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Avoid Trends and Make a Smart Choice for Your Office Design

Office Design Trends to Be Avoided

Office design trends, once primarily a feature of the worlds of fashion and home design, have moved increasingly into the office space.  People look to hip, successful companies like Google and see their unusual office designs, often featuring amenities like slides, free snacks, and game rooms.  Articles are written equating the success of these companies to their unique environments, or listing the trendy amenities that will attract young millennial workers to your office.  While features like slides and in-office daycare facilities aren’t possible for many companies, other easy-to-add features like colorful walls, game rooms, and open office plans have become commonly adopted trends.

While a good office design is an essential feature to encourage employee satisfaction and productivity, what defines “good design” is more about the specific needs of your company than it is about current office design trends.  Chasing office design trends is at best an inefficient use of time and money, and at worst a colossal waste of funds with a powerfully negative effect on productivity.  Before you embrace a trend, take the time to think about how it will really work in your office.

Does Your Company Run on Collaboration or Concentration?

Collaborative Work Environment

Out of all the office design trends, none has taken off more ubiquitously than the open office design.  It’s not hard to see why.  The big, open spaces look far more modern than the cubicles we’ve come to associate with the traditional office.  Natural light from office windows is no longer impeded by tall cubicle walls, making the space seem bright and fresh.  Employees can mingle easily and share ideas.  And, let’s face it, it’s a lot cheaper to fill your office with more people when you have an open floor plan.

When presented with these benefits, it’s easy to see why so many businesses have been eager to jump on the open office bandwagon.  Before you join them, however, you need to really evaluate how your business functions.  Do your employees require a lot of collaboration to do their work, or is that just a distraction?  Creative departments might benefit from an open floor plan, while writers and programmers might need more privacy and quiet to concentrate.  Any business that relies on making frequent client calls will also benefit more from the relative quiet of a cubicle setup.

Sometimes you can find a good compromise between the trending open office and the private cubicle space.  As ArchDaily reports, Pixar discovered the efficiency of providing private offices surrounding an open central space where people can meet and mingle.  The private offices allow artists, writers, and animators to close their doors and concentrate on their work, but it’s still very easy to step outside and collaborate with other creatives in the company.

Do You Have a Healthy Corporate Culture Without the Gimmicks?

Unhealthy Culture

Having a great corporate culture is a priority for many businesses that want to attract young, top-tier talent.  We’ve all heard about the cool companies that have game rooms, office pets, and free alcohol, and it’s easy to assume that these amenities are corporate culture rather than the result of an existing corporate culture.  As a result, some companies decide to add these amenities to fight back against issues of high turnover and low engagement.  However, without a healthy corporate culture behind these amenities, no amount of free snacks will make your employees happy in their jobs.

A healthy corporate culture is built on a mutual respect between employees and their managers.  It features transparency and open communication.  Employees in a healthy culture feel like part of a team, not a cog in a machine. They are confident that their voices will be heard, their ideas considered, and their concerns addressed without fear of punishment.

If your culture is unhealthy- if employees feel powerless in their jobs, live in fear of office bullies, or are under constant stress from long hours or low wages- you can reasonably expect one of two results when incorporating trendy new amenities in your office.  Fearful employees will be unlikely to make much use of the new, fun additions, and overly stressed ones might start taking advantage of them out of a bitter sense of being “owed” something in return for their working conditions.  Either way, the new amenities don’t achieve their intended purpose and end up being a waste of funds.

If you have a healthy culture, you don’t need trendy amenities to keep employees engaged and excited to be working with your company.  These amenities are only effective as an added incentive for currently engaged employees to relax and think more creatively and collaboratively at work.  They can’t serve as the foundation for your culture.

Keeping an eye on office design trends and the design decisions made by successful companies is a great way to get outside-the-box ideas for improving your own company.  The trap comes when you start thinking of the trends as a one-size-fits-all solution, or if you feel like your company needs to keep up with them in order to stay competitive.  In the end, an office design that works for the specific needs of your employees and a healthy, transparent workplace will pay off far more handsomely than any trend you see in an online article.

Have you ever incorporated a workplace trend in your office design?  What made you decide to do it, and how did it work for you?  We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

Photos via Pixabay
Posted by Amanda Carman

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