March 16, 2020
73% of employees say they can work better when they have access to flexible furniture arrangements.
For almost two decades now, “hot desking” has been a hot trend. Desks are shared on a first-come-first-serve basis, and no one is assigned a specific spot. This way, companies increase their efficiency and make the best out of their space, while adding some vibrancy that substitutes the dull static cubicles arrangement.
Sounds great, right?
Well, numerous research links hot desking with lower employee retention and workplace anxiety. Imagine this: you arrive at your office at the same time as a colleague. You exchange smiles and chit chat, but deep in your mind, you actually want to stride faster, leave them behind and beat everyone to your favorite office.
Hot desking may work when the staff is 10 people or less, who frequently huddle around with their laptops and collaborate. If this is not how your company operates, then it adds daily stress and an invisible competition on who will get their favorite seat!
Ironically, cubicles, when they were first popularized on a mass scale in the 1960s, were supposed to be an innovative design that foster creativity and collaboration. Today, they are snarked upon as an out of fashion lazy design that boxes staff into a large panopticon where only the higher-ups have the luxury of privacy. The wider the cubicles are spread, the more they resemble a rat labyrinth by a mad scientist.
So, what is the perfect design for your workplace?
The answer is: none!
A recent survey showed that 77% of employees work better when they have a place to collaborate, but simultaneously 88% say that they need a space for focused, quiet work. How to approach such a dilemma?
The answer is: adaptability. No matter how you design your office, you need to make room for shifting preferences and changes of the heart. At the same survey, 73% of employees said they can work better when they have access to flexible furniture arrangements.
So, a modern workplace design is all about striking this delicate balance between separation and interconnectivity, stability and dynamism. It allows staff to have a stable place in which they can settle in, decorate, and individualize, while creating an inviting environment for them to move around, meet, communicate, or simply shut- down from everything around them.
Here are few ideas on how to best utilize your space to achieve exactly that:
1. The Intimate Corner
A couple of oversized soft chairs, and a small coffee table is all that’s needed to create a less-formal small meeting corner. Perfect for catch-up chats and friendly one-on-one discussions. Add some plants, a reading lamp, a chair blanket, and board games for extra points.
A booth creates a more egalitarian office where everyone can enjoy some private time, not only few higher ups and executives
2. The Booth
A booth, AKA pod, AKA an introvert’s heaven, allows only one or two to sit behind a closed door and focus on getting things done. The space is intentionally small, which is a protective design, sending a message that for the time being, people inside are not welcoming any distractions. It creates a more egalitarian office where everyone can enjoy some private time, not only few higher ups and executives.
If your space has access to a roof, or a garden, no matter how small, you have hit the jackpot.
3. The Outdoor Hangout
The day is sunny. The sky is clear. The wind is gentle. And everyone is daydreaming of a lovely day at the beach, only to wake up by the dooming sound of a Slack notification, reminding them they still have 5 hours till the end of day. But, if your space has access to a roof, or a garden, no matter how small, you have hit the jackpot.
A comfortable seat in the fresh air for a few minutes a day can work wonders in improving morale and productivity. It facilitates people’s interaction in a friendly atmosphere.
4. The High Table
This is a very uncomfortable design. It forces people to sit in awkward positions and shift their ‘gluteal muscle’ every few minutes. Perfect!
The goal? It ensures that whatever is happening there is not going to last forever. An anonymous wise office guru once said: “If there is not food, this meeting should have been an email.” No truer words have ever been said. But the second best thing is a space that, by its own nature, would not allow meetings to last more than 15 minutes.
Create a meeting space that, by its own nature, forces participants to cut it short
5. The Stand Up Desk
The health benefits of standup desks might be very overrated. It is true that typing while standing up for 3 hours vs. typing while sitting down for the same period burns slightly more calories, (we are speaking about 8 calories more, to be exact, according to one study), walking for 30 minutes a day would have way higher health benefits. Well, there are exactly 1,880,000 Google Scholar results when you search for “stand up office health benefits,” so be my guest and try to settle the debate.
This is not the point though. People get bored. Being able to carry around their laptops and stretch their legs for a few minutes when they want is quite liberating. Simple as that!
6. The Soundproof Meeting Room
You dial in that important call and put him on a speaker phone. Few seconds later, you realize how acoustics are one of the most underrated features in office designs. Working remotely, hiring contractors and freelancers from around the world, and video conferencing are no longer novelties. Yet, many ignore this fact when designing their workspace. Invest in a large screen, all sorts of connectors and cables, high end speakers and a microphone. Now, get ready to experience the magic of a technical-glitches-free conference call in which you actually hear every word clearly instead of pretending to.
The possibilities are endless, and every company has its own needs. The only stable fact is that workplace design has an immense effect on everything, from communication to productivity, to company culture. So, do not take these decisions lightly, and always leave a room to grow.