Five Habits of Highly Effective Workspace Design
Designing workspaces with different personality types in mind can be hugely valuable for your organization. Take, for example, what Steve Wozniak of Apple fame wrote in his memoir, iWoz: "Most inventors and engineers are like me – they're shy and they live in their heads. They're almost like artists.
"In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention's design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don't believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee."
Woz's comment illustrates the importance of well thought workspace planning and design. The right workspace for your organization will match the needs and work style of the workers – such as the introverts Wozniak mentions – as well as the goals the organization is hoping to accomplish.How workspace design is affecting productivity
Walls and partitions are disappearing as companies focus on maximizing productivity. Organizations are dedicating more space to common areas where employees can meet, often by chance, and talk about projects. In fact, a full 70 percent of companies have adopted shared-work environments specifically to encourage employee collaboration.
Not long ago I read that laboratories at the Huntsman Cancer Institute were connected to each other in an open environment to foster teamwork and collaboration, rather than sequestering researcher teams in separate units. Clustering researchers together where they can collaborate makes a lot of sense, and, in the case of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, it may even lead to new cancer therapies.
But not every team works on the same types of projects. Think about Wozniak’s comment on artists: they need some alone time to focus and “control an invention’s design.” So if you put your creative types into loud, open office environments and don’t provide accessible quiet space for the times they need to concentrate uninterrupted, the whole plan might backfire.Characteristics of a success-focused workspace
Consider adopting the following five “habits” of successful workspaces, whether you’re designing workspaces for a new build-out or redoing the office floor plan:
Fit both the worker and the output. This includes desk needs and the design, number and location of meeting rooms, location of common areas and inclusion of quiet spaces.
Focus on what the space can do to enhance productivity for the users collectively. Accessibility, lighting, sound, comfort – any number of things can play a role in the team’s output.
Group teams geographically where they can collaborate, but separate teams with work styles that clash. For example, place your sales team near your customer support team and your product development group near testing and quality control teams. But separate a team of tech writers from the team that spends most of its day on the phone.
Seek to increase communication and creativity. Make common areas readily accessible to everyone and allow for nearby meeting spaces and workspaces. Ensure it’s easy to tell when a space is available for meeting, too, so small groups can quickly drop in for informal brainstorms and even reserve a space on the fly to continue their collaborations without disturbing other teams.
Support your long-term goals. For example, say a call center wanted to reduce real estate expenses by moving to a smaller space with an open floor plan. But a Stanford University study found that call center workers telecommuting from home completed 13.5 percent more calls per day than staff in the office – the equivalent of nearly an extra work day every week – and employees who worked from home quit at half the rate of people working in the office. Additionally, Stanford found that a company saved $2,500 per year in real estate costs for each employee working from home. In this example, would increasing telecommuting opportunities be a better solution for the organization?
There are a number of factors organizations have to consider when designing or modifying the physical space, including how a space will affect the habits, activities and attitudes of workers. Will the choices you make enhance productivity or hinder it? And how will the decisions you make help the entire organization achieve its goals?
Want to learn more about office design and planning? Download our whitepaper, “Making Workspace Work: 5 Trends in Workspace Design Changing the Way Work Happens."
IMAGE: Airbnb’s San Francisco office includes open working space and dedicated meeting rooms. The design expresses the company’s ethos of openness and collaboration and constant enterprise. Photo by Gensler.