Have you ever felt like your office had wasted space?
Not literally, of course—no self-respecting business owner or space planner would intentionally leave a room completely empty or without an immediate purpose. But no matter how many fancy new chairs or long conference tables you put in a room, offices of any size frequently run into issues that leave some spaces underutilized.
Modern work trends more toward telecommuting, online collaboration, and flexible work spaces allowing for areas of quiet study and quick brainstorming. It may seem that some traditional office spaces like conference rooms and break rooms are falling by the wayside. Many workers find they are just as productive and function just as well as part of a team from the comfort of their desk as they did in collaborative open office spaces. And, given the rise of remote work, they might not even be in the office at all.
Most of you reading this, whether you own a small business or simply help plan office space and room usage, are already facing such issues. You might not be sure what to do to reverse these trends. The solution is different for every business depending on the needs of your teams and the sort of work they do.
What Makes a Good Office Space for Your Team?
Here are a few office hacks to improve your workplace that just might help you get your team more involved in the spaces they inhabit.
Does your team have the tools they need?
One of the first questions you might need to ask yourself is: Am I providing the tools my team needs to work?
Above and beyond things like desks and computers, you might find the reason why your teammates don’t use a specific meeting room or brainstorming corner is because it doesn’t give them the equipment they need to stay productive.
A good example comes from PolyVision, a whiteboard manufacturer who collaborated with an office in Louisiana to install more collaborative tools in a meeting room that frequently went unused. Once the room had more writable surfaces (image below) and equipment to keep their meetings productive and functional, the meeting room became a popular space.
Take a look at some of your unused areas and see if maybe the lack of proper supplies is keeping your workers out of these rooms.
Similarly, an article from Lifehack stresses the need for flexibility in spaces, even above and beyond tools and equipment. A lot of workers these days find themselves using various work postures. You can increase productivity in your spaces (and make them more attractive to your workers) by offering more areas for your workers to stretch out and stay productive.
- Providing a common area for eating and taking a break
- Adding individual lounge furniture for increased productivity in areas where only a laptop is needed, or to help with quick phone calls
- Making sure your meeting rooms are clearly indicated and easy to access
Nothing will make your teammates feel more awkward than not knowing what room they need to go to so they can jump into a conference call.
Can you improve the office layout?
Okay, so you’ve got a bunch of neat new stuff in your office spaces, and you’ve provided plenty of options for how the rooms can be used. What now?
The Forbes Chicago Business Council suggests creating an efficient layout. All the fun furniture and multi-functional rooms in the world aren’t going to help your team get more done if they’re having a hard time getting to and from their desks, or if they can’t find anything.
Create spaces that best serve the organizational needs of your various teams by doing things like:
- Keeping the copier away from areas where noise could be an issue (such as meeting rooms)
- Keeping team members seated close to each other to encourage easier collaboration and avoid miscommunication
- Avoiding a lot of clutter that your team—or worse, visiting clients—would have to get around to get to their destination
How comfortable is the office environment?
Once these questions have been answered, the last change you might want to make is one that speaks to the creature comforts of your team. Office design specialists Convene suggest focusing on temperature, air quality, and lighting.
No matter how many laptops and tablets you hand out to your team, none of it matters if they don’t have a comfortable place to work.
Think about the poor team over by the super drafty door. Could they use an in-wall heater? Will your remote workers be more inclined to come to the office if they have enough lighting to help them see what they’re doing during the winter months? Studies have shown that proper temperature regulation and the right sort of lighting can reduce stress and encourage productivity. By making your office a more overall comfortable place to be, you will encourage your team to stick around longer and get more done.
Innovative workspaces that get the results you want
Granted, as exciting as it might be to make these office changes, you can’t just throw a bunch of expensive new furniture at the problem and expect it to work out. Make sure to really get to know what your team faces during their workday and see what you can do to make it more comfortable for them.
You’ll know you’ve done your job if just one of your workers stays productive and comfortable, or if it brings a few of those remote workers back into the office because they can finally get more done there.
Tim David is a writer based outside of Detroit who focuses on topics ranging from small business planning and financial advice to movies, video games, and pop culture. He has one cat and spends most of his spare time playing in a band.