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Wednesday 13th August 2014

The HRville guide to...

Designing a truly brilliant new office

You’ve been asked to get involved with workplace design – possibly even an office move.

It might seem daunting, but don’t worry. As with practically everything else, preparation is key. We asked an expert in workplace design for his most useful tips…

1. First of all, ask yourself: do you really need to move? Instead of jumping the gun, look at what you really need, carefully considering the cultural, psychological, spatial and subjective factors that might have influenced your decision.

2. If you do move, test your new space before you move in. In fact, make sure you fit it before signing on the dotted line. Undertaking a cross-section role analysis beforehand helps to make informed design decisions. (This involves interviewing a cross-section of the workforce to understand individual and team needs, rather than just assuming the answers.)

3. Does your new space work for all the individuals in your business? What about the younger generation (the brilliantly termed ‘digital natives’) as well as the older workforce? You’ll also need to take into account the personalities of your team, such as introverts and extroverts. Which behaviours do you want to encourage, or discourage? Equally, you’ll need to look at how your people collaborate with each other, and with external partners and clients.

4. Wellbeing is so much more than just a spider plant in the corner. What are the wider needs of the users of the space? Will your redesign or new environment create a greater sense of wellbeing for those that work in it? How?

5. Benchmark your company’s performance. The Leesman Index of workplace effectiveness is a good starting point. How do individuals currently work, and what is the desired outcome in terms of improved performance? Remember that simply placing new items such as furniture or lighting into a new or existing office can actually have a negative impact on productivity.

6. What’s the culture of your company? For example, is it generally perceived that if you’re not at your desk, you’re not working? If so, removing desks and encouraging people to work on sofas or ‘hot-desking’, might not be the right solution. Often the culture of the company needs to change before new elements of workplace design are introduced.

7. Engage your staff in the design process. Letting them know what you’re trying to achieve and how you think the changes will benefit them helps involve the team and hopefully makes them feel a valuable part of the organisation.

8. Assess how you’ll measure the success of the new design. It could be an increase in profit due to happier and more motivated staff, increased staff retention, fewer sick days, staff arriving earlier to work or perhaps your inbox filling up with CVs as the word spreads that your company is an amazing place to work. Define your measurables before you start, so you know exactly how to report back on the success of the project.

About the author

Steve Brewer

Steve is a partner at the workplace design consultancy, Burtt-Jones & Brewer.