If you have generous financial backers and overflowing coffers, office design is a piece of cake. Just hire some designers and consultants, and presto: a brilliant work environment.
Problem is, only about 15 percent of entrepreneurs secure funding from angel investors and venture capitalists. Most startups operate on shoestring budgets financed by personal savings and bank loans. That means most of your money has to go into more critical aspects of your business, like product development. Office design doesn’t rank high on that list.
But even if money is tight, there are a few simple things you can do to create an inspiring work environment for your team. And really, you should. Today’s workers want comfortable, engaging, and inspiring offices – not hastily assembled cubicle farms.
Here are five ways you can give your employees the office they want without breaking your startup’s budget:
1. Embrace Flexible Work
This isn’t an office design tip per se, but it is a way to give employees access to inspiring environments. When you allow employees to work from locations outside the office, you give them the chance to set up shop at home, in the local cafe, or even right by the beach – all far more engaging environments than a regular office.
2. Give Your Employees Some Control Over the Office
It doesn’t matter that your employees aren’t expert interior designers. Their input can still help to create a more inspiring environment. Workers who have some control over the design and layout of their workspaces are more engaged, healthier, and 32 percent more productive.
Encourage staff members and new hires to personalize their workspaces so that they feel comfortable and ready to face the challenges of their work.
3. Ensure There Are Quiet Spaces
Workers have been complaining about open-plan offices for years. Many feel they are too noisy and distracting. Sure, these spaces can be great for collaboration, but they can also be highly stressful when workers need to put their heads down and plow forward – which is what research suggests your employees spend most of their time doing.
Even though cool open-plan offices may look like trendy paradises, they really aren’t great for getting stuff done. To get the balance right between collaborative work and intensive individual work, you’ll need to provide plenty of private office space that employees can use when they need to work without distractions. They’ll be more productive and happier this way.
This doesn’t mean you have to run out and buy more office space. Instead, you can just turn the existing personal offices you may have – which are likely to go unoccupied and unused 77 percent of the time, according to furniture design company Herman Miller – into quiet, library-style public workspaces.
4. Build More Collaborative Workspaces
The same Herman Miller research cited above found that 70 percent of office collaboration takes place at workstations, not conference rooms or water coolers. Obviously, this can be distracting to nearby workers.
Just like your employees need quiet space for private work, they also need spaces for collaborative work so that they don’t disrupt other staff members.
5. Set Up Some Hot Desks
Herman Miller also found that the typical workstation is unoccupied 60 percent of the time, which presents an opportunity for more efficient use of your office space.
Take some of your chronically underused workstations and turn them into hot desks – that is, unassigned seats that are up for grabs by any employee. If you transform eight rarely used workstations into four highly used hot desks, you’ll free up space in your office for the collaborative and private workspaces discussed above.
Building an inspiring workspace is about more than having cool furniture and trendy decorations. The most inspiring workspaces enable employees to move easily between collaborative and solo work without disrupting other employees.
So, really, you don’t need a top-rated interior designer to build an awesome office. You just need to be smart about how you use the space you have,
About the Author
Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.
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