An example of how space can be used to create both "we" and "me" work spaces. PHOTO CREDIT: IdeaPaint
Designing a new office is nothing short of an undertaking, involving countless hours of planning and preparation, but it’s a critical exercise for any company experiencing change and growth. That’s because your physical space must serve the needs of both your people and your organization - today and in the future. Moreover, good and thoughtful space design creates an environment that fuels the culture you want to nurture, as well as the brand and business goals you aim to achieve.
IdeaPaint recently experienced this process firsthand, during our move in 2014 from the suburbs to a new 7,600 square foot headquarters in downtown Boston. Our company was growing and our business was evolving. We needed a new space that reflected who we are today, while being flexible enough for us to grow in the future. The outcome is a dynamic street-level space that serves as our corporate headquarters, showroom, collaborative office environment, and event space. It’s perfect for us.
As the workplace is a core focus of our business –we’ve learned much from our end customers and the architects, designers and contractors who serve them, about how space design can help or hinder an organization. That, along with our own firsthand experience, led us to the following pitfalls to avoid when designing a new office:
- Failing to carve out space for “We” and “Me” work scenarios: The rise of the open floor plan has removed some of the traditional barriers to greater collaboration (closed-off executive offices, cubicle farms, etc.) but when taken too far, it can pose challenges to employee focus and productivity. We chose a blended, balanced approach to our space, creating an open, team-oriented workspace while also providing closed conference rooms, phone rooms and small-group huddle spaces for times when privacy and limited distractions are required.
- Keeping collaboration under quarantine: Think great ideas only happen during scheduled meeting times? Think again. Some of the biggest breakthroughs come from impromptu conversations and unexpected encounters in hallways, kitchens, and stairways. It’s important to create space for spontaneous and unplanned collaboration. In our case, we coated our columns, desks and tables in private and social spaces with our paint, so our teams have an erasable canvas at their fingertips whenever (and wherever) inspiration strikes.
- Leaving little (or no) room for growth: As companies change and grow, so too must their space to accommodate more people, more work stations, and more noise. From the beginning, we worked closely with our partners at Fusion Design to create a vibrant environment that would evolve with us as our needs changed. As we lived in and started to get a feel for our new space, we found it helpful to re-engage our design partners to make sure any refinements being considered – like the placement of new desks and custom branding elements - made sense within our existing design concept.
- Overlooking the importance of all-company connections: As companies expand within and across different floors and spill into other buildings, it’s critical to create a space for all-company meetings and gatherings. At IdeaPaint, this area is called The Hive. It’s a long, open communal table that runs through the middle of our office. It’s the nucleus of our space; a place for teams, who sit on opposite sides of the office, to convene and connect throughout their day.
- Losing sight of your brand in the process: A new office is one of the biggest brand assets you have. It tells your employees and everyone who visits who you are and what you stand for. Your brand identity, vision and values should be woven into your overall design. For us, this meant developing a space that encourages employees and visitors alike to be creative, share ideas and experience the power collaboration.
Have you gone through this process and learned some other practices to avoid? Share them with us in the comments!
John Stephans is President and CEO of IdeaPaint.
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