Over the years, the way we lay out offices has changed drastically. Companies moved away from cubicle farms and toward more open floor plans. However, as challenges with working in such an environment became more apparent, businesses began creating spaces for specific purposes.
Today, companies are much more likely to consider the use of the area rather than simply designing the way everyone else does. Whether you just moved to a new space or you’ve been there for a while, there are several things you can do to improve your office and create a productive and exciting environment. It has to meet many needs and be functional. Since people spend the majority of their day at the office, so it also needs to be comfortable and inviting.
The national commercial vacancy rate is only 14.2%, with most newer spaces at capacity. This means you may not be able to find the exact setup you most desire and will have to adapt whatever’s available in your area and your price range. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve nearly any location — and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do so. Either take on one project at a time or reuse some of the items you already have. Simple changes often make the biggest impact.
1. Rearrange Your Furniture
Talk to your employees about the layout of your office space. You may have visited another company with an open design and think it’s a brilliant idea, but your workers may not agree. A recent study published in a professional journal found open office plans may actually lead to less communication between employees rather than more. The amount of face-to-face interaction in an open floor plan led to a 70% decrease. If you do choose open, make sure you offer quiet space as well.
2. Let the Light In
Recent research by Cornell University proves what we’ve known all along: Natural light improves productivity and is good for us. When offices used daylight rather than artificial light, there was an 84% decrease in eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision—all things that impact productivity. Getting more natural rays also improves mood and makes an office seem brighter and more inviting. Start by removing any window coverings. A bigger remodel might be adding windows or skylights to your space.
3. Add Functional Flooring
Think about the type of flooring you install in your workspace. If you’ll have high traffic, the last thing you want is carpet that holds dirt and debris. A better option might be a durable concrete floor. Today’s concrete comes in many colors and patterns to create a high-end look. The advantages of concrete are numerous, including durability and ease of cleaning. If you are building your office space from scratch, include concrete in your list of flooring options. However, you can add concrete floors at any time. Just be aware you’ll need to rent some temporary office space or shut down for a few days during renovations so the work can be completed in an empty area.
4. Find Custom Art
Nobody wants to work in a boring space. Custom art that signifies your company’s values or uplifts your employees is a welcome addition to any office. Put up images of people at last year’s company picnic. Feature an employee of the month on your television screen. Display a digital image that runs a video outlining future goals and concepts. This is your chance to show off your brand’s personality.
5. Offer Quiet Rooms
No matter how much people enjoy their co-workers, there are times when you need to take a phone call without interruption or give a project your full attention. Make sure you offer quiet spaces or pods where employees can get away from the hustle and bustle of the office.
Some people are more inclined to socialize than others. An introvert may find your open space a complete nightmare and may need a few minutes of quiet to de-frag from the constant stimulation. Quiet rooms accommodate a variety of needs and are a must in any work environment.
Photo: Medhat Ayad
6. Rethink Your Furniture
Get out of the mindset of using the same old furniture you’ve always used. Today’s offices should offer a variety of workspace options and ergonomic choices. Invest in sit/stand desks and chairs. Offer standing workspaces. Place a couch or comfy armchairs in meeting areas. You want your office space to feel inviting yet professional, so think about the areas where people are likely to gather and the types of furniture that make the most sense.
7. Consider Employee Health
In the annual Employee Wellness Trends Report, researchers surveyed more than 90 health professionals overseeing millions of employees. They found as many as 68% of employers plan to invest more funds into programs focused on financial, mental and stress wellness in the coming year. Look for opportunities to provide workout space. If you don’t have room for a company gym, at least create a small walking path around the building or offer employees an after-hours gym membership. Healthier employees mean they’ll miss fewer days due to illness.
8. Get Back to Nature
Bring the outdoors inside by adding some plants. Some varieties even help purify the air. However, they also beautify the space. Allow employees to place a small plant on their desk and bring in larger ones to put in corners and seating areas. Even a small plant can help employees focus better and feel more at home.
Photo: Kelly Ishmael
Make Small, Consistent Improvements
As you can tell from the suggestions listed above, not every change needs to cost a fortune. Many small improvements are free. This opens funds for larger projects, such as replacing floors, painting or buying new furniture. Talk to your employees about what they’d like to see in their workspace and add the elements that make the most sense for your company.