7 Factors of Great Office Design

Company leaders should think strategically about office design rather than blindly follow the latest fads. Work environments reflect and reinforce core values through layout, aesthetics, and functionality. As such, space becomes a business tool to influence behaviors and performance.


For instance, open floorplans aim to encourage collaboration, a virtue for many modern companies. However, complete openness reduces privacy and focus, hampering productivity. The solution likely entails balancing open communal areas with enclosed quiet spaces. The optimal balance depends on work patterns.


To systematically evaluate needs, an organization can apply a “Collaboration and Quiet Index” across seven key spatial attributes:



1. Location: Is central visibility or distributed team zones better?

2. Enclosure: Do tasks require open layouts or closed rooms?

3. Exposure: Do workers need public gathering spots or tucked away nooks?

4. Technology: Do groups share screens or use personal devices?

5. Temporality: Are spaces reservable or first-come-first-served?

6. Perspective: Do workers need panoramic views or focused sights?

7. Size: What’s better - large assemblies or small huddles?


Analyzing regular activities like standing meetings using these metrics provides concrete vocabulary for articulating needs beyond generic calls for “more collaboration.” Surveys, workshops, and other input can also illuminate trends.



Adobe, a company that faced similar challenges to what you might be experiencing right now. They were looking to reinvent their office space in Midtown Manhattan, seeking to create an environment that would not only draw employees back into the office but also support their dynamic work culture.


The starting point for Adobe—and a great one for any company—was to recognize that simply asking for "more collaborative space" wasn't enough. Instead, they needed to understand the specific needs and preferences of their employees. What Adobe did next was both insightful and effective, and it's a strategy that could benefit your company as well.



Firstly, it's about truly knowing your employees. Who are they? What are their workstyles? How do they interact with the space? Adobe took a data-driven approach to answer these questions, engaging directly with their employees to gather feedback on what matters most to them in a workspace.



They found out that employees craved a space that was not only functional but also had a sense of transparency and connection to the activities happening around them. They wanted technology-integrated spaces that allowed for seamless sharing of ideas, supporting both inperson and virtual collaboration. Additionally, they expressed a desire for informal and flexible meeting areas for spontaneous teamwork. 


While open-plan offices are popular, Adobe's employees also highlighted the importance of having clear boundaries and distinct areas for different teams and tasks. This nuanced understanding of their needs informed the redesign process, ensuring that the new office would truly resonate with those who use it every day.


Yodle was at a crossroads: they wanted to maintain the vibrant energy of their start-up roots while also accommodating for future expansion. Their existing space, which had developed haphazardly over time, was bursting at the seams. The layout led to teams being scattered with no central areas for collaboration, and executives were cut off in isolated offices. This disjointed environment was holding them back from transitioning smoothly from a start-up vibe to the sophistication of a mature business.



Approaching this challenge, Yodle undertook a rapid visioning exercise, focusing on the seven key attributes of effective workspaces. This process brought several insights to light. For instance, the developer teams, who were often engaged in fast-paced projects requiring close coordination, discovered they were more collaborative than they had initially thought. They also recognized the need for quiet zones to focus on intensive tasks.



To cater to these needs, the new design introduced innovative solutions like a "quiet car"—a dedicated semi-enclosed area that allowed for uninterrupted work on demanding projects. It wasn't just about creating a silent zone; it was also about signaling respect for deep work, visually indicating that when someone was in that space, they needed to work without distractions.



But the surprises didn't stop there. There was a clear need for a town hall space, a central hub for the entire company to come together. The design solution? A large feature stair wide enough to provide stadium seating for company-wide gatherings. Despite some initial doubts, this feature stair has become a central and cherished element of the office. It's a place where people not only meet but also linger after discussions, fostering cross-team learning and camaraderie.



The transformation of Yodle's workspace has had a ripple effect beyond its walls. As word of the innovative and engaging new office spread, the company saw an uptick in both the quantity and quality of job applicants.


Considering how Adobe and Yodle had to jazz up their office spaces, it's pretty much the same deal for everyone. You know, like when you start with "Hey, we need a place where we can throw ideas around," but end up learning a ton about your team and why everyone works the way they do.


Here's the scoop on getting your team involved in shaping a space they will love. First off, you need to play detective with your crew and ask some real-talk questions:



  • Who's on our team now, and who will be here in five years?
  • Who else is hanging out in our space (like clients, visitors, or local community folks), and
  • what brings them here?
  • What vibe do we want to give off to clients or potential new hires when they walk in?
  • How much do we dig for flexibility and letting people choose their own way to work?
  • Are we cool with everyone working how they like, or is that just for the VIPs?
  • What habits around the office are we looking to switch up?
  • What's already awesome about our workspace that keeps everyone chugging along?
  • If people aren't showing up to the office much, do we really know why?

Creating a space isn't just about dropping cash on some fancy chairs and desks. It's a big-time investment that can totally transform how productive your team is, how happy and engaged they feel, how you snag top talent, and how your brand comes across. There are a ton of ways to design a space, but don't just copy what all those trendy start-ups are doing. Efforts should involve designers, leadership, real estate teams, and regular end-users. Keeping the bigger picture in mind while attending to specifics creates offices where people and business thrive together.



Trust us, it's worth the effort to get it right—you'll see it in the smiles around the office.



References:

Peter Bacevice, PhD is Director of Research with the New York office of HLW International, a global architecture and design firm. Pete is also researcher with the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He works with a range of organizations on projects related to workplace assessment and strategy, workforce flexibility, and engagement.

Follow him on Twitter @Bacevice.



Liz Burow is an Associate Principal with the New York office of HLW International where she directs the firm’s global Strategy & Discovery team. She teaches executive workshops and university courses in visual thinking, end-user engagement and design research. Follow the team on Twitter@HLWStratDisco.



Mat Triebner is a Senior Design Strategist at the New York office of HLW International. He leads a variety of design strategy and change management engagements within the scope of broader architectural and interior design project

Blogs

7 Factors of Great Office Design

By Workscape Designs
Image Source: Harvard Business

Company leaders should think strategically about office design rather than blindly follow the latest fads. Work environments reflect and reinforce core values through layout, aesthetics, and functionality. As such, space becomes a business tool to influence behaviors and performance.


For instance, open floorplans aim to encourage collaboration, a virtue for many modern companies. However, complete openness reduces privacy and focus, hampering productivity. The solution likely entails balancing open communal areas with enclosed quiet spaces. The optimal balance depends on work patterns.


To systematically evaluate needs, an organization can apply a “Collaboration and Quiet Index” across seven key spatial attributes:



1. Location: Is central visibility or distributed team zones better?

2. Enclosure: Do tasks require open layouts or closed rooms?

3. Exposure: Do workers need public gathering spots or tucked away nooks?

4. Technology: Do groups share screens or use personal devices?

5. Temporality: Are spaces reservable or first-come-first-served?

6. Perspective: Do workers need panoramic views or focused sights?

7. Size: What’s better - large assemblies or small huddles?


Analyzing regular activities like standing meetings using these metrics provides concrete vocabulary for articulating needs beyond generic calls for “more collaboration.” Surveys, workshops, and other input can also illuminate trends.



Adobe, a company that faced similar challenges to what you might be experiencing right now. They were looking to reinvent their office space in Midtown Manhattan, seeking to create an environment that would not only draw employees back into the office but also support their dynamic work culture.


The starting point for Adobe—and a great one for any company—was to recognize that simply asking for "more collaborative space" wasn't enough. Instead, they needed to understand the specific needs and preferences of their employees. What Adobe did next was both insightful and effective, and it's a strategy that could benefit your company as well.



Firstly, it's about truly knowing your employees. Who are they? What are their workstyles? How do they interact with the space? Adobe took a data-driven approach to answer these questions, engaging directly with their employees to gather feedback on what matters most to them in a workspace.



They found out that employees craved a space that was not only functional but also had a sense of transparency and connection to the activities happening around them. They wanted technology-integrated spaces that allowed for seamless sharing of ideas, supporting both inperson and virtual collaboration. Additionally, they expressed a desire for informal and flexible meeting areas for spontaneous teamwork. 


While open-plan offices are popular, Adobe's employees also highlighted the importance of having clear boundaries and distinct areas for different teams and tasks. This nuanced understanding of their needs informed the redesign process, ensuring that the new office would truly resonate with those who use it every day.


Yodle was at a crossroads: they wanted to maintain the vibrant energy of their start-up roots while also accommodating for future expansion. Their existing space, which had developed haphazardly over time, was bursting at the seams. The layout led to teams being scattered with no central areas for collaboration, and executives were cut off in isolated offices. This disjointed environment was holding them back from transitioning smoothly from a start-up vibe to the sophistication of a mature business.



Approaching this challenge, Yodle undertook a rapid visioning exercise, focusing on the seven key attributes of effective workspaces. This process brought several insights to light. For instance, the developer teams, who were often engaged in fast-paced projects requiring close coordination, discovered they were more collaborative than they had initially thought. They also recognized the need for quiet zones to focus on intensive tasks.



To cater to these needs, the new design introduced innovative solutions like a "quiet car"—a dedicated semi-enclosed area that allowed for uninterrupted work on demanding projects. It wasn't just about creating a silent zone; it was also about signaling respect for deep work, visually indicating that when someone was in that space, they needed to work without distractions.



But the surprises didn't stop there. There was a clear need for a town hall space, a central hub for the entire company to come together. The design solution? A large feature stair wide enough to provide stadium seating for company-wide gatherings. Despite some initial doubts, this feature stair has become a central and cherished element of the office. It's a place where people not only meet but also linger after discussions, fostering cross-team learning and camaraderie.



The transformation of Yodle's workspace has had a ripple effect beyond its walls. As word of the innovative and engaging new office spread, the company saw an uptick in both the quantity and quality of job applicants.


Considering how Adobe and Yodle had to jazz up their office spaces, it's pretty much the same deal for everyone. You know, like when you start with "Hey, we need a place where we can throw ideas around," but end up learning a ton about your team and why everyone works the way they do.


Here's the scoop on getting your team involved in shaping a space they will love. First off, you need to play detective with your crew and ask some real-talk questions:



  • Who's on our team now, and who will be here in five years?
  • Who else is hanging out in our space (like clients, visitors, or local community folks), and
  • what brings them here?
  • What vibe do we want to give off to clients or potential new hires when they walk in?
  • How much do we dig for flexibility and letting people choose their own way to work?
  • Are we cool with everyone working how they like, or is that just for the VIPs?
  • What habits around the office are we looking to switch up?
  • What's already awesome about our workspace that keeps everyone chugging along?
  • If people aren't showing up to the office much, do we really know why?

Creating a space isn't just about dropping cash on some fancy chairs and desks. It's a big-time investment that can totally transform how productive your team is, how happy and engaged they feel, how you snag top talent, and how your brand comes across. There are a ton of ways to design a space, but don't just copy what all those trendy start-ups are doing. Efforts should involve designers, leadership, real estate teams, and regular end-users. Keeping the bigger picture in mind while attending to specifics creates offices where people and business thrive together.



Trust us, it's worth the effort to get it right—you'll see it in the smiles around the office.



References:

Peter Bacevice, PhD is Director of Research with the New York office of HLW International, a global architecture and design firm. Pete is also researcher with the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He works with a range of organizations on projects related to workplace assessment and strategy, workforce flexibility, and engagement.

Follow him on Twitter @Bacevice.



Liz Burow is an Associate Principal with the New York office of HLW International where she directs the firm’s global Strategy & Discovery team. She teaches executive workshops and university courses in visual thinking, end-user engagement and design research. Follow the team on Twitter@HLWStratDisco.



Mat Triebner is a Senior Design Strategist at the New York office of HLW International. He leads a variety of design strategy and change management engagements within the scope of broader architectural and interior design project

1. The Power of First Impressions
Ever walked into a place and thought, "Whoa, these folks are in the future!"? That's what a modern workspace can do. It sets the stage, impressing potential clients and partners before you’ve even shaken hands. Remember that chic startup office with stunning lobby art and cutting-edge tech in every corner? Bet you instantly associated them with innovation and success.
2. Promoting Employee Well-being
Now, let's get to the real champs – your employees. Offering them a swanky break room or an ergonomic chair isn’t just a cool perk. It’s a message that you care. An investment in their well-being. Happy, relaxed minds are productivity powerhouses, after all.
Our team recently worked on a workspace redesign, and the changes we saw post-revamp were nothing short of extraordinary. Employees were more relaxed, took fewer sick days, and collaboration spiked. The key? We made well-being a design priority, considering every element – from natural lighting to spacious desk setups.
Fostering Collaboration and Innovation
Open spaces, colorful breakout zones, and comfy couch corners – what do they all have in common? They’re collaboration goldmines. Casual spaces often spark the most unexpected and brilliant brainstorming sessions. Imagine two team members casually chatting over coffee, and BAM! The next big idea is born.
Flexibility and Scalability
Growing fast? Congratulations! But is your office growing with you? Modern workspaces understand the dynamic nature of businesses today. They’re modular, adaptable, and can easily adjust to the changing tides of business. And if you ever need to pivot or diversify, a flexible workspace has got your back.
Integrating Technology Seamlessly
Tech is our trusty sidekick. But is tech embedded elegantly into your workspace? Now that's a superhero duo. Modern designs seamlessly integrate technology. So whether it's video conferencing tools, state-of-the-art presentation tech, or even advanced security systems, they’re all a part of the office ecosystem.
Reflecting on Brand Identity and Culture
Your workspace is more than just a place where work happens. It's a canvas, portraying your brand story. Incorporating brand colors, logos, and design motifs can make employees feel more connected. When a new recruit walks in, they should immediately feel your brand's vibes.
Sustainability: Good for Business and the Planet
Speaking of green, did you know that eco-friendly workspaces can be a reputation booster? Clients, partners, and employees are increasingly valuing sustainability. So when your office shouts, "We care for the planet!", you're not just saving on energy bills but also striking a chord with stakeholders.
Safety and Accessibility
Safety might sound boring, but it's non-negotiable. Modern office designs go beyond fire exits and first-aid kits. They factor in natural calamities, health outbreaks, and even everyday incidents. Plus, inclusivity is the name of the game. Ramps, wide corridors, accessible restrooms – because every employee deserves to feel comfortable and safe.
Wrapping Up
If there’s a single takeaway from our chat today, let it be this: Your workspace is a powerhouse. It’s not just about aesthetics or the latest trends. It’s about creating an environment that fuels business success, impresses stakeholders, and takes care of its inhabitants.
Next time you stroll through your office, give a thought to its potential. Is it just a space? Or is it the secret weapon waiting to catapult your business to greater heights?
Here's to spaces that inspire, empower, and succeed! Cheers!
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