The design of your office isn't just about aesthetics. In many industries, it's now key to your success.
Keeping your workplace in line with current trends helps your current employees work more effectively. It helps you recruit future employees who appreciate a forward-thinking company. It can even help you land clients.
For start-up companies, a well-designed workplace is even more important. The office needs to be able to grow along with the company while also setting the tone for how things work early on.
So how do you do it? As president of a family-run office furniture company, I've been keeping tabs on workplace trends for years and put together a few tips on how to design the perfect start- up office.
These tips also apply to more established companies which are thinking of expanding in the next few years.
The big trend of the past few years has been the open office, in which employers have taken down walls that artificially separated workers from each other. While this kind of workspace has drawbacks on privacy and noise, it makes it dramatically easier for people to collaborate.
The office of tomorrow will have even more spaces for collaboration. One corner might be a cozy couch and a bunch of comfortable stools that can be easily reconfigured to serve as an impromptu meeting place for a group brainstorm.
Give Workers Privacy
Even in a collaborative office, there are times when workers need privacy. A good option is to keep one office empty for use by people who need to call their doctors or spouses to discuss sensitive personal issues or for two workers to talk about a proposal or have an annual review.
Another option, if you have an open-office layout, is to design a space with seating that's designed both for collaboration and privacy. Some chairs now come with adjustable privacy screens that can let an individual worker isolate themselves to get work done or openly join a group discussion. Setting up small conference rooms with an easy-to-use reservation system can also help to create more private spaces in an open-office layout.
The office cafeteria is no longer just for eating. As one of the places where employees from different departments congregate, it's a crucial place for cross-team collaboration. Higher tables with integrated plugs and phone-charging USB outlets will help employees shift from an off- hand conversation into work, if inspiration strikes.
The same goes for chairs and couches throughout the office. All of them should come with integrated phone-charging and electrical outlets to allow them to serve as secondary workstations for people who just need a place to hunker down and get work done or get a fresh perspective..
Business is constantly changing, so your office should too. The office needs to be able to expand--and, sad to say, sometimes even contract--as new products are launched, new divisions are added and client demands shift.
When buying desks, look for ones that can be easily moved and configured in lots of different designs. At first, you might want workers in small groups of four, but as your business grows, you might need to arrange them in a more efficient rows. You shouldn't have to buy new furniture to do that.
Keep Things Democratic
At more established businesses, hierarchies tend to harden. The corner office becomes a prized location for a key member of management, while newer employees get stuck in the office hinterlands.
Start-ups can't afford this kind of rigidity. The next big idea for your firm could come from its newest employee, which management might not hear from a secluded corner office. Design your office to be as un-hierarchical as possible, with workers of all levels regularly interacting in an egalitarian way.
Overall, the main objective for a new start-up is to be flexible. Just as your business strategy should be adaptive to the marketplace, your office infrastructure should also be able to change on a dime--and without spending too many dimes to do it.
Blake Zalcberg is president of OFM, a family-run office and school furniture manufacturer and distributor headquartered in North Carolina with distribution centers there and in California, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. For more than twenty years, it has provided affordable and quality furniture through a nationwide dealer network, offering the latest concepts and designs to businesses, and government, health care and educational facilities. Working with manufacturers in Mexico, Taiwan and China, OFM designs furniture to meet the highest industry standards which are sold through a variety of retailers, mail-order catalogs, and online dealers including Staples, Wayfair, Overstock, and National Business Furniture. To learn more about OFM, visit: http://www.ofminc.com