Usually, the first thing people think of when a business has outgrown its workspace is to relocate to a larger space to accommodate the growth. However, we challenged this notion when the company I worked at outgrew the existing office space.

Instead of relocating, we tried to figure out whether it’s possible to add staff and still increase employee innovation, engagement and collaboration while maintaining the same square footage.

We tried a lot of ideas including different types of focus rooms, workstations, and an office café that combined some dedicated workspaces with flexible workspaces for staff that did not need to have an assigned workspace. It also involved some remodeling. We called in IT, framing and electrical contractors for various renovations.

Once the contractors had finished their job, our office cleaning company was brought in to take care of the post-construction cleaning. Our contractors were flexible enough to work in stages over the weekends and in the evenings to cause minimal disruption to the workflow.

Here are a few things we discovered along the way:

1. People were OK with less space once they figure out that they don’t really need paper

We took a close look at the staff desks and we found that people only used a small part of their desk space and the rest was used for personal items and project files.

Big dual monitors allow employees to view multiple documents easily on a screen at the same time which helps in keeping their printing requirements in check. Shared document layout areas with worktops for reviewing work well and these areas can also be used for short meetings when team would not need to sit down. Tasks that need more space can be accommodated in the focus rooms. When people were given these options, they were happy with their new 6.5-foot desk that also had a built-in storage unit to one side.

2. Open Workspace Means Quieter Office

When people are allowed to hide behind their workstation partitions, it gives them a false sense of security that nobody is able to hear them but with open workspaces, staff members are more aware of the people around them. This naturally leads to an often-quieter work environment. Conversations happen but are shorter. This, in turn, helps in boosting productivity. Easily accessible conference spaces can accommodate longer conversations.

3. Open Environment – Great for Introverts

Sometimes, it’s difficult for introverted or shy employees to fit into the culture of a new company. With an open environment, they get an excellent opportunity to interact and mingle with their co-workers without requiring any extra effort on their part.

In fact, one of the more introverted team members in our company said that she now feels more comfortable and connected with co-workers when everybody works in an open environment as it is now easy to see each other and interact without the need to join a group physically. It helped her integrate and fit-in as she got to know the co-workers around her in an open environment.

4. Some of Your Team Will Always Need Extra Space

While recent graduates are happy with smaller workstations or hot desking as they haven’t worked long enough to accumulate stuff. However, it is important to keep in mind that even the senior level staff often use more digital method processes which means there is less physical paper and therefore, smaller workstations also work for them.

During our review, we found that more of our mid-level employees needed more storage as they kept a lot of the management project documents. Space allocation should be done after a thorough review of the work processes. It will ensure that employees have the necessary tools to do their job efficiently.

5. Quite Spaces for Extroverts

We live in highly stimulated environments today and it’s easy to develop that feeling of being overloaded. We have one single focus rooms that are utilized equally by extroverts and introverts for various purposes including personal conversations, phone calls, teleconferencing, virtual conferencing or when they just want a little privacy while working.

There has been a lot of research coming out lately showing the negative effects of stress on people’s productivity, well-being and engagement. Modern workplaces need to have quite spaces to allow staff some quiet time for regeneration.

6. Emotional Attachment to Personal Stuff at Work Desks

People get emotionally attached to the items they have collected and kept at their workspace, over the years. We found this when one of our employees decided to shift to a flex desk. He quickly realized the attachment he had developed to the things he had been accumulating, including his favorite teacup, gifts given by co-workers as well as kids drawings. Therefore, it is important to have enough space for employees to keep their personal items even if they are flex workers. Even a locker works.

7. A Flexible Sitting Environment Works Great

When you give employees a little freedom over their workspace, they’re allowed the freedom to determine the most efficient way to work and it helps with their professional and inter-personal development. If they want to get to know someone a little better or they want to learn new things, they are free to sit by the person they want that includes the CEO or the CFO. Today’s younger generations want such accessibility in their workspace.

It allows employees to have the flexibility to choose a location based on the work they need to accomplish for that day. It also allows employees to reward themselves by shifting to another location when they have finished a task. It helps in clearing their mind and allows them to begin a new task with a fresh mind.

8. Better Mentoring

I have worked for over 25 years at my current company and during these years, I had the opportunity to sit next to many different people as the staff moves around frequently in the office. One of the biggest benefits has been mentoring I have received from my co-workers. It has helped me understand different aspects of our brand and business and I also got to know my co-workers better. Flex environments help in creating such opportunities for our staff members which makes the whole team more knowledgeable, productive and helps to solidify their connection with the company.

9. Everyone Gets a Window

In many companies, proximity to that beautiful sunshine, such as being assigned a corner office, is often determined by hierarchy. When we had the traditional design, it was an open space with open views and only senior staff sat close to windows. With our new flex space design, the space near the windows is unassigned which means anybody can utilize.

10. Try Different Things to Find Something That Works

Our new flex office design took into account research, benchmarking, observations and surveys. However, testing really helped us figure out the right design for our company. We tested 5 various workstations for preference and functionality, and only such testing helped us find that the 6.5-foot desk works well for our employees. We also discovered through testing that the sit or stand option is a hit with the staff, and a small bookshelf and a file drawer was enough for full time workers.

For employees with flex work desks, tall lockers were provided but after using these for a while, people found out that only half the storage was needed. We also found that the tablet arm reclining chairs are not preferred by employees, but staff members love the work café and focus rooms. This is valuable information and we can use it to plan the future renovations to allow our employees the freedom and flexibility to work even more efficiently.

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