Today, especially in Tech companies an office has been transformed to an organizational space where people not only perform work but can also experience playfulness, creativity, sense of togetherness and joy. The physical environment of the office reflects our company structure, approach to values and can be both beautiful and functional. Properly designed, it can facilitate employees’ behaviors which build our company culture and help us to attract and retain top talents. The US Workplace Survey by Gensler shows that poor workplace design costs U.S. businesses an estimated $330 billion in lost productivity each year.
The design of an office space has been changing through the years as a result of changes in the concept of leadership and management. Starting from Frederick Taylor the workplace environment was focused on maximizing efficiency with all the desks facing a manager. Next steps involved cubical space with three walls. fluorescent lighting and later on traditional open spaces in which employees can move freely across the office. Modern workplaces are constantly changing and evolving from the typical cubicle design to more fun, open spaces, where functionality meets beautiful architecture.
As we all now cherish agile as the right way to deliver business, let’s see how its philosophy can be adapted to the office space design.
For me, the key elements of agile methodology are:
- delivering business value,
- adapting to change,
- constant feedback loop.
As a well-designed office space is one of the key ingredients of a productive and happy team I transferred the above elements into the office space design rules, which are as followed:
- crafting collaborative spaces for spontaneous discussion and innovation,
- adjusting the interior to the emotional needs of people,
- gathering feedback based on the observation of employees interactions.
Let’s see how we applied this approach to the Selleo premises and designed a work environment which is both about physical appearance and empowering our teams.
The building - exterior and interior
Choosing the best place for our HQ we have three things in mind: location near the city centre, parking place for all people in the company with the ability to scale it, and interesting architecture. The right location and external design boost mood and inspire a sense of pride.
High ceilings and glass walls allow to build a community that is engaged and, in turn, more productive. Room height greatly influences the overall feel of the space, while glass elements not only promote transparency but allow more light in the room. The workplace survey by Capital One shows that 82% of professionals agreed that their best ideas originate from working in flexible, innovative workspaces. Thanks to the industrial past of our headquarters (it was built in 1875), we are lucky to have a lot of free space as well as a great amount of light. We also decided to incorporate glass doors and walls, especially in conference rooms for the mentioned transparency, openness and clarity.
A casual dynamic space
More and more offices decide to create a non-formal space, where their employees can work in silence, without restrictions from a desk or just have fun. It is a space for individual work, to rest and get away from the usually louder and busier office rooms. As flexibility is one of the key elements of agile, our open space is designed to evolve dynamically with our ever-changing needs and expectations. Space includes lightweight furniture, movable wipe boards, bean bags, a professional stage with lighting and audio systems and much more. In this dynamic space, we host our internal day (Haxorz) with unconference and workshops and also run community meetups focused on front-end development (Ember BB, Meet.JS BB). In this area, people can chill out on bean bags, take part in a retro game competition, simply work in silence, have a team meeting or just do whatever they want.
Widely recognized as the best place for informal meetings a company kitchen should be big and cozy enough to become a gathering place, increasing social interactions on a deeper level. A lot of companies perceives the kitchen just as a place to grab a cup of coffee and move on, but it shouldn’t be like this. This magic place allows people to build the relationship, talk freely about projects and get a feeling of belonging. We have probably the biggest company kitchen in the city. The whole Selleo team (60+ people) can have lunch there together during our internal days. It is always a place for great discussions and friendly jokes accompanied with freshly ground Lavazza, various fruits and healthy snacks.
A healthy working environment
In the last couple of years, a shift from a concentrated, cubicle workstations to free-standing, individual desks happened. With the increasing amount of sitting we do every day and its consequences for our health standing desks and ergonomic chairs are extremely important. In our offices, we use desks with automatic height regulation, which allow us to adjust them to our personal preferences, as well as to work while standing up. Paired with Ergohuman chairs the desks are a fantastic way to prevent future back problems. As we spend most of our work indoors, office space should incorporate the elements of biophilic design to reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought. As I mentioned the usage of natural lightning a few paragraphs above the other important part of this concept is using natural elements like green walls or plants which can reduce toxic chemicals in the air.
Most offices are aware of how sound travels and are trying to control it. Carpeted floors, plants and furniture help to absorb unwanted echos that may be distracting, especially during video conferences. Especially while working as a remote team and having most of the communication via voice communicators the proper acoustic becomes a must-have of every office space. That is why our conference rooms are equipped with acoustic screens attached to the walls, limiting ambient sound and providing privacy.
The devil is in the detail
The whole of our office space is co-created by our community. Our team members were involved in the design of the workspace early on to feel the connection between their workspace and their personality. Pictures and wall art are what makes mundane offices come to life. Good lighting - a combination of natural and artificial light boosts productivity by 15%. In Selleo we love a good wall artwork. We made sure each of our room has colorful posters and bright, but not blinding light. The posters were chosen by teams working in a particular room and they directly match the rooms’ city names. People can arrange the set up of their desks and choose additional elements of the decoration. Studies on flexible work arrangements have shown that people who have high access to flexibility in their workplace are three times more likely to be highly satisfied with their jobs.