Does it really matter where you put your desks?

Let’s be honest, designing corporate spaces is all about the bottom line. The old fashioned corporate approach to office design was buying the cheapest furniture possible, in bulk, and arranging it in an assembly line fashion to accommodate the largest amount of workers in the tightest space. corporate office

Google broke the mould and started doing things differently.  When they introduced ping-pong tables in rest areas and sofas for their employees to relax on the business world wondered if they’d gone mad.  Why would you want your employees to relax, at work? They ought to be doing actual work!

As we know, our environment has a profound effect on our wellbeing.  We have an innate awareness of our environment and seek out environments with certain qualities. First of all, humans have a strong need for safety and security and look for those attributes in their environment.

We also look for physical comfort, such as an environment with the right temperature. In addition, we seek an environment that is psychologically comfortable: for example, environments that are familiar, but offer the right amount of stimulus.

Then they realised Google were onto something.

Environment is everything

Retailers and the hospitality industry understand the impact of the physical environment and create atmospheres that promote a positive customer experience.  They base their physical design on three fundamental principles: comfort, safety, and entertainment. These attributes are also important in healthcare environments.

Going back to the traditional corporate office layout, businesses are quickly discovering that this type of office arrangement has a profoundly negative effect on worker performance. Research has also shown them that, by banishing the traditional layout, their employees will work more productively and ultimately generate a greater profit.

Considering the average Brit spends 3,507 days at work, including 204 days of overtime in their lifetime, making sure that it is an attractive and comfortable environment is crucial.

Now we know why it’s so important how you design your working spaces, which way is best?

Open Office Spaces

Pro’s – Open office spaces foster communication. Office layouts were the lower level employees sit in rows or cubicles and managers occupy offices with doors are quickly becoming a thing of the past in favour of large, open spaces.

Co-working spaces typically consist of long desks where freelancers sit side by side.  In businesses the Managers are coming out of their offices and literally bringing the walls down that separate them from the rest of the team.

Conference rooms, though enclosed, usually feature glass walls. Some companies like Twitter even go the extra step and configure their buildings entrance so that employees must pass through a high-end communal break room before continuing on to their departments.

What’s the benefit of all this openness? Communication. Research has pointed to the fact that workers are more likely to communicate with each other for project details and assistance problem-solving if they have mingled socially.

The other benefit of this type of space is, obviously, accountability. With no solid walls or doors, workers experience a sort of “fish bowl effect” and are more likely to stay focused on the task at hand.

Janet might be less inclined to spend two hours in the afternoon researching her next holiday to the Canary Islands if her manager is sitting behind her.

Cons – There are bound to be a few negatives associated with a fully open office concept. Open spaces, on the days when you have a full complement of staff, can be noisy.

If your work is research based or involves digesting and considering large amounts of information you may not be able to concentrate if Bob, two seats down is conducting an audible sales conversation.

Some people just work better in silence, other need background noise. Having breakout spaces, designated “quiet areas” and separate meeting rooms increases the chances of creating a flexible working space for all.

Personal Touches

Pro’s – We all have that one colleague whose desk is adorned with photos of their children, their little cherubs artwork or a little knick knack they were gifted by Secret Santa.

While some may think these personal items too unprofessional for the corporate environment, studies have shown that being allowed to personalise one’s workspace leaves employees feeling more invested in the company’s success.

Psychology students at the University of Exeter put that theory to the test when they studied a local corporation.

They divided the workers into four groups: one group was not allowed to personalise their cubicles at all, one that was allowed to decorate walls without reconfiguring furniture, one allowed to reconfigure however they pleased, and a final group that was given the freedom to decorate but eventually forced to conform to rules.

Unsurprising, the group that was able to reconfigure their cubicles however they wished showed the most positive outcome. They reported improved concentration, ambiance, organization, and productivity.

Cons- If you have heavy client traffic through your organisation the image they get of your company might not be congruent with the brand image you try to project.  Maybe they won’t care that Janet keeps all her pens in a “World’s Best Mum” mug. Or maybe they will?

What is the purpose behind the design?

When it comes to designing corporate workspaces, organisations have to decide what is most important to them. Is the purpose to create a space that nurtures a more productive team? To make sure that employees are happy and comfortable in their day to day environment?

Or is your visual impact of foremost concern? Is the driver of design, ensuring that corporate aesthetic and brand are aligned?

If you are currently in the design phase of your corporate space or looking to refresh your working environment get in touch.  With years of experience, we help corporate leaders decorate spaces that enhance the visual impact for both clients and employees we can help you achieve your vision.

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