It’s not news that your office—its layout, style, decor, and overall design—can profoundly impact your employees and their performance. Your space planning design can help make this impact positive by encouraging productive and collaborative activities.
Space Planning Design for Business Needs
Ultimately, your office design should facilitate your employee’s work so the business can achieve its goals. Productive, engaged employees (i.e. those who can do their work better and faster) usually mean more business goals are met.
So, when looking at the space planning and design for your office, you must be clear on:
- Your business goals
- The work your employees need to do to achieve those goals
For example, one business goal might be to expand into a new market by the end of the year. To do that, your marketing team needs to be able to research and develop a solid marketing strategy. What does that research and development look like? Lots of time and space to brainstorm ideas? Onsite research in that new market? Maybe focus groups to test different strategies?
Once you understand your business goals and how they’ll be achieved, you can begin your space planning design to best facilitate that work.
Getting Good Employee Input
When you’re planning a change in your workplace, whether it’s relatively small or radical, getting and using input from employees is a good way to help them get excited about the change. The key is to get constructive input. There are three methods companies use most:
- Surveys: These can be very helpful, but it’s often challenging to design a survey that will give you complete and accurate data. Employees may not have time to fill out surveys, so you may have to offer incentives to get responses.
- Focus groups: Focus groups allow you to ask deeper, more specific questions to a select group of people that represent each department or business unit.
- Audits: Walking around your workplace, observing what people are doing—and asking them, what they’re doing and what would make their jobs easier—can give you a lot of good information. But, you’ll need to conduct this exercise several times to get a complete picture.
Space planning and utilization software, like Serraview, can provide an accurate picture of the type of work people are doing. Empirical data can illustrate how often employees are in meetings or conferences or how frequently they collaborate or work solo. Of course, it also will show many people or which teams are typically in the office on any given day.
The data you gain from strong utilization software can be invaluable. You may know, based on data that your utilization software provides that approximately 60% of your employees are in the office at a given time. But, does that mean 60% of every department? More likely, maybe 25% of your sales staff is in the office most of the time, along with 80% of your HR department, 50% of your legal team, and 40% of your IT department (except on the various days each week or month when different departments have “all hands” meetings). Utilization software will be able to provides specific data so your space planning design can account for the different needs of each group.
Create Water Cooler Moments—but Don’t Force Them
Most companies today want a space planning design that encourages collaboration, both planned (breakout or brainstorming rooms that teams can book) and spontaneous (cafe-like settings where people can stop and chat while having coffee). You should intentionally try to design a layout that encourages a certain flow through the space. You can add furniture and other items, like whiteboards, that will encourage people to share ideas when they meet. But don’t get so fixated on creating the “ideal water cooler” space, and don’t worry if the space doesn’t get used exactly as you intended.
If certain spaces are being used differently than designed, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being used incorrectly. If a space is designed to meet people’s needs, they will use it—but their needs might not be exactly what you envisioned. Flexibility is a crucial element in every space planning design.
Flexibility does not have to mean a completely open office, or even an activity-based workspace. It just means that, as you design your space for your current needs and you keep potential needs in mind. This may mean choosing smaller desks for offices to make it easier to move them (and people) around. Or it may mean running cables and wires through ceilings to make it easy to convert an office to a conference room with video capability. You will not be able to plan for every possible scenario, but with some forethought, you can make it easier to adapt to different possibilities.