yard, noted that since people can work anywhere, you should provide a space that employees are happy coming to.

“The reality is we’re all here to make a living and contribute something, so space is really important,” Levy said. “Most people spend as much time here as in their home. If you’re working in a dull space, what is inspiring you?””

Max Chopovsky, founder of Chicago Creative Space, a company that produces video and media content on office design and culture, shared a similar sentiment: As a company grows and can afford to invest in a good workspace, the environment should become a tangible manifestation of the company culture, he said. This means collecting input from employees about their ideal work conditions and incorporating that feedback into the workspace.

[Culture] might be more important than the space [in which we work],” Levy said. “We can impact the space, but the culture happens organically. We impact it through our team.

Positive culture is motivational

Culture isn’t limited to work perks like foosball in the lunchroom or fun outings; more importantly, it’s the company’s impact on employees from the top down.

“Culture drives everything that happens in organizations, good or bad,” said S. Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group and an author. “The quality of the work environment causes players to treat each other, and customers, with trust, respect and dignity.”

Culture can also inspire cooperative interaction and teamwork, which can boost production, quality and service, he said. Or, culture can do the opposite and frustrate employees so they just go through the motions daily, Edmonds said.

Company values are so important that if they’re not met, this has the largest impact on workers’ likelihood to stay at a job.

According to a Deloitte survey on millennials, the largest demographic in the workplace, when millennials share corporate values and believe in them, it also promotes loyalty. This is particularly true when employers demonstrate a strong sense of company purpose beyond financial success. Millennials intending to stay with their organizations for at least five years are far more likely than others to report a positive culture that focuses on the needs of the individual.

“Most leaders don’t pay attention to the quality of their workplace culture,” Edmonds said. “They’ve never been asked to do that. If they see that their work environment is unhealthy, they don’t know what to do about it.”

Most importantly, succinctly merging where you work with how you work will positively impact employees, making them feel more relaxed and engaged in the workplace.

“Office design for small businesses [should be] focused on allowing employees to feel like they’re a meaningful part of the organisation [and its] purpose.” said Brian Shapland, general manager of turnstone, a Steelcase brand. “[When they] walk into the space, make it apparent that the company values them.”

At we also believe that the space you work in is conducive to being successful.

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