Images of floating desks and hover-boards to get to the lunchroom might be popping into your head and while that might well be the case (and how fun would that be?!), it is not the most important thing to think about when considering this question. As we know, there is no one size fits all approach to office design. While that small start-up down the street might function incredibly well in an open plan environment, a more traditional office set up might be just what your employees need to have the necessary focus and privacy that comes with having separate spaces.
Open plan offices have become very common due to the fact that they reduce barriers to communication between every level of the organisation, which encourages increased teamwork and thus, increased creativity! It also reduces costs by eliminating the need to create and maintain separate offices. This design also came with a few obvious flaws, such as the lack of privacy and the increased chance of being distracted by the activity all around you. People also complain about increased stress as well as higher chances of getting sick due to the easy spreading of germs. This has resulted in a move towards a combination of open plan design and elements of the more traditional layout. This means having lots of meeting rooms and private spaces where employees can take time out to concentrate, have private meetings or work without disrupting others. This sort of design aims to utilise the best of both worlds.
So, what will the work environment of the future look like? Well, that’s easy. The design will come through open and honest discussions with your employees, the people who will be spending upwards of 40 hours a week in that environment. Your employees’ contributions will see the creation of a functional, productive space where they feel safe and happy, whether it be open plan or separate offices or a combination of the two! The opportunity to shape their work environment will create a sense of ownership as well as expressing who your company is and what it values, which is appealing to potential talent as well as customers. When they notice the posters decorating the reception area or the breakout room with the floor-to-ceiling white boards on every wall, they find out just a little bit more about the type of people in your organisation and thus, they find out more about the organisation as a whole.
Keeping informed about what’s working in your set up and what isn’t can avoid long-term problems if you are willing to adapt to the changing needs of your organisation. This could be as simple as putting up a curtain so that Samantha is no longer blinded by the glare of the setting sun or creating an electronic booking method for the meeting rooms to put an end to the frustration and inconvenience of double booking.
This might seem super easy for small organisations who only have a few employees but is this really practical for anything larger? Yes! It is easy to create opportunities for staff to contribute their ideas. This could be through surveys, ideas boxes, a quick vote to choose colours or even casual discussions over a shared morning tea. Putting in a little bit of time and effort to get your staff involved will contribute to the overall morale and health of your organisation and result in a work environment that your employees actually want to be in!