Open floor plans vs. cubicles. Shared desks vs. individualized workspaces. Purple walls vs. yellow ones. Each of these contrasts represents an opposing mentality, and those who analyze office layouts may never completely agree on the best way to optimize a workspace.
However, we think we may be able to develop some kind of consensus with these three points. Ultimately, it comes down to a single word: individualization. If you’ve ever taken the Strengthsfinder personality quiz, you may have heard of this word. To summarize, Individualization recognizes that what works for person A might not work for person B. Likewise, what works for company A might be a horrible idea for company B.
For example, if you run a law firm and your paralegal needs to be focused on analyzing court briefs, they probably need to do this in an area free of distraction. Sticking this person into an open floor plan is a recipe for disaster, which brings us to our first point.
When we say strategy, we’re not talking about marketing plans or sales goals. Rather, we’re talking about what you want to see happen in your office. This might sound a bit like culture, which can be a part of it, but we want to go deeper than that.
What do you hope to accomplish on a daily basis with your team? This is the underlying question you need to answer before even considering how to optimize your workspace.
Is your business model one that feeds off team collaboration, or is each team member a silo unto themselves? Do you want your team to socialize throughout the day, or do they need regular and consistent privacy to get their jobs done? What do you need to have happen each day? Strategically plan this out before signing the dotted line on a lease or design plan.
Can team members have synergy if they are divided up into cubicles? Creative minds may say no, as they typically embrace and appreciate open floor plans. But even open floor plans must have the right pieces and parts to be successful.
Let’s consider music. One creative mind may enjoy ambient music sans lyrics. Another may find that listening to Journey helps them never stop believing. Our play on words is intentional because if the first individual is subjected to Steve Perry’s vocal cords when all they want to hear is electronica, that team’s creative synergy is broken – open floor plan or not.
What’s the solution here? Headphones. It might sound a bit authoritarian, but make it a company policy to use headphones for music.
Cubicle life can still see team collaboration, with the addition of communal spaces where team members can interact. Implement a “no lunch at your desk” policy. Besides keeping company computers cleaner, this forces team members to socialize.
Design meeting rooms where teams of three or four people can sit down and talk through their work. For companies with traveling workers or territory managers, these spaces allow for collaboration so team members can meet and learn from one another.
So you’ve done your planning, set up your office, and have been going through the regular motions of running your business. Our final point relies strongest on the idea of individualization.
Your strategy may have been for an open floor plan. But just as two creative types can enjoy different types of music, here’s a world-altering scenario you will need to keep in the back of your mind: your business might not attract the type of team member you thought it would.
Are they hard workers? Absolutely. Do they believe in your mission? Definitely. But their work styles may be completely different than what you expected.
So what are we saying? Be adaptable. Employees are expected to adapt to changing business models, but it should go both ways. Employers, too, need to be willing to adapt. At the end of the day, employees are the ones who are bringing your vision to life. Find out what their needs are, and adjust expectations accordingly.
You may not know how to get started with a revision to your workspace. That’s where we come in. Contact us and we’ll be happy to sit down with you to determine how these three things – strategy, synergy, and staff – can blend together to make your workspace optimal and productive.