Some years ago, Telenor, the Norweigan telecom company conducted an experiment. They got rid of most of their coffee machines and expanded their cafeterias. Why? To see if office design really does have such a huge impact on the innovation and productivity of employees. The result? Staff from different departments interacted, shared information and collaborated, and Telenor yielded a cool $200 million in profit. That’s some impact.
And so, freshly inspired, we embarked on our own investigation into workplace design, something we enjoy calling: The Best Agile Office Ever. We decided to design Chilid & XSolve’s (our brother company) new HQ in a way that would support the way our teams work. With both companies expanding, we wanted to preserve our ethos and make sure that we sustain core principles such as the exchanging of ideas between departments and teams. After many months of research we created the perfect office space for us, along with some tips that will apply to companies, both established and just starting out.
1.Think Outside The Cubicle
Thirteen years of experiments, observations and debates on the use of office space have led to the undeniable fact that an open-concept layout benefits the company and employees alike. Here are some ideas on how to create this kind of environment:
1. Remove all partitions: The two main benefits of an open-concept space? Communication and transparency.
2.Team mobility and collaboration: Consider installing flexible workstations at every desk so it’s easy for developers to move around, changing seats and teams. The added comfort will encourage pair programming as well.
3.The layout: The space should be ample enough for people to get up without bothering those around them, as well as allow people to comfortably create impromptu meetings just by turning their chairs around.
2. Associates Assemble
As imperative as an open-plan work place is, there also need to be private spaces for meetings and conference calls. Some things to consider in the design of these rooms:
1.Multiple meeting rooms: If possible, each team should have access to their own meeting room where they can safely leave their notes and scribbles without the threat of it being removed.
2.Sound proofing: Noise pollution can be a real distraction at work. Noise-absorbing panels, carpeting and even plants can all reduce the level of obtrusive sounds.
3.Good teleconferencing equipment: Teleconferences may never be the same as meeting with a client in person, but you can still invest in the best devices.
4.Moveable tables and chairs: Choosing the right furniture means a changeable space for any teams’ needs.
5.Cosy atmosphere: For longer and more taxing meetings, provide comfortable chairs and soft lights. Try to recreate a homely atmosphere so people feel more at ease given the long hours.
3. Opening Up
The issue of transparency goes beyond jus tearing down partitions. It’s a question of bringing people together and moving away from closed-door office culture. So quite literally:
1.Glass walls: One of the first steps towards transparency, glass walls allow people to locate each other easily. Almost every meeting room in our company has glass walls.
2.Monitors : Keep everyone in the loop by displaying burndown charts, projects’ predictability, backlogs or important stats for anyone to see.
3.Management sit with their team: Try having higher management sit among their team rather than close themselves up in their offices. It’s a team effort at the end of the day.
4. Less Is More
Interactions between team members that don’t normally work together will happen organically when the structure of the office is such that they must cross paths to get the work done. This means getting minimalistic:
1.One printer: If there is only one printer, there’s a high possibilty that people will strike up a conversation while they wait for their turn to use it. The same goes for the coffee machine.
2.No reception: Encourage all employees to take action and greet people at the door. You’ll send a strong message about your company culture to clients and candidates alike.
3.Spread out: Placing shared equipment in different locations throughout the office encourages both movement and chance interactions. For example, in our office the main bathrooms are at the other end of the floor.
5. A Change Of Pace
The days of timed lunch breaks are thankfully coming to an end. Now with the knowledge that regualr breaks actually increases productivity, it’s time to start thinking about how to take your breathers:
1.Silent section: When you need to collect your thoughts, work on something away from the bustle, or even steal a quick power nap.
2.Clamour chamber: A designated place for noise and commotion. It might include a PlayStation, ping pong table or even a drumset. Whatever your team needs to let loose for a while.
3.The great outdoors: Somewhere with some fresh air and a bit of greenery (a terrace or a garden for example) where people can regain a sense of peace and focus.
4.Café: Allow employees to experience cafe culture in its truest sense, with a coffee, a magazine and their minds free from stress.
A final tip from us would be to consider the style of interior design you want. Take care before jumping into the fashionable primary-colour scheme, flamboyant furniture and unnecessary accessories. While it may look fresh and exciting, and perhaps benefit the look of your brand, the same may not be said a few years down the line when the furniture begins to look worn and people have grown bored of the fruitella dispenser. Keep it simple and easy on the eye. The staff will add their own colour in time.
We hope some of our ideas will be useful towards improving the agility of the staff and workspace within your company. Please get in touch with any questions, comments or anecdotes about your experience with office design.
All images by Janina Tyńska