Workspace Design: Form, Function and Positive Feedback

“First we shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.”
Sir Winston Churchill

What a wise observation. I love the idea that we have a hand in creating a world that eventually influences us.

When I first heard this quote during last week’s “World of Workspaces” #TChat Radio show, I was fascinated. Workplace design expert, Chris Congdon of Steelcase, shared the concept as she talked about developing work environments that support organizational goals.

Among other things, Chris explained how physical workspace influences the way we feel and act. For example, if a company wants to foster collaboration, creativity and innovation, merely filling an office with tall cubicles and fluorescent lighting just isn’t going to cut it.

Great Workplaces: Beyond Tangibles

Her primary message was this:  The best places to work are designed from the inside-out. It’s not enough to consider only the tasks that must be accomplished in a space. Nor is it enough to focus on ergonomics that make those workflows more comfortable or efficient. Before we can build business spaces that optimize performance and engagement, we must understand human motivation and behavior in workplace settings.

Actually, on a larger scale, isn’t that how leaders approach corporate culture? Our mission is to create not just physical space, but complete ecosystems that bring out the best in every contributor. And in turn, that ecosystem rewards us in ways that reflect and reinforce our brand vision and values. It’s a continuous loop.

“First we shape our culture; thereafter, our culture shapes us…”

So, just as color schemes, work surfaces and lighting must be carefully considered when developing any physical workspace, we must be equally deliberate in developing organizational culture, piece by piece.

Snapshot Assessment

That conclusion triggered a reality check for me. I quickly took a mental inventory of the physical environment and the organizational “vibe” at Achievers. Here are several highlights, and the intentions behind them:

Achievers Toronto1) Open Design:  Our workspaces are based on open floor plans and are surrounded by lots of natural light. There are very few individual offices. That’s intentional. We want our environment to encourage the kind of energy and enthusiasm that we hope is synonymous with our product.

2) Visual Cues:  Our Toronto office features a giant red wall inscribed with our company values. It’s one of the first things you see as you enter the front door of the building. Such a public display of company values may not guarantee that all employees internalize them, but it’s a constant reminder to employees, customers and business partners of what we want to represent.

3) Flexibility:  Steelcase reminds us that individuals prefer to structure their own tasks throughout their day. That’s why we offer a variety of options — group seating for collaboration, as well as various quiet and private areas. The more options we offer, the more likely our employees will feel they “fit” into the environment — regardless of their mood or work requirements. Actually, this philosophy aligns with employee recognition best practices as well (our area of expertise at Achievers). It’s human nature. Under some circumstances, a person responds best to public recognition. Other times a private, sincere expression of gratitude is more effective. Variety is the solution.

4) Reinforcement:  We believe that the most critical step any company can take in creating a workplace is to build a culture of “thank you.” Of course, employee recognition isn’t as visible as desks or chairs, but it is likely to be the most durable investment you’ll ever make. If you reinforce behaviors that move business goals forward and encourage employees to embrace core values, these intangibles will become as integral to your organization as the furniture.

Bottom line: When designing a workplace — don’t forget to decorate early and often with recognition!

Image Credit: Pixabay

If These Workspace Walls Could Talk #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for the summary of this week’s events and resources? See the #TChat Recap: Office Space: Work in Progress)

Think about it…

Most of us will spend more than 30% of our lives in a workspace of some sort. A formal office with four walls. An isolated cubicle. An open shared space. A nook in your master bedroom. Or even in the front seat of a car.

Wherever you conduct business most frequently, that environment is bound to have a direct and dramatic impact on your psyche and your professional performance. And of course, workspace look and feel influences team and organizational performance, as well.

Workplace Design InfographicA Clean, Well-Lighted Place?

Ideally, work environments enhance efficiency, effectiveness, interaction and even innovation. But, as underscored in the infographic “Transforming Cubicleville USA,” if we don’t pay attention to key factors, our workspace can instead undermine communication, workflow and creativity.

So, how can thoughtful workspace design promote workforce engagement, boost workplace productivity and reinforce organizational culture? What does your workspace say about you as an employee or employer? Could even small changes improve job satisfaction and performance?

#TChat Events: World-of-Work Spaces and You

Truthfully, there isn’t one “right” solution to the challenge of workspace form and function. No two organizations are alike. Each has its own unique business requirements, values and personality to consider. It’s complicated.

But that’s why it’s our focus at #TChat forums this week. And that’s why we’ve invited an expert to frame the discussion — Chris Congdon Director of Research Communications at office furnishings manufacturer, Steelcase. This promises to be a fascinating look at what it takes to create a positive and productive workspace, so we hope you’ll add your voice to the discussion!


Listen to the #TChat Radio show…

#TChat Radio: Tuesday May 14, 7:30pmET/4:30pmPT

Tune into #TChat Radio live, as hosts Meghan and Kevin ask  Chris to share her insights on workspace design issues and trends.

#TChat Twitter: Wednesday, May 15, 7:00pmET/4:00pmPT

Follow our Twitter hashtag and be part of an open, collective conversation, as we explore these questions with Steelcase guests:

Q1:  How important are workspaces? Why?
Q2:  Do you work in a traditional office, home office, or a virtual one?
Q3:  What workspace features help you work productively?
Q4:  How have workspaces evolved over time? Is this for the better?
Q5:  How is your workspace a reflection of you and your work?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us anytime, and share your questions, ideas and opinions. Just be sure to add “#TChat” to your posts, so others in the community can follow the action.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image credit: Pixabay