By Christina Toole,
Sr. Interior Designer
Work with Christina>
I recently had a conversation with a tech industry client who is remodeling their offices. Their main concern? How to design their office to attract top talent.
It’s a fair question, and one I hear a lot from companies that are looking to grow and innovate. They know well that having top talent on board will help get them there, so recruiting is one of the primary reasons a firm will embark on a design project.
The Gensler Workplace Survey reveals workplace secrets of the most creative and innovative companies and uncovered a direct link between the workplace and innovation. In the survey, Gensler reveals that:
“The most innovative employees have the option to work in a wide variety of spaces that meet their needs, and use that option to maximum effect – whether they need individual space to focus, a conference room to brainstorm or learn a new skill, or a social space to chat with co-workers during a coffee break.”Gensler Workplace Survey
There are two takeaways here that we have seen to be true – today’s office workers have a desire for both flexibility and a sense of community.
To address these relational needs as the culture of work has shifted, Design Tribe Workspace Designers have been able to leverage our combined hospitality and corporate office design experience to create welcoming spaces for our clients. From coffee bars, lounge areas, to residential-style kitchens and communal work spaces… it can all be tied together to create a workspace that feels like home.
To create a sense of community, the two main areas to begin focusing on include the breakroom and open-office space.
Creating a Sense of Community in a Breakroom
Sadly, most breakrooms today are designed as an afterthought. Cold, windowless, and colorless with little thought or creativity given to choice in materials. As a hub of activity and a place that most employees will frequent at some point in their day, they offer a great opportunity to begin creating a sense of community.
By borrowing from residential kitchen design, breakrooms can easily be transformed into inviting spaces that are perfect for gathering.
Adding features like dishwashers, even ranges, full size refrigerators, plenty of storage, and extended countertops typical of residences can help both functionally for entertaining as well as for creating a sense of “home away from home”.
If the option is available, consider placing the breakroom in a central location as the “heart” of the new space. Having the breakroom in a convenient and centrally location is also helpful for offices that entertain often or have large potlucks (another great way to create a sense of community).
Windows in a breakroom help create a connection to the outdoors and make the space feel larger. Offering a view of the outdoors during breaks relieves stress and improves mood.
Consider AV needs for this room as well. If a television and gaming system fit your culture, consider adding them. One recent client added speakers with sound control that provided the ability to play music or pipe in audio from an adjacent training room – providing instant overflow training space.
Meaningful details such as backsplashes, pendant lighting and cabinetry pulls can serve a functional purpose while offering the opportunity to make a unique design statement.
Arrange photo walls to offer a sense of home and to showcase the organization’s culture. Consider offering a library for exchanging helpful resources.
Furnishings should be comfortable, easy to clean and offer a variety of seating heights and arrangements. Consideration should be given to the corporate brand (both in terms of color scheme and culture) when selecting materials, colors and finishes.
A well thought out and appointed breakroom can serve as a space to gather for meals, celebrate birthdays and other milestones. If sufficiently inviting, it can also improve collaboration by serving as an impromptu meeting and coffee break space.
Creating a Sense of Community in an Open-Office or Bullpen
To continue the analogy, if the breakroom is the kitchen, then the open-office area becomes the dining room. Working side-by-side at a communal table (or a desk nearby) is the very definition of community.
There’s been much backlash against the open-concept, with lack of privacy and distraction being a real issue in such as space. However, by offering flexibility these issues can be addressed. For some offices, the answer may be a bank of sound-proof phone call rooms. For others a separate “quiet room” that might also double as conference room space. For some offices the answer may be separating teams by their function, or perhaps a combination of these is the answer to each office’s unique challenges.
If the breakroom is more than a few steps away, adding a coffee bar can be convenient while adding instant ambiance in an open-office space. Another trick to make a room instantly more inviting is to provide windows with a view in your open office space.
Another area within an open office that serves a functional purpose while creating a sense of “home away from home” is lounge seating for impromptu meeting space. Whether the seating areas is living room-style sofas, a circle of chairs, or perhaps fun, restaurant-style booths – ensure repeated use of the space by making it both durable and inviting.
Consider also adding writing surfaces for note-taking. With a little creativity, glasstop tables can become dry erase boards and products like IdeaPaint can turn any wall into a writing surface.
The large open space of an open office can also serve double-duty as space for informal gatherings or meetings. By adding an AV system and installing screens (projectors or large TV monitors), the space is always ready for a team award ceremony, rally or informational meeting.
When considering furnishings, once again consideration should be given to the corporate brand (both in terms of color scheme and culture). Today, contract furnishing providers are responding to the need for color by offering more options than ever. Resources such as Poppin also deliver everything from office supplies to furniture in a variety of colors to support corporate branding. Adding custom branded artwork can also serve both to support the culture and provide added color – a necessity in any creative and innovative environment.
For the ceiling, consider noise control and breaking up the space with varying heights and sound control materials. For flooring, products such as Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) planks work well in high traffic areas and adds the ability to add “wood-flooring looks” that create a warm and welcoming feeling. Carpet tiles are easily replaced and can dampen sound when placed under desk areas.
In our experience, we’ve found that many creative and innovative organizations like to entertain. Whether hosting a party for their own team, for clients, or even for charity, their doors are always open. As we’ve learned in our own homes where wine is spilled and food is dropped, having durable and easy-to-clean flooring just makes life easier.
Lastly, adding plants and greenery can help create a warm and welcoming space and enhance the sense of community while providing countless benefits. These benefits include improved air quality, reduced stress, noise control, reduced sickness and improved productivity. If your office does not have a resident greenthumb, consider convenient local services such as Botanicals to help maintain the look and health of your plants.
If you’d like to learn more about designing an office to create a sense of community, please reach out to us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Design Tribe Sr. Interior Designer, Christina Toole, is a LEED™ Green Associate, NCIDQ Certificate holder, and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design in 2004. Since then she has served on global hospitality project teams for Wynn Resorts, MGM/City Center, and Mandarin Oriental, and designed mid to high-end residential remodels, vacation and model homes, as well as award-winning branded workspaces.
Areas of Specialty:
Airbnb Vacation Design