Entering the workplace today is an all but unrecognisable experience compared to 10 years ago. Gone are the days of corner offices, and even cubicles have long given way to communal tables, standing desks, and even hotdesking.
‘Ping pong table’ is inevitably right underneath desks and chairs on the office equipment shopping list. Workplaces are better air-conditioned, more casual - in short, they’re cooler.
Despite this breakaway from the formal rules of office planning, there are still some things to keep in mind when creating a cool office environment for your team to work and thrive in.
Get the team involved
The goal of creating a welcoming office environment is not just for it to look ‘cool’: it’s to increase the satisfaction and productivity of your team. As such, it’s important that you involve them in the decision-making process.
Ask them what’s important to them: do they need quiet spaces where they can do deep work? Would they prefer foosball to ping pong? If you don’t ask, you’re likely to get it wrong, and you won’t be maximising your team’s potential.
Create breakout spaces
In an ideal world, we would sit down at our desks in the morning and stay completely focused until we go home. In reality, however, that’s just not how it works. It’s important that your team has designated zones where they can reset their minds after working on a difficult task, socialise and just chill out.
When trying to solve a tough problem, the biggest breakthroughs usually only come when you step away from it. You decide what appropriate breakout spaces are for your company, whether it’s napping areas or game rooms.
Foster social connections
In order for your team to do its best work, it’s members need to be comfortable around each other. If you don’t like or really know the people you work with, you’re far less likely to express opinions or ideas to them.
Your office layout can encourage team members to bond: create a designated area for people to eat lunch, provide activities for them to do together, and encourage people to chat over a drink on a Friday afternoon.
Allow employees the space to focus
The open plan office has many benefits, but it’s important to recognise that not everybody thrives in this environment. Introverts need time alone to focus their thoughts and regain their energies, and just about everybody, whether introvert or extrovert, occasionally needs to focus in on doing some deep work.
Make sure that your employees have access to areas where they can be alone with their work or just get away from the crowd for an hour.
Don’t underestimate the importance of natural light
The classic start-up basement office is great when your company is just getting off the ground, but it should only be a temporary solution. A survey by Future Workplace found that employees consider availability of natural light to be more important than any other office perk - more so than on-site gyms, cafeterias and even childcare.
Natural light helps regulate our body clocks, helping us feel energised throughout the day. It also helps reduce eye strain and headaches many office workers experience from staring at a screen for 8 hours a day. Sure, the basement office is cheaper, but how much money are you losing on your employees’ drowsiness and headaches?
One of the most satisfying things about going to work is getting the opportunity to learn, be challenged and develop new skills.
Make sure that your office space reflects the importance of learning in your organisation: set up a lending library of a few books relevant to your industry, or organise lunch and learns in which team members can learn new skills. Helping your employees to learn not only makes them better at their jobs, but makes them feel more fulfilled in their careers.
Consider a co-working space
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of having to create an office environment from scratch, you might want to consider locating your office in a co-working space rather than a private one.
This will allow your team to benefit from an already ergonomically designed office, as well as access to a larger community. Co-working spaces offer a great way for companies that don’t have the resources to create a cool office to have one anyway.
Whatever size or stage of development your company is at, the importance of an inviting and functional office shouldn’t be underestimated. Find out what your team feels is important for their productivity and happiness, and let that guide you in designing the space in which they’ll spend 40+ hours of each week.