Buzzwords abound when it comes to crafting the perfect workplace design. From war rooms to treadmill desks and Feng-Shui entryways, there are handfuls of trends to choose from. And the right choice seems to be a moving target. But what really works when it comes to effective workplace design? The answer is balance. Workers in today’s corporate environment have a broad range of needs, but these needs remain fairly consistent across the board. Employees need space to be creative, collaborate, and space to socialize. They need space to focus on high-concentration tasks where they can remain undisturbed for long stretches of time.
A balanced workplace also caters to the unique personalities of each employee. Sales teams are often more outgoing and rambunctious with a high level of collaboration, teamwork, and competition. On the other hand, development departments tend to be more autonomous and subdued, requiring long stretches of uninterrupted time and structured collaborative meetings. Creating a physically balanced workspace requires that every job function is appropriately supported. Open floorplans can’t cater to every workstyle, just as a row of closed offices won’t benefit teams that work closely with one another throughout their day. In short, no one single solution works for an entire office. That’s where the need for balance comes in.
Balancing between collaboration and autonomous work environments means ensuring that there are appropriate meeting areas for both short, standing meetings and long, interdepartmental or all-staff meetings. As well, there should be an ample number of small private areas where workers can meet face-to-face at a moment’s notice.
All work and no play makes for dull, disinterested employees. Social spaces are a valuable part of the office environment. But these spaces should be located in areas that are far enough away from working areas that they won’t pose a distraction to neighboring desks. Keep the kitchen and breakroom in a discreet location away from working areas to help employees truly separate their work time from their leisure time. Spontaneous interaction is a valuable, idea-generating occurrence, and creating opportunities to meet on the fly can create a more productive workplace environment.
There are plenty of new and innovative ways to assimilate physical balance into the workplace. In fact, there are whole lines of ergonomic office chairs designed to combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day. Offering employees the option of a more ergonomic chair, a standing desk, or supplying more frequent breaks throughout the day are all helpful ways to prevent physical discomforts. Without adequate comfort, heath and productivity begin to fail.
There is more to workplace design than balancing the physical space. Mental balance is a key component of supporting a productive environment, too. Creating a variety of workspace configurations and enough layout diversity to offer some visual stimulation can help keep minds sharp on the job. Balancing work with scheduled breaks, walking meetings, team events, and opportunities to work remotely can also help employees find an adequate work-life balance and stave off the dreaded burnout. With more double-income households than ever before, many employees can find benefit in flexible hours that enable them to more easily handle children and family affairs.
With a slew of new trends hitting the scene year over year, it’s hard to keep a line on what really works and what’s simply a passing fancy. But the concept of balance offers a timeless guideline by which employees receive a varied and flexible work environment that is also structured and stable enough to remain engaged with their work, connected to their peers, and productive in the workplace.