6 Questions to Ask Your Employees Before Designing Your Office Space
Designing an office space can be daunting. Unlike residential design, commercial design is for the benefit of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people of varying ages, physical abilities, and jobs. Because the design of your space will definitively impact your employees, considering their job functions, departmental adjacencies, and yes, even their preferences, is key to creating an engaging corporate home.
As a first step in your design adventure, take some time to poll your employees. If your business is large, request the department managers to ask questions of appropriate personnel in their area, and then pass the information onward to the decision makers. Along with giving you the information you need to continue, this step offers an added bonus: the opportunity to get to know your employees better and see how you can build an engaged workforce.
Here’s a handy guide to interviewing your employees as one of the first parts of the commercial design process.
1. Where do you spend most of your time while working?
If some of your employees telecommute four days out of five, dedicating individualized work spaces to them is likely unnecessary. It’s good to know if you're going to need to focus more on touchdown stations and hot desks, or put higher importance on static and individualized stations.
If your employees are at their desks 75% of their work day, for example, it would make sense to invest most of your time and energy into work spaces that promote happiness and comfort, and allow for easy task completion. Conversely, if employees rarely use their desks, simple stations will get the job done. And, if they aren’t spending much time at their station, knowing where most of the work does happen will tell you to focus on that type of area. For instance, do they collaborate frequently and wind up migrating to the lounge area to do so? If so, you’d want to be sure to include plenty of soft and modular seating arrangements.
2. Is your work style more collaborative, or more independent?
Different floor plans and furnishings lend themselves to different types of work. If employees need to handle solo tasks with high levels of privacy, plan to include areas with high-backed modular units, high panel benching and architectural details that create private nooks. Or, if your workers collaborate almost exclusively, dedicate most of your office floor space to creating comfy communal areas and benching systems with low, or no, dividing panels.
3. How helpful is it to have easy access to your team or other departments?
The open office plan has become popular, with mixed results. If your employees collaborate often, an open plan can make teamwork easier, and help employees feel like a unified workforce. While popular, however, this option isn’t always the best.
For some employees, an open-office concept can make them feel agitation and distress, especially if there is nowhere provided for quiet and privacy. Even if most of your team focuses on collaboration, be sure to include at least a few strategically placed private areas for one on one meetings, or just some quiet space to think through all the creative options from the collaborative efforts.
4. What’s the biggest hassle in your job?
With creative interior design, you may be able to alleviate some of these job-related struggles. For example, if your employees in the purchasing department mention difficulties with keeping pricing updated, consider if moving your sales or quoting team closer to purchasing may improve communication between the two teams.
And keep an open mind. Don’t simply dismiss employees who express frustrations that at first seem unrelated to your office's interior design. Instead, listen and make a note to ask your commercial interior design team if a smarter layout just might fix some things.
5. While working, are you happiest in a space buzzing with activity and people, or in a more solitary and quiet area?
Everyone is wired differently. And if you have team members who really shine when they get some quiet time every day, it’s a good idea to make sure that option is open for them. Or if there are folks who love to be in the middle of constant activity, having them stay in a quiet corner all day just might keep them from doing their best work. Just like a residential home, your business home can keep both work styles performing best, using a hybrid design layout.
6. If you could redesign this office yourself, what’s one thing you would do differently?
Your employees have likely thought of some things they would like to see in the workplace. Give them a voice in making these visions realities. Capitalize off of this free and easy source of ideas. As an added benefit, implementing some or all of these ideas can build workplace loyalty and happiness.
Finally, there are a couple of other details to be aware of. For instance, it’s a good idea to have a solid grasp on the metrics of your staff. Knowing the average age of your employees can help guide you and your commercial design team in making decisions. For example, studies have shown Millennials often favor collaborative work spaces and additions like scribble walls. So designing a workplace heavy in these features is a good idea if these are the individuals who fill your team.
Also, keep an eye on the expected trend for potential growth for the next decade. Designing (or redesigning) your commercial space takes time, energy, and a financial investment, so make sure it’s the best investment possible by planning for the near future.
If you need support designing or outfitting your office, we’re here to help. Connecting Elements has commercial office space design specialists ready to help you create an environment your employees will love. Email or give us a call today at 877.779.3409 to schedule an appointment.