Your office design is killing teamwork.
At least that’s the headline for a recent article on Inc.com.
Writer Tim Donnelly suggests that the era of giant office spaces cordoned off by cubicles as far as the eye can see might have gone the way of the typewriter.
Newer companies, hoping to attract younger, tech-savvy employees and encourage innovative thinking and teamwork are re-imagining traditional office design. Since multitasking is the new black, they’re not as worried about busy employees getting distracted by side conversations – in fact, they believe these informal gabfests can lead to some great new ideas. Modern office design is focusing on fostering a fun environment where ideas flow freely.
This means that in the future, you might not be left staring at a gray fabric wall all day, nary a beam of sunshine to be found.
More companies are tearing up their old office layout blueprints and opening up workspaces.
Here’s how you can do it, too:
1. Open Up Sight Lines
There’s nothing like a wall to quash a collaborative spirit – so some companies are ditching them. Rather then setting up that maze of cubicles, they’re arranging desks in long rows or small clusters with the hopes of opening up sight lines. For partitions, they’re opting for glass walls, which allow employees to see everything that’s going on around them. The concept of a private office is quickly becoming passe as businesses that seek more creative types want people to share ideas rather than sitting quietly in their personal space.
2. Re-think the Conference Room
With everybody working in an open communal space, traditional conference rooms – where folks gather to talk over ideas – are kind of obsolete. But rather than waste that space, employers can set up these rooms for people who need a quiet spot to focus on a project or have a private conversation.
3. Remodel the Kitchen
Let’s face it, your best ideas don’t usually hit you when you’re sitting behind a computer at your desk. They come to you in the shower or on your drive to work or when you’re complaining to a co-worker at the coffee pot. Businesses are starting to recognize that it’s not only more cost-effective to make all parts of the office multifunctional, but it also helps with all that teamwork they keep preaching about. To that effect, companies can get rid of the concept of a traditional office kitchen or breakroom – an area that might sit vacant for most of the day – and adopt a more cafe-esque setting, where employees can hold informal meetings and swap ideas. To facilitate this, tables should be able to double as workstations, which means they’ll need connectivity. While you don’t want folks lingering too long to catch up about “The Real Housewives,” it’s worth the effort if they troubleshoot a work problem over a cup of joe.
4. Use the Stairs (and the Hallway)
In the same vein of maximizing workspace in the kitchen, designers are also suggesting that companies can make more use of oft-neglected space like stairwells and hallways. Studies show that people are more innovative when they’re on the move, so it’s in the best interest of the company to make it easier for them to brainstorm throughout the office by making hallways wider and adding couches and whiteboards for folks to finish up a discussion or jot down an idea on their way to a meeting. Open stairwells can serve double-duty by encouraging people to socialize and getting their heart rate up at the same time.
5. Let the Sunshine In
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: Natural light = happy employees. Working behind a screen in a cave all day isn’t exactly a recipe for creative thinking. But let in a little sunshine and maybe a peep of blue sky and the imagination starts whirring. Getting rid of cubicles and replacing solid walls with glass walls will give employees working in the center of the building a taste of the great outdoors, and it will help save on energy costs.
First photo courtesy of Tim Patterson on Flickr
Second photo courtesy of Chris Meller on Flickr