The power of open work space
Updated: Apr 15, 2019
It’s solidly established by now that employee productivity and performance is linked to professional well-being, satisfaction, and overall happiness — and a main contributing factor to all three is a strong organizational design of the company. From a living org chart aligned with company goals to clearly defined roles and the psychology behind seating charts, great organizational design is a game-changer in company productivity — a major component of brand success and customer loyalty.
In addition to the org charts and mission statements, the physical workspace itself is its own contributing factor of productivity — and for designers, it affects their level of inventive, impactful work. Even with individual styles and preferences, designers do their best work in energizing and visually inspiring environments — ones that support fluid processes, creativity, and idea growth. And beyond that, a unique company workspace will connect designers to a sense of purpose and belonging. This means that the designer-supported workspace can be the difference between artist’s block and taking the company in a new direction.
Express the company identity.
As a physical symbol of the organization, it’s important for the workspace to reflect a company’s goals, priorities, and presence. Expressive architecture and accents represent the company identity while inspiring employees visually.
Unique art, open and bright architecture, green spaces, meditation rooms, and a community garden create a space to relax, energize, and inspire. Open and secluded workspaces, both indoors and out, offer options for daily and ever-changing work needs and goals.
“Our workspaces show off our creative, innovative, and collaborative culture by putting a heavy emphasis on inspirational design and aesthetics that reflect the vibrancy of our brand,” Jonathan Francom, vice president of Adobe global workplace solutions, told Business Insider. “We’ve created a variety of community areas and alternative work spaces that give our employees the ability to choose where and how to work, and provides the opportunity to meet up and collaborate in new ways. At the end of the day, we’re hoping to bring people together and spark innovation.”
Beautiful aesthetics will create a sense of company unity and foster collaboration and inspiration, but at Adobe, we take it one step further. With the option to choose workspace surroundings as needed, designers have the flexibility for preferences, work styles, and assignment types, so they each can do their most productive creating.
Because creativity fluctuates, it involves working alone, in large and small groups, and in pairs, with ideas evolving as teams iterate organically. And in a Steelcase study, 44 percent of people felt like they could be more creative at work if they had a place to work without distractions. So when companies meet productivity needs through unique spatial setups, including spaces for collaborating or doing some solo brainstorming, designers will feel more supported in their creativity.
Like anything in design, meeting specific designer productivity needs starts with observing and asking questions to find out what works for them — and why.
Learn designer work styles.
Environmental psychologists have found that identifying exactly what designers need to design is a deceptively simple but important way to boost engagement and productivity. This means planning for collaboration spaces, independent work, and overall creative environment. It also means examining work habits so more choices can be offered to accommodate them.
Start with observations and questions. Do your designers collaborate best in open pods or separate meeting rooms? Do they work best independently around others or by themselves? What do they feel is an obstacle to their best creativity?
You may have enough open communication with your designers to directly start this conversation about what they’re needing. Another good way to get honest answers, according to environmental psychologist Sally Augustin, is to assess with a neutral party — someone outside the office who can assure confidential answers for the feedback.
Defining these needs not only helps you figure out how your team works as individuals, but how they work best together and which choices they need available to them. Modern-day employees expect a certain amount of flexibility, whether that’s the freedom to work away from their desk or the space and tools to brainstorm with a team. And since every day presents a myriad of work situations, from strategy meetings to concepting sessions, you need a space that’s both flexible and accommodating.
Interior designer Kelly Robinson believes in what she calls a “free-address” style of working. “Gone are the days where we always work at the same desk,” she told Bone magazine. When she looks at how to design these modern spaces, she always has her focus on the company and the employees, looking at what bonds them together, what inspires and excites them, and where design can help maintain or introduce unity. She also looks at what they need to work the most efficiently.
“Part of what makes a really good office design is tailoring each part of a space to a particular function,” she told First Round Review. “You want people to be able to enter a space that allows them to perform their best in any scenario.”
Consider all the natural elements.
But these accommodating spaces aren’t just organized — there’s form with the function. The best workspaces elevate or quiet the mood with the right lighting, color, outdoor exposure, and even sound. Creating the right balance of energy and peace makes for an enjoyable, calm work experience, contributing to greater productivity and happiness.
This principle drives the design of Amazon’s Spheres opening next year in downtown Seattle. The mostly transparent globe-like structures are set to serve as alternative workplaces that also house plants able to thrive in the same climate. Builders are including these plants to follow research advice that shows how green vegetation benefits workers, helping improve moods, reduce stress, and refresh minds. Amazon believes that this approach will foster happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative employees.
Indoors or out, energetic or calm — the workspace should empower designers to meet the creative goals of both the company and their teams. Designers’ best work environments put both their work and health needs first, lifting spirits, providing clear and organized spaces for both thinking and doing, and giving them the mental space to create.