Fresh ideas about design
When was the last time you refreshed your office, academic, or social space? If the answer is 10 years or more, it’s definitely time to consider making updates. Maintaining a workplace that is relevant and performative is critical to keeping a sharp competitive edge. It also helps recruit and retain the best talent while improving creativity and productivity.
The following six topics represent recurring problems Strada uncovers while helping clients evaluate their situation and determine how to transform challenges into powerful place-based solutions.
1. Your digital presence is great, but the physical space doesn’t relate.
Photo: before/after of the Webb Law offices in Pittsburgh
People discover your website and think “Wow, this is great!” and then they walk in your front door and ask, “Wait a minute, is this the same company?” You only have one chance to make a strong first impression.
How to fix it: Identify the most important aspects of your brand and make sure the office refresh communicates this in a tangible, human-centered way. Your brand is much more complex than a logo or color palette; it sets a tone, drives culture, and influences behavior.
2. No distinction between “Me Space” & “We Space.”
You’re touring a rockstar recruit or client through your office and having a tough time demonstrating how your workplace supports individual and collective sharing of ideas, talent, and the development of exceptional work.
How to fix it: Create purpose-built spaces and experiences that are diverse and adaptable to user needs. Determine what you want each place or space to actually DO. Don’t assume a conference room is simply a place to meet. It can also be hybridized into a think tank, maker-space, or ideation lab. This logic can also be applied to more intimate or personal workspaces. Workstations need to support both collaboration and individual work modes, but often fall short of providing employees with a place to go that is free from distraction. To solve this, we create things like cave pods and “no phones allowed” reading rooms. Places where people can escape and focus.
3. There is no place cool to socialize, unwind, nourish, and engage with each other.
If your people are being overly introverted, eating lunch at their desks, dashing out of the office at 4:45pm on Friday instead of lingering until 5:30 to unwind with co-workers at the end of a stressful week, you might be lacking cool destinations.
How to fix it: Create a few places that are completely non-corporate in nature. Stop thinking about your space as an office and begin thinking about it as your house, favorite restaurant/coffee spot, library, or landscape. Social gathering spaces should encourage a mind shift from the chaos of email and overflowing calendars toward a desire to convene with colleagues, the outdoors, and other creature comforts.
4. Your workplace environment is uninspiring.
Employee health and happiness is on the back-burner. Maybe the space is overcrowded or distracting. Perhaps it’s the poor lighting or non-sustainable materials. Are you finding that more and more of your employees are requesting to work from home? It’s most likely because your space is uninspiring.
How to fix it: Ask yourself and your colleagues what experience you expect the office to deliver. Once established, have fun working with the design and construction team to bring it to life. You deserve to get the most for your money so make sure to allow enough time for being thoughtful and closely considering the details that will take your workspace to the next level.
5. You have a lot of dead zones in the office!
Photo: spooky Halloween decorations at the Brunner office (photos by Chelsey Atkins)
Most offices are plagued by a few dead zones that have zero signs of human life, have become dumping grounds for boxes and old technology, or lost their relevancy. Think mailroom.
How to fix it: Assign ownership of these spaces. Give a team of your younger staff a small budget to clean out the cobwebs and convert dead zones into something special or unexpected. This encourages camaraderie and allows users to physically express hidden talent and personality.
6. Your tech is outdated.
Technology doesn’t meet current user needs and expectations. Everyone is getting annoyed at always having to call the IT Department. You’re tethered to a desk with no flexibility or ability to work from anywhere else in the office (like those cool plush chairs in the break room). You have multiple offices that are seemingly worlds apart because the video conferencing component of the internet based phone system is hard to use.
How to fix it: We live in an era where things like instant online sharing and group editing in real-time are a staple, so it’s important to make sure your space has the right technology to support it. Spaces must be well amenitized with both digital and analog technology that is easy to use. Simple HDMI or Airplay connections to flatscreen monitors allows spontaneous plug-n-play sharing to happen. Well-placed and proportioned magnetic writable surfaces allow for pin-up, mark-up, and strategic thinking and sharing sessions to happen simultaneously. Mobility is king, so consider transitioning everyone over to laptops and have a few rooms set up with high-definition camera that encourages virtual face-to-face interaction amongst your various offices and teams.
If refreshing and modernizing your workspace is on your mind, remember to:
It is impossible to build a meaningful place for people based solely on expertise in a specific project typology or based on current trends.
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At Strada, we “Design with People in Mind®,” as we recently gave name to a practice we continually partake in. It emphasizes how the people we design for are the backbone of our creations; they are the faces and the stories responsible for the transformation.
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