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Three Key Factors to Designing Your Office Space

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      It is no secret that successful businesses have workplaces that attract and retain great talent. Take Google, Facebook, you-name-it.com: you see pictures of young professionals throwing a Frisbee, playing ping pong, or sitting on swings. These companies have become the poster children for what millennials look for in workplace environments. What about everyone else? What if you don’t live in a climate where you can play beach volleyball on your lunch breaks? What if your business isn’t a billion dollar IPO with unlimited capital and free snacks in the cafeteria? The rest of us still need to attract and retain great talent. How is it done? Here are three principles for designing a workspace that will help retain and attract great talent.

      1. Work Environment Choice

      According to Knoll, a leading furniture manufacturer, 53% of your time is spent outside your primary workspace. This statistic begs the question: what is your primary workspace? Are you at your desk, in an enclosed room or cubicle all day, every day? The answer is likely no. A sea of workstations, cubicles, and offices does not reflect how people work today. MSR recently completed Aimia’s United States corporate headquarters. Our design reduced overall square foot by 48% by incorporating work environment choice. Every day employees go to work and find a place to work. If they need privacy, they find a phone booth. If they want to put their feet on the coffee table and lounge on a couch, okay. The space offers assigned desks for those who absolutely need them, but 70% of the company operates in a culture where work is not necessarily done at a traditional desk. Employees (and not just millennials) love having the freedom and flexibility in choosing where they engage with colleagues, work, think, and create.

      2. Incorporating the Brand

      The moment a prospective employee, client, cleaning person, or your mom enters the space, they need to know they have arrived at your company. Brand is not paper thin. It’s more than putting your logo on the wall and splashing your brand colors on key design features. The heart of your space should convey your identity. You should feel it as much as you can see it. In her book I Wish I Worked There! A Look Inside the Most Creative Spaces in Business, Kursty Groves talks about how Urban Outfitters found a way to reflect its identity as an innovative clothing and housewares retailer with stores located in adaptively reused structures through its relocated corporate headquarters, which consists of repurposed buildings in Philadelphia’s historic Navy Yard. She states, “Urban Outfitters treats its customers to a creative experience in-store and extends this treatment to provide a creative experience in the employees’ workspaces.” After Urban Outfitters moved from Center City Philadelphia to their newly designed headquarters in the Navy Yard, recruitment time for senior managers decreased 41% and employee turnover dropped to 11%. These spaces embody brand-appropriate design.

      3. It’s Not about Foosball—It’s about Wellness

      You don’t need to have a 40-acre campus with sand volleyball, running tracks, and basketball courts. You simply need to have the mindset of making healthy choices. Dr. Mike O’Neill, senior research strategist at Haworth, Inc., and Phil Williams, executive director of project delivery at Delos, recently spoke at the CoreNet Global Summit 2015 about the WELL Building Standard, the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. They outlined seven facets that make up the WELL Building Standard: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Unlike other rating systems, WELL is not about scoring points and putting a plaque on the wall. It focuses on basic elements of human nature.

      • Air. The design team needs to make smart choices when choosing materials and how they impact the air quality in the work environment.
      • Water. In the US, quantity is the biggest issue. In other countries, quality is a major factor.
      • Nourishment. Offer healthy food choices. If you are providing lunch, include water. If soda is necessary, offer small cans.
      • Light. Access to daylight should be a human right.
      • Fitness. Do you need printers at the end of every row? Have a central cafeteria on one floor instead of kitchenettes to save money, encourage employees to move around the space and talk to one another.
      • Comfort. It is as much about acoustical comfort as it is about thermal and ergonomic comfort.
      • Mind. Awareness of well-being is key. Ask employees what they like the most/least about your space.

      According to O’Neill and Williams, incorporating these facets into a recent project resulted in:

      • 4% increase of work accomplished.
      • 8% increase in creativity.
      • 17% decrease in trouble sleeping at night.
      • 10% increase in feeling relax at work.

      Companies grow, shrink, relocate offices, or renew current leases. These inherent changes in physical space offer great opportunities to reimagine workplace choice, brand, and health.

    • According to Knoll, a leading furniture manufacturer, 53% of your time is spent outside your primary workspace (infographic courtesy of Knoll)
    • Aimia's new U.S. headquarters offers employees a variety of work environment choices--such as cafe-style seating and focus booths and rooms--in addition to traditional desks
    • Urban Outfitters Corporate Campus mirrors the experience found in their retail stores, clearly reflecting the company's brand
    • the University of Minnesota Morris Welcome Center aligns with WELL Building Standards including Air (healthy material choices) and Light (the incorporation of daylight)
    • About the Author

      Josh Stowers

      • Architect / Principal
      • josh@msrdesign.com
      • 612 889 0034
      • View Bio