The look, feel and setup of your office may have a bigger impact on your bottom line than you think. Research has shown that workplace lighting, colors and flexibility all impact employee productivity, engagement and happiness.
Knowing the significance of providing a workplace that makes employees feel comfortable and productive, organizations need to put considerable thought into how their offices are designed and constructed. Few know more about just how important this is than Michael Berretta, vice president of network development for IWG, owner of Regus and Spaces and the largest portfolio of workspace providers.
We recently had the chance to speak with Berretta about office designs and what organizations should consider when planning out what their workplace should look like.
Q. For years, cubicles were prominent in most offices. In recent years, open space took hold. Why does it now seem that there is demand for more of a blended open/private workspace?
A. The flexible workspace revolution is upon us. Flexible design is the future of workspace layout. Recent research by Jones Lang LaSalle has shown that only 40 percent of employees feel fully engaged in their current workplace format. Work environments that facilitate a sense of community but also offer individual, private spaces have proven to be critical in building workplace satisfaction across the board.
Workers are looking for a space that maximizes productivity while fueling creativity and inspiration. Employers realize there is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to office design. Today's workforce needs a blend of collaboration and concentrated, heads-down work areas. Offering a range of spaces gives employees the ability to move freely to their desired locations throughout the day, enhancing creativity, engagement and overall productivity.
Q. When designing an office, which factors are most important to consider?
A. Flexible workspace design is effective for every business at any stage of development. A 2017 Gallup survey showed that 43 percent of employees are working away from team members at least some of the time. Therefore, one key factor to consider is ensuring there is flexible space. This can take shape in numerous ways including workstations that convert into standing desks or having areas that can serve as meeting rooms and lounges.
For many businesses, managing or designing space isn't a core competency, and many look to a flexible workspace provider who can provide an on-demand, customized solution that enables all of their employees the benefits of flexible working. Regus is the world's largest provider of flexible workspace with more than 3,000 locations globally, and every day we see companies from startups to major corporations who use this flexible concept to accommodate the rising trend of mobile employees and who are thinking ahead to when they might need to scale their business up or down.
It's also important to take lighting into account. A study conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers showed that 68 percent of employees were dissatisfied about the lighting situation in their offices. Natural lighting not only affects how well we can see, but it can also boost mood and energy levels. Natural light is by the far best, but if it's challenging to find or incorporate windows into the space, think about using lamps that can provide indirect lighting and help reduce glare.
Finally, consider outsourcing the design aspect and moving into an already existing, built-out space. There are instant cost savings benefits – such as eliminating the need to purchase furniture and investing in Wi-Fi and communal amenities – but there are longer term savings as well. You don't need to commit to a long-term commercial lease and you will have a network of offices to tap into as your business grows.
Q. What negatives can come from a poorly designed workspace?
A. Experts across the board agree that office design directly affects employee health, well-being and productivity. The physical surroundings can shape employee behaviors and attitudes toward their employer and experiences at work. As such, the design of a workspace is becoming a key component in talent retention and recruitment.
I've worked more than 20 years in the workspace design industry and I can honestly say that a poorly designed work environment will have a significant impact on the bottom line of a company in the form of less productivity, creativity and more employee turnover.
Q. What role should technology play in your office design?
A. The pervasiveness of technology is continuing to transform the workforce and influence office behavior. Workers are now more mobile and want to plug in and work from a variety of locations. This means companies can consider reducing the amount of space they need for fixed workstations.
We hear from businesses every day that they are rethinking their traditional office leases and are using technology to their advantage. This decision often leads to significant cost savings. In some cases, technology is so seamless and reliable that companies are offering remote work days as a real employee benefit, helping to reduce commute times and retain top talent.
With this mobility in mind, technology itself needs to be flexible. Can you easily switch out equipment and wiring? How many power stations are available and do you have wireless charging technology? Is your Wi-Fi on a secure network? These are questions everyone from C-suite to human resources to startup teams are asking as they plan out office design.
Q. Should the size of your business impact how you design it?
A. A company's culture is much more important than the size of the business. Do you allow employees to work remotely? Are you open to flexible workstations, which allow multiple workers to use a single surface during different times of the day? Before committing to a design, it is often best to consider the factors that are most important to your culture, goals and employee satisfaction.
At Regus, we look at flexible workspace as a competitive advantage to businesses of all sizes. You have growth options without the commitment of a long-term lease. A company might begin their journey with just two people but expand to 10 people or more; or they might need to test out a new market before they hire a workforce or they want to situate employees closer to suppliers for part of the work week. And, of course, there is the added benefit of the space taking care of the core logistics (such as Wi-Fi and communal amenities) so you can focus on that growth.
Q. When considering wall colors and designs, are there a certain colors or patterns that best helps foster innovation?
A. Scientific studies have shown that certain colors can have an impact on productivity and creativity. A study by the University of Texas found that blue is a stable and calming choice while yellow can stimulate innovative thinking. We like to look at what is inspiring in the space, such as a clean palette or artwork, versus distracting design, like loud patterns.
Q. Are there any workspace design trends in 2018 businesses should be aware of?
A. Incorporating artificial intelligence into office design and the overall discussion of "smart offices" are hot topics right now. How will these technologies be integrated into the workspace and what will they monitor and control? Inevitably, these technologies will become more integrated and the data that these smart devices capture are going to further shape workspace design and office efficiencies.
Workspace flexibility is going to become even more prevalent. In the past, the idea of shared space has been associated with entrepreneurs and small business owners. Now that research has shown the value of community and creative clustering, we'll start seeing larger organizations shifting toward a flexible workspace and design model.
And finally, we'll see more bioliphic design. We've already talked about the importance of natural light. Companies understand that access to nature increases employee happiness, well-being and productivity. With that in mind, you can expect to see more outdoor green space, indoor gardens and perhaps even paths specifically created for walking meetings being incorporated into office designs.