The Modern Office
Planning an office used to mean counting how many employees there were for desks, how many conference rooms were needed and deciding whether or not to go to the trouble of providing a break room. Offices were usually designed with administrative staff in cubicles and managers occupying the office space with the windows. The problem with keeping people boxed into their own little areas is that it does not encourage teamwork or promote creativity. Studies have proven that encouraging fun, teamwork and spontaneity is vital to both employee morale and productivity.
One of the first companies to challenge the conventional thought process behind office design was Google. The headquarters for the web-engine heavy hitters is located on 26 acres in Mountain View, California. The Googleplex, as it has been dubbed, is made up of 8 buildings and integrates open spaces on the property with water features like pools and fountains as well as pathways and plazas. The Googleplex was completed in 1997. In 2007 Google added a series of solar panels to the rooftops of 4 buildings and 2 solar carports making it the largest solar installation in the United States among corporations.
Google has offices all over the world and while each of the offices are different, they share some of the same elements such as; bicycles or scooters to travel between meeting spaces, massage chairs to ease stress and inflatable balls to toss around. Laptops are standard issue for all Google employees, or Googlers, as they are affectionately called. Lunches, dinners and snacks are provided as well. Google doesn"t have conference rooms; they have "huddle rooms", yurts and cubes. The Google culture is much more than just offering fun and creative office spaces. It is also about valuing each employee and encouraging administrators and executives to interact together as often as possible. It is not unusual to see a Googler lob a ball at an executive during a meeting.
It is understood that not every company has the budget to go full-scale Googleplex and you don"t need to run out and buy a foosball table but there are things that can be done to an existing workspace that will help move your office away from an outdated space towards one that will be more conducive to creativity and productivity.
Potted plants have long been considered an office staple and are a good way to incorporate soothing natural elements into the workplace. Use organically inspired furniture, light-filled spaces, textured surfaces and fountains to infuse natural elements throughout the office. If you have any outside space available, consider making an outdoor area available for breaks and meetings.
Emphasize common areas within offices for more of a team-oriented feeling. Furnish a large space with a mix of long couches, comfortable chairs or bean bag chairs. Turn one wall into a chalkboard wall or dry erase board and encourage employees to use the space to kick-start their creativity.
Add personality and increase employee morale by letting staff choose their own fun, colorful and functional decor. When Facebook designed their new office in Palo Alto, CA they intentionally left several walls white to encourage employees to add anything they would like.
There is no magic formula to increase the productivity of employees. Leadership and effective management in an environment that encourages teamwork will be more effective than simply adding "fun zones" and hoping for the best. However, making small changes in the workplace could make a big difference in your company"s productivity.
This could include something as simple as greening it up with plants, having a feature wall, adding inspirational quotes like the famous Hustle neon word sign, an adult ball pit, massage chairs, free tea and coffee (or beer!!!). Now you go, think up some clever ideas.