Your company’s workspace is a direct representation of your company’s community and values. Countless studies recommend employee-centered strategies to increase productivity including a comfortable break room, flexible work hours, or quiet spaces for individual work. It is considered best practice for companies to be sensitive to each individual employee’s spatial needs in order to get optimum results. While these ideas will most likely increase employee well-being, suggestions like “flexible hours” are not always realistic. However, hot take alert: the answer to creating the best workspace for your type of company and working style does not necessarily start with your employees’ preferences. No, it starts with the company as a whole and the community you must cultivate in order to meet company goals.
Review the mission and vision you have for your company as a whole and ask the following key questions in order to create a vision for your community:
That’s where you start. Don’t just jump into an open-floor office model and serve avocado toast with sesame seed oil and free Kombucha in the break room just because it’s the hip, millennial way to increase productivity. For one, if you are not a millennial-driven company, then your Baby Boomers and Gen-X-ers are probably going to yearn for the corner office they’ve waited ten years to move into. Your open-floor office becomes a Great Plains of employees wearing noise-canceling headphones—the antithesis of the collaborative mindset an open-floor office plan intends.
So before making any sweeping changes that could negatively impact work productivity, consider how your company’s mission, vision, and vibe translate into your workspace and create a “community vision.” For example, maybe you are a family-started furniture company that has grown into a Made-in-the-USA mogul. Maybe your grandpa who started the company was a very private man who swears that coffee is better black and a good chair is the basis of a productive day. Well, if that’s the mindset you intend to perpetuate, there better be coffee in the break room and custom-fit chairs for your employees. If your company produces pet supplies: Create spaces for employees to bring their pets to work regularly. Social-networking company? Include plenty of murals and creative walls for the perfect photo op. Figure out what makes sense for your community and unapologetically go with that.
Expectations and Community
Once you have created your community vision, you must communicate it to your present and future employees. You will also use this vision to consider if a candidate could be a productive member of your community. If your community vision revolves around collaboration and family-style worktables, but you are interviewing a candidate who states that they are more of a loner, then this will not blossom into a beautiful working relationship, and that’s okay.
In the end, there is no single type of optimal work setting. Even if we typecast people based on their age, work experience, or mindset, we cannot predict the most advantageous workspace for each person. An intentional, well-developed and transparent vision for your community is going to go further than trying to please every employee. Instead of trying to customize everything for each person, show employees that you value them by establishing a strong, purpose-driven community. Determine the dynamic of your community, invest your people in it, and results will follow.