Is your office design helping or hurting productivity?

Over the past 20 years, companies of all shapes and sizes have started to adopt new standards when it comes to the way their employees work.

“Companies are starting to recognize that their workforce is a younger, more social generation, and that the traditional office environment prohibits them from maximizing their potential,” says Keith Colamarino, partner at SMC Consulting.

“Transitioning your office from the traditional setting to a more modern one may just give you that competitive edge you’ve been looking for.”

Smart Business spoke with Colamarino about how a modern office environment can help facilitate greater productivity.

How are offices adapting to the way millennials work?

No generation has mastered the ability to share and receive information faster and more efficiently than millennials. Some companies are using this to their advantage with technology, such as live chat rooms for employees to quickly communicate with one another, and by revamping the way employees have face-to-face meetings.

One of the new trends is smaller team areas located throughout an office in addition to a traditional conference area that allows for quick impromptu meetings. Often you will see people standing around a monitor or tablet discussing an issue, while still checking email on their smartphones. Millennials are so used to sending and receiving information quickly, that some of the traditional ways of communicating seem very inefficient.

How are offices adjusting to employees who use less traditional workspaces?

Another trend that is surging through more modern companies is open seating and hoteling. The concept of open seating/hoteling is a shared space where employees can choose to work at any given time. With more and more information being stored electronically, shared via email and able to be pulled from a server, less is actually needed at a workstation or in an office. With the mobility of a phone and a laptop, an employee can chose to use a shared workstation, a team area, lounge area or work from home.

Using this concept, some companies are able to balance and rotate employees working from home versus in the office to maximize their real estate. Some companies have more employees than seats, which really reduces overhead. From a furniture perspective, using this concept really simplifies things. One typical workstation can be selected for the entire office providing flexibility, and common storage areas eliminate the need for oversized workstations and storage rooms.

What can companies do to keep employees engaged in the office?

With employees in overdrive, some companies have carved out a space for their employees to take a break. These break areas allow the employees to step away from the buzz of the office and relax their mind. From an interior design perspective, this is the area that usually is the most fun to design. Some of the more common amenities you may find in a modern break room include couches and lounge seating, televisions, and food and drink stations. Some of the more elaborate break areas have gaming consoles, basketball hoops and even grills for office cookouts.

How does a traditional office make the transition into this more modern setting?

This style of operating may not be a good fit for your company and a design firm will identify that. A design firm can evaluate how your employees operate and advise you on what areas of your company may accept this style of work environment.

Start off small. Create a small team area and set up some shared workstations. The key for companies that want to transition is to do so slowly. Change is often met with fear and rejection, so to completely uproot the way you currently operate without knowing how well it will be received by your staff may be counterproductive.

Some of these methods may seem a little unorthodox, but studies have shown that some younger people are willing to sacrifice a hard-wall office for a fun, collaborative workspace. With how social young people are these days, they’re starting to trade the ‘me space’ for ‘we space.’

Insights Facilities is brought to you by SMC Consulting, LLC