When I think of offices, I generally think of the one I worked in during college: plain, uncomfortable, noisy, with regular 9-5 hours. As I've been writing about offices and office design for several years, I've had plenty of opportunity to think about what my perfect office would be like. Well, what would yours be like?
If you're anything like me, you list probably includes more a comfortable workstation, a commute that didn't happen at peak traffic times, and a place to work that fit my exact needs for my particular task, and people with a similar cultural fit. These roughly boil down into four main customizable categories: workstation, office settings, schedule, and culture.
Workstation control means a lot more than an adjustable chair and has benefits beyond ergonomics and comfortability. Properly thought through, a totally customizable workstation might include the following adjustments:
- Chair Adjustments
- Desk Height
- Monitor/Keyboard/Mouse Position
- Storage Arrangement
- Lighting Adjustments
Why would someone need all of these adjustments? One reason is that people are individuals and have certain preferences as to how they like to complete work. A 2011 study shows that some of the additional benefits of customizable workstation include higher job satisfaction and less stress. They note that Job Satisfaction increases when the employee is able to be more effective from a workstation customized to help them be more productive.
Along a similar line to the workstation is the need to customize where you are working from. while your desk might now be perfectly suited for you to work at, it isn't meant for meetings or collaborative brainstorms. Your office needs to have the correct types of environments for the types of work your company does.
Previously, I've written about the need to regularly adjust an office in an effort to find out what works best for your team. In the same way, it makes sense that office designers ought to be finding out what types of spaces employees actually use, and adjusting accordingly.
After all, a recent survey noted several types of office space which employees yearn for, but find to be lacking in support: Reading space, private space, relaxation space, teleconference space, and creative / thinking space.
As mentioned above, I used to commute right at the worst traffic time and basically was wasting precious time doing nothing but shouting curses and being frustrated. Had I been smarter, I might have asked to come in slightly later and leave slightly later. That way, I could have zoomed right to the office and gotten to work in a good mood.
Flexible schedules are something may companies are allowing their employees to participate in. Some companies allow virtual work, and 4 day work weeks, while others give flexibility on starting and ending hours. If job satisfaction and effectiveness are deeply connected to customizability, you can bet these customizations will have employees working harder and smarter.
Another Turnstone blog post mentions that workers should find their most productive time of the day and plan around that. If you're sharpest from 8-10am, then make sure your at work then. Likewise, if you're basically a walking dead at 4pm, why even bother?
Even if all three items discussed were given to you, going to work would still be a drag without a solid company culture. And with culture comes variability in office design.
Two companies could have the same types of people as employees and the same tasks be completed, but require totally different office designs because of the cultures developed from within each. One company might be into recreational activities like foosball or ping-pong while another enjoys taking advantage of library spaces or great coffee bar.
Wrapping It Up
The concept of a customizable office makes sense in each segment mentioned above, but I like to imagine an office that was perfectly customized to every workers needs at whatever particular task they were completing. Imagine the effectiveness and productivity that would occur!
What changes do you need to make to your office to be more productive and customized to your needs?