Despite the boon in virtual and remote workplaces, a physical office is still critical to the operation of many businesses. When an office is necessary to conduct your business, it’s important to make it as appropriate and conducive to efficiency and productivity as possible. The word “office” has many different connotations today; employees have different expectations than in the past as to what constitutes a suitable workspace. Here are some considerations to help you meet the needs of your employees, making your office a pleasant and professional place of business.
There’s no one-size-fits-all office
Every business is unique unto itself. That’s why it’s important to determine your business’ individual needs, those of your customers and your employees. Consider such individual issues as:
Separation of area
- Individual space - Do your employees work mainly in solitude? If they have a personal space in which they work, is it free of distraction from other employees or customers? On the other hand, make certain that solo workers don’t suffer from a sense of isolation by pushing them off in a corner where they’ll feel out of touch.
- Collaboration space - Many teams collaborate, whether regularly or occasionally. Make sure there’s a large enough space for everyone to “pull up a chair” when it’s time to put their heads together, free of interruption from other employees or customers.
- Private meeting space - If private meetings are something your business conducts with clients, colleagues or employees, be certain to have a room or rooms where they can comfortably take place. Privacy entails the ability to close a door and have required equipment and resources available independent of the rest of the office.
- Public space - If your business is one that sees clients or receives the public, it should provide a reception area separated from employees as much as possible. The comings and goings of customers will distract employees whose jobs are not necessarily related to them. Customers may feel they’re intruding rather than being welcomed when they walk into the middle of a workspace. From that reception area, clients can then be directed to whomever they need to see
Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that the overall space is large enough to allow employees who may spend hours on end within the same four walls to move around freely without feeling cramped or confined. An “appropriate office space” means much more than just a desk and chair.
A comfortable workspace is not optional. All employees should feel comfortable in the environment in which they’re being asked to work. That includes comfortable temperature, desirable amount of ambient noise, sufficient light and adequate equipment, as well as a comfortable chair and appropriate work area. Take ergonomics seriously and see that, as much as is possible, your employees have what they need to work without pain or injury associated with their tasks.
Working in an impersonal environment with generic equipment discourages productivity. Allow your employees some input as to what they use and how their space appears to encourage them to take ownership of their responsibilities and workplace. This concept can be demonstrated in a couple ways:
- Equipment - To the greatest degree feasible, accept employees’ input on their preferred working equipment (e.g. type of computer, keyboard, chair, accessories and supplies).
- Personal items - The incorporation of some individual items and preferences in each employee’s space should be encouraged, so long as they are tasteful, unobtrusive, non-offensive and in moderation. Consider an office-wide (or department-wide) decor theme that may include interests or preferences of a number of employees (e.g. a sports theme, color scheme or seasonal decor). This will serve both to personalize the space and foster a sense of cohesiveness among employees.
Even if your business is of a conservative nature, do take color into consideration. The effect of color on attitude and mood is proven to be intense. Bright or dramatic colors may be distracting or even off-putting, but even a variety of subtle color variations from area to area can provide some visual stimulus that will help employees feel more energized.
Most humans are deeply attracted to and inspired by nature. Windows are a nice way to let the outdoors in, but some office spaces simply don’t have them. Do what you can to incorporate natural elements with plants, artwork and decor to help employees feel less isolated from nature while they’re under your roof.
The office of today is so much more than a large, generic room separated by cubicle walls. It needs to incorporate employees’ tastes and cater to their needs. Such an office fosters productivity and efficiency by demonstrating to the employees they are valuable assets to the company, worthy of significant consideration.
How does your business’ workspace put employees first?