Allwork.Space spoke with Rachel Wilcox, Vice President of sales at VARIDESK about the role workplace design plays in building company culture.
Workspace design matters because it can elevate or hinder your workforce — therefore it’s crucial to take a strategic approach in your design process.
Effective design and a positive culture are important differentiators in the war for talent, as they can outweigh salary when it comes to attracting top-level candidates.
Workplace design has evolved over the past several years to better address the needs of a new generation of workers and incorporate emerging technologies within the built environment.
The result has been a workplace powered by technology, data, and amenities, which has helped many companies attract and retain talent, as well as foster a stronger corporate culture.
Allwork.Space spoke with Rachel Wilcox, Vice President of sales at VARIDESK about the role workplace design plays in company culture and why companies need to start investing in furniture and workplace design elements that are flexible, transformative, and simple.
Allwork.Space: Let’s start with the basics, how exactly does workplace design affect company culture?
Rachel Wilcox: We strongly believe that workspace design matters because the workspace you create can elevate or hinder workers. Therefore, it’s crucial that companies are strategic in their design process. The goal is to create and foster a place where people want to come to work and a big part of that is putting the employee experience at the forefront of everything you do, including office design.
This requires that the design team consider how today’s younger workforce likes to work and why. It’s pretty clear by now that the cubicle and sheetrock weren’t meeting the needs of today’s workers. It was time to move on and embrace design that encourages collaboration, openness, and flexibility. These are the things the modern worker cares for and values, and they are what will ultimately promote a positive culture.
The fact that studies have found that combining an attractive workplace with an appealing culture can outweigh salary when it comes to attracting top-level candidates comes to show the key role workplace interior design can play in the success of a company.
Allwork.Space: Yes, talent attraction and retention has also been a key factor behind the growth of corporate coworking, as these spaces tend to offer highly attractive and amenity-filled experiences that today’s workers value. Many companies are prioritizing happiness and wellbeing, together with productivity in their company culture. How can design influence this?
Take for example VARIDESK, where we use our headquarters as an innovation lab for both our products and our space design theories. We’ve found that especially in open workspace environments, people really need both “me” and “we” spaces.
The right mix of different work environments will drive the types of interactions and engagement that strengthen and nurture company culture. We’ve found that employees need choice and flexibility.
Consider large conference rooms with standing tables for big meetings, smaller enclosed areas for one-on-one work, rolling whiteboards that can turn any space into a brainstorming area, focus pods for individual projects, and Zen rooms for when people need to unwind.
Design elements like movable walls and partitions can go a long way in creating a variety of spaces that enable teams to adjust their space as they grow or as their needs change.
Allwork.Space: You talk about movable walls and partitions and lately there’s been a lot of talk around activity-based work and active furniture. How do these elements enhance the overall workplace experience?
VARIDESK was actually born out of a single product: the standing desk. What we found was that simply by giving people the option and ability to stand and move they were happier, healthier, and more productive. We also found that it positively impacts workplace culture as it encouraged people to get up and talk to coworkers, to have an in-person conversation instead of sending an email.
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Active workspaces need to be thought of from an individual and collective perspective. An active workplace is one that can be changed based on the user’s needs without much time or effort. It takes some experimenting to get it right, and asking for feedback on what works and what needs to change is also important.
Allwork.Space: Increasingly, companies are going through workplace transformation projects in order to incorporate new trends and meet the new needs and demands of the workforce. In your experience, what are some of the most common workplace interior design mistakes that companies make?
Too often, companies build their space solely for the workforce they have today, instead of building for the one they will have in five years. All companies hope or plan to scale at some point and it’s important that companies choose a design strategy that can grow with them; whether that means adding workstations, creating private offices, or adding more collaborative spaces. The key is to be able to do all of these without having to go back to the drawing board each time.
In the unfortunate event that companies have to scale in the other direction, companies should also want to have flexible furniture that can be moved in and out easily — no one wants empty, static cubes that remind workers of the losses. That’s simply bad for morale and culture.
What I recommend is that companies avoid things that are static and instead choose design elements that can flex and move instead. Putting up and tearing down sheetrock translates into significant time and financial resources; so don’t paint yourself into a corner by building these walls in the first place.
Allwork.Space: Not only is it bad for morale, but it also means that companies aren’t designing for efficiency. Are there any ground rules companies need to be aware of when designing the layout of a space?
Yes, maximizing space usage and efficiency should be a priority for companies. There are three key elements that I believe are essential for modern, active workplaces.
Spaces must be flexible. Trends in business are constantly evolving – coworking itself is evidence of that – so if you’re a coworking operator, it’s in your company’s best interest to have the flexibility to adapt to these changing trends, both from an employee satisfaction perspective, as well as a cost perspective. If you’re constantly starting over when it comes to office design each time a big client with a new culture and new unique needs signs on, you’re going to see a big dent in your budget. The same goes for companies who need to grow or contract.
Spaces must be transformative. All companies hope to scale. It’s important to choose a design that can grow with your company; that means adding workstations, creating private offices, or adding more collaborative space without constantly starting over. You should avoid things that are static, in favor of things that can flex and move instead.
Spaces must be simple. In order to be flexible and transformative, companies also need to keep it simple. This means designs that can be flexed easily depending on new client or employee needs. Avoid purchasing furniture systems or other design solutions that require hefty third-party labor costs every time something needs to be moved or reassembled.