My job consists of showing photos of offices with incredible office designs so it might seem like my answer to the question, "Does Office Design Always Matter" would be a resounding "Yes". Well you're right, it is. Office Design does always matter. However, I think a major discussion of what office design is and why it is important needs to be had. Let's dig in.
The Purpose of Office Design
As it's most basic level, Office Design is meant to increase desirable characteristics and decrease undesirable characteristics of an office setting. There are literally thousands of possible characteristics that one might aim to adjust using the tools available in the office design process, but a few common ones I see regularly are:
- Improving Morale
- Reducing Real Estate Costs
- Accommodating Change in Employee Numbers
- Adjusting Desired Workplace Goals (Collaboration, Openness, etc)
- Brand Awareness
- Gaining Positive PR
When we consider the above purposes of Office Design – and the many other possibilities – we can't get lost in aesthetics of an office. All too often, offices that look great, that have interesting color schemes, and that purchase awesome furniture get all the accolades of great office design. While those may indeed be great, we should be comfortable with the idea that a plain office can and may be well-designed or better-designed than aesthetically pleasing spaces. This idea generally makes sense to us when considering products to use. If a product is beautiful, but terrible to use, it is terrible to use. The same goes for offices. Don't simply transform a terrible office into a beautiful terrible office.
Utility And The Needs of The Company
Offices need at be functional in order to be well-designed, but again, we can't get caught up in a narrow definition of usefulness and functionality. The lens with which we judge them needs to be that of the underlying purpose of the design itself.
If a company's major goal in redesigning their office was to increase collaborative efforts of their employees – and they did not add any space for employees to be collaborative – it would be a failure of office design. But take that same space, give it to a company who values focused work and privacy, and you have a winning office design. One space, two company approaches, and you have totally different outcomes. You see, the important thing in office design seems to be less about aiming for design ideals and striving to create a space that fits the needs and goals of your particular company.
- 22squared was interesting in creating a more collaborative office environment and made more spaces where employees could work together… including the walls which boast 70% of the surface as being writable.
- Alcatel-Lucent was looking to reduce real estate footprint, so it merged two offices and offers 250 flexible workstations for 450 employees knowing that a reduced % of employees are in the office at any one particular time.
- As a company with sustainability at the heart of its mission, Greenbiz decided its office needed to reflect what was preached, so when they redid their office, they selected sustainable furniture options.
- Scout Branding Co was looking to create a workspace that reflected the company's culture and selected Turnstone's Bivi system which enhanced teamwork and simply inspired staff thought its great design.
So Does Office Design Always Matter?While we set out saying that the answer was yes – it seems pretty safe to say that it still is. And for those of you considering redesigning your office, let's look at a few quick tips for helping out with the process:
- Consider Why You Are Designing
- Consider What Your Team Needs
- Consider The Things You Don't Want Changed
- Design – Don't Decorate!