The spaces we inhabit and work in have a profound effect on our productivity and state of mind. The vibe, location and layout of your office can similarly set the tone for your company—communicating your personal style and priorities, and influencing employee satisfaction. You don’t need a lofty budget to construct the perfect space. Good design and savvy organization can go a long way to helping you create an optimal work environment. The experts at OPEN Forum will guide you through the process.
If you’re still in the market for a space, weigh your options carefully. It’s best to interrogate your team first and pin down your common needs and priorities. Amy-Mae Elliott highlights three elements to consider separately: the location, the building and the space itself. Start asking yourself questions, she suggests.
Is the building located a safe neighborhood? Are there good transportation links? Is it a trendy area? Zooming in, is there a manned reception in the building? Out-of-hours access? Parking or bike storage? When it comes to the space itself, don’t forget to consider details like the acoustics, the logistics of the layout, and the potential for expansion. And finally, when you’ve landed on the right spot, don’t be afraid to boldly negotiate the property lease.
Think like a designer
So you’ve got the perfect space (or close enough) and now it’s time to personalize. Good design can play a critical role in building an invigorating and productive work environment. Two major considerations should be natural light and open space, says Elliott. "To improve the amount of natural sunlight in an office, create an open environment by tearing down interior walls, using glass walls for private offices and benching desks instead of claustrophobic workstations,” says Edin Rudic, creative director at MKDA, a corporate interior design firm. “You also want to designate casual meeting or lounge areas in your office for employees not only to relax but also to exchange thoughts. Great ideas come from inspiring casual spaces.” Make sure you divvy up the offices with ample “break-out” spaces to encourage communication, brainstorming and rest.
Other designers emphasize the importance of storage space to keep an office clean and organized. “When you space plan your office, make sure you incorporate a storage audit,” says Paul Kelly. “There are a lot of great storage solutions available on the market now, half-height roller racking is one solution that comes to mind, as it uses less space and lets light through.” As Mike Michalowicz puts it, “Think minimalism.” Our minds reflect our environment, and a cluttered workspace is not conducive to efficient work.
Finally, Rudic advises that you resist the temptation to skimp on furniture. Sleek, comfortable furniture will make an impression on clients, and can have a serious impact on long-term employee satisfaction. According to Michalowicz, ergonomic products can also boost productivity and reduce burn out.
Maximize a small space
What if the space isn’t so perfect? Even a small office can meet your needs with a few smart tweaks. “Use one flooring material wall-to-wall instead of having a rug on a carpet or hard floor,” Lauri Ward suggests. “Small rugs can make any space feel chopped up so stick with wall-to-wall commercial carpeting or an engineered wood floor that will be easy to care for.” Overhead downlighting such as a track with LED spots or recessed LED lighting can also make a space feel bigger she says, as opposed to “up-lights that illuminate the ceiling but create shadows everywhere else.”
“Take advantage of vertical space,” says Erin Doland, and “use shelving that attaches to the studs in your walls.” This can be particularly useful in rental spaces where drilling isn’t an option. She also suggests innovative furniture designs such as the Rewrite desk by the Danish designers GamFratesi, and the phone box by Axia Design.
Brenna Ehrlich also highlights the importance of using your common areas, forgetting the “big desk dream”, and reducing your reliance on paper to cut down on storage equipment. Placing an emphasis on sustainability will also serve you in the long-term, both socially and financially.
Consider getting social
What if your business is going through a tough time and the space you want is simply too expensive? When budgets are tight and you need to cut your overhead, consider getting cozy with another business. “Team up with other startups and share your space,” Alyson Krueger advises, “Or ask a larger, more established company if you can rent a room from them,” “Not only will this significantly cut your costs, it will also help you develop relationships with other companies.” The proximity to another business can actually help you generate new ideas and expand your outreach. But be sure to keeps matter legal, John Mariotti advises, and avoid cozying up with a potential competitor.