Minimize the Risks of Workplace Selection and Design / by Helen Zouvelekis

Finance. Marketing. Sales. Operations. Legal. While these and other functions of business all pose challenges to startup and mature companies alike, there is one area that is often less spoken about but just as important to be mindful of – the corporate workplace (office space).

With many different options available, it’s often difficult for a company to analyze and decide what type of workplace (by size, location, price, features, lease agreement, etc.) makes the most sense for their given situation. Stay in a small office for too long and a company might have a problem retaining or attracting talent. Move into a workplace that is too large and a company might end up wasting money on unused space and equipment. Select a co-sharing office space and a company might be able to save on certain costs, but then it forfeits a certain amount of privacy and the ability to brand the space. So, how does a company find the right balance and minimize the potential risks that are associated with selecting a workplace?

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Before answering that question, corporate decision-makers need to first realize and understand the importance of workplace design and its various components. Over the past several years, more and more research has shown that workplace design is directly correlated with employee productivity, well-being, morale and, ultimately, engagement. Companies that pay attention to ergonomics, sustainability, amenities, noise and climate, floor plans/layouts, connectivity and technology, etc., seem to benefit the most, as compared to companies that are stuck in the cubicle farm mindset. These companies also realize that the war for talent (i.e., the recruitment and retention of talent) is being won by companies that truly put the workplace front and center, and pay attention to the needs, wants and desires of its employees. Another aspect of the modern workplace is how branding is incorporated into the workplace, so that employees can truly live and be surrounded by the brand from day to day.

Now, back to the question posed above. The answer here is not so much a simple list of things to do, or to hope that the problem takes care of itself, but more a matter of giving serious thought to seeking the advice, knowledge and insight (creative, analytical, practical) of a professional corporate interior designer.

While some may believe that an interior designer is simply hired to select colors, carpets and furniture, today’s workplace and its occupants, as illustrated above, require much more than that. Interior designers can help companies, startup or mature, analyze an office space on many different levels and then know what steps to take next. For example, a designer can analyze available square footage (e.g., what can be used and what can be possibly subleased); furniture, fixture and equipment needs; workflows and people/department interactions to understand optimal floor layouts; open, private or collaborative space needs; corporate branding needs; sustainability, climate and ergonomic needs; and technology and security needs. By knowing what to analyze, how to ask certain questions and, more importantly, how to qualify and quantify the answers, a corporate interior designer cannot only help to select and design the actual space and all of its components but, at the same time, future-proof the space as well. This means that a company can lease an office space and know that the elements within it (e.g., layout, furniture, equipment, technology, amenities, etc.) can grow and develop as the company itself grows and develops. Often times, future-proofing comes in the form of knowing which furniture systems can expand and be easily moved, how wall divider systems work to section off certain spaces, or how amenities can be added over time, among others. An interior designer can also bring to the table the knowledge, creative insight and services of an architect, which can be critical when it comes time to make certain structural changes to the workplace (e.g., add another bathroom, develop amenity spaces, bring in more natural light) and know what the local building code may or may not allow or require.

As corporate executives often turn to subject matter experts (consultants) to better understand and/or manage a particular function of the business, they need to recognize the strategic importance that the workplace holds for talent management, operations, branding, clients, etc., and the value and benefit a corporate interior designer and/or architect can offer when it comes time to select or design an office space.


Roger Marquis, AIA Associate, Business Development Director

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