Does Your Workplace Design Work for Everyone Who Uses It?

Open Office Workspace Design

I recently learned that Panasonic has developed a new product. Wear Space is essentially a blinder that reduces office visual and noise distractions. The device may solve a common office problem, but perhaps a better approach would be to have a workspace that doesn’t require employees to wear special gear just to get a little peace and quiet.

A poorly-designed workspace is bad for employees. It can also look bad to visitors, like job seekers during an interview and customers who visit your business. Granted, some issues can’t be fixed with anything short of a larger facility, but there are a number of affordable changes that you might consider right now.

The Right Workspace Can Address Many Important Issues

I’ve worked in more than my share of offices through the years, big and small, old and new. Surprisingly, they all shared many of the same issues that affect people inside and outside of your business.

Too much noise

Affects: employees and office visitors

Constant loud conversation can be fun or even necessary for participants, but it creates major distractions for others who need to concentrate on their work. When I was the lone technical writer for a group of enthusiastic programmers, I played the role of user advocate in many design meetings. I enjoyed the energy in the room; however, when loud sessions continued back at our desks, writing was difficult, to say the least. And, since the group used rather colorful language, they made a bad impression on visiting customers and home-office executives.

I doubt that donning a Wear Space would have alleviated my distress, and it was unrealistic to expect the programmers to move to a conference room every time they wanted to talk. In this case, I requested a move to a quieter location, which did the trick.

First, accept the fact that cubicle farms (with high walls) can help alleviate at least some of the volume emitted by rowdy employees while hiding them from visitors. You also need to provide closed conference spaces — and insist that employees use them regularly. Of course, if only a few employees are bothered by the noise, moving them might be the best solution.

Messy surroundings

Affects: office visitors and productivity

Will prospective customers be impressed when an office visit reveals paper piles on the floor and sticking out of file cabinets? What will they think when shoes adhere to the break room floor when getting a cup of coffee? For that matter, how much time is wasted while employees search for needed items?

Some people are naturally neat, while others work best in an atmosphere of casual disarray; but there are ways to get organized that meet everyone’s needs Every employee should be involved in this process.

The first rule of thumb is to do a top-to-bottom review of your space to identify less frequently-used items. Try to re-sell or donate usable items before trashing the rest. Then, even if your workplace is small, you can use walls to provide vertical storage space for seldom-needed items. Of course, make sure that you have a safe means for getting to those items.

Inefficient operations

Affects: employee productivity, visitor perception, and product quality

Assembly lines work efficiently because everyone has needed items at hand as they pass work on to the next person in line. You probably don’t run a factory, but a touch of assembly line methodologies can improve how employees work. When employees are forced to run around constantly just to get their jobs done, they are not fully-productive, work quality suffers, and visitors’ perception of your company can suffer.

Assembly line concepts can work anywhere. Reorganize employee locations and their supplies so that they’re convenient. When your workplace starts looking like a well-choreographed ballet instead of a series of frequent scrimmages, you’ll know that you’ve met your mark.

A low-energy atmosphere

Affects: employees and visitors

I once worked in a grey office before they painted it Pepto Bismol pink with Mylanta®-blue highlights. Neither color choice served to excite employees, though a few of them jokingly complained about nausea after painting was complete.

Make no mistake: décor can have major effects on employees and visitors. To exude an air of professionalism while instilling energy and creativity in all occupants, search online for “good office color schemes” to make the right choices. Don’t forget to add some plants and wall artwork — and make sure your furniture choices are ergonomic.

However, if the above-mentioned pink and blue color scheme sounds really good to you, consider hiring a professional office designer.

Home-Based Businesses Can Benefit From Re-Design, Too

If you’re a solopreneur working from home, some or all of the above points apply to you, too. You also need an efficient space, free of distraction from children, spouses, and pets — and your space needs to be pleasant and motivating. One possible solution might be the use of a co-working facility. Still, be sure to assess these potential spaces. You have little control over the design, so make sure that it will be workable for you and your visitors.

Workspace Planning Can be Fun

Granted, you’re not an architect or professional designer. I don’t have these skills, either, but a search for “creating more usable office building space” revealed some good advice, from design articles to companies selling space design software for virtually every imaginable type of workspace solution.

If you’re planning a total redesign of your workplace, a search for ”office design professionals near location” can bring plenty of designers or architects to your door. But, I still recommend doing idea research first. When you know more upfront, you’ll make better hiring — and spending — decisions.

Admittedly, a major workspace overhaul can be inconvenient and seem daunting. Still, visualizing and planning a new work environment can also be invigorating. Once the dust settles, you’ll appreciate all of the amazing advantages provided by your new space. What can be more fun than that?

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