It's a dirty word for some business owners who feel that an office is solely a place to work. But ask the employees whether they'd rather work in a sterile environment or a place that has a bit of character, and you'll find the answer is overwhelmingly tilted toward the character side.
A good office these days combines form and function in a pleasant environment. Here is a look at three offices around Northeast Ohio and insight into their design and their functionality.
The offices of Digiknow are a little more fun than those of the average marketing firm. The recreation room boasts a pool table and pinball machines. A living room area offers a large television and a comfortable couch.
"We wanted a fun, open environment," says King Hill, president of Digiknow.
He liked the idea of offering rooms that provide whatever employees want. So, if they work best on a comfy couch, they have it. If they need a break and want to shoot pool, they have a pool table.
Hill believes this set-up appeals to clients and visitors, as well.
"I wanted the 'wow' factor," he admits. "When they walk up to the outside, they won't have any idea what's in here."
That's true. From the outside, Digiknow is a plain white building. Walk inside, however, and you're faced with eight computer screens.
Normally, these screens display the word "Digiknow," with one letter per screen, but when clients come in, they find on the screens useful information that pertains to their companies or to the work Digiknow is putting together for them.
Market.al's offices give employees their own personal dens. Wood-paneled walls are the norm, as are plush carpets and doors leading onto the company's 2000-square-foot deck, which is two levels and wraps around the entire building.
John Sancin, president, says the set-up reflects the interdisciplinary way the company works.
"We have designers working with programmers working with marketing people," he says. "This gives them a chance to work together in a variety of different places."
Plus, he says, the environment invites -- even inspires -- creativity. The lack of cubes forces employees to "get out of the box," says Sancin of the company's inventive process.
Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz
The reception area of Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz show a little more creativity than those at other law firms. Watercolor paintings adorn the walls and plush couches sit on a hardwood floor. A wall of windows reveals the Cleveland skyline.
Marc Krantz, managing partner, says the layout represents the firm's refusal to conform.
"We're not just another law firm," he says. "We have a little more freewheeling nature."
Items that look like ancient artifacts sit on shelves around the reception area, inviting interpretation as to the meaning of it all. What does that watercolor represent, anyway? Is that a Persian rug under the coffee table?
All of this leads to one simple fact: A visitor may not want to leave the entryway.
"It's just kind of cool," says Krantz. How to reach: DigiKnow, (216) 292-7259; Market.al, (440) 717-7600; Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz, (216) 696-8700
Courie Weston (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a reporter for SBN.