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Office Design Trends: Deconstructing the Jargon

Your office design can support employee productivity, engagement, and health and wellness. But sometimes office design trends that are generally positive are taken in more of a negative connotation by employees.

What Your Employees Hear and How to Reframe Their Thinking

Like many specialties, office interior design is full of jargon. And similar to how you can love a movie that your coworkers despise, the same is true with the way that management and employees can so differently perceive certain design terms and concepts.

You say "open floor plan," they hear "zero privacy." How to reframe their thinking about open floor plans: 

Remind your employees that this layout fosters collaboration – and don’t they come into the office to work with people? Point out that your open layout will have people on the same team and those who have similar work patterns and habits sitting by each other. Make sure that your open floor plan has diverse spaces – and that employees know those spaces are available – so they can be comfortable and productive.

You say "activity-based working," they think "What the heck does that mean?" How to reframe their thinking about activity-based working:

Let employees know that you realize they have different needs, and activity-based working allows you to meet each of their work needs, so they can complete their tasks more effectively and efficiently. Explain how employees can collaborate in an available conference room, work quietly in a pod, or do both in the same day depending on what their day’s tasks include. Outline how this layout benefits them personally, i.e. that they’re not confined to a desk in a cubicle all day. Plus with a more flexible office layout, you might even have room for a coffee bar or game area, which will probably outweigh any initial misgivings.

You say "glass-walled conference rooms," they hear "having meetings in a fishbowl." How to reframe their thinking about glass-walled conference rooms:

Remind staff that although the walls may be glass, good soundproof glass can keep the outside noise outside and the inside noise inside the conference room. And that makes for more privacy and less distraction. Also, focus on the benefits of glass-walled conference rooms, such as having more natural light. The ability to see coworkers as they meet can actually motivate everyone to work harder, plus it creates internal transparency, which is the No. 1 factor contributing to employee happiness. If budget and layout allow, provide at least one traditional, closed-in conference room so those employees who want to hold private meetings and calls can do so.

You say "standing desks," they think "How can I focus on work when my legs are screaming in pain?" How to reframe their thinking about standing desks:

There are numerous benefits to standing desks, so highlight as many of those as you can. Here are a few that will back your case for using standing desks: standing causes more blood to pump to your brain so you can make faster and better work decisions. It enhances cognitive skills and provides numerous health-related benefits, such as lowering a person’s risk of weight gain and blood sugar levels and reducing upper back and neck pain. But in order for standing desks to do all the above, they have to be used correctly. Tell your employees there are things they shouldn’t do with standing desks, like standing all day long, and reassure them this office furniture doesn’t mean they have to stand the entire workday. You still have chairs, so if they need to sit down, they can. 

A well-designed workspace allows your employees to perform better, makes them feel better and helps provide a better overall employee experience. When your employees understand the positive benefits of the office design trend your office layout follows, they're much more likely to use it in the way it's intended.

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Why Workplace Flexibility Works

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