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How More Efficient Space Planning Can Lead to Better Productivity

corporate real estate productivity Oct 15, 2015

When businesses grow, most people automatically think that it’s time to increase the size of the facility as well.

Interestingly, the latest studies indicate that doing the exact opposite can increase productivity. Sometimes smaller spaces can be better. All that really matters is that the space is planned well. It’s not about just fitting as many cubicles into a larger space, but rather cultivating a sense of community within the office.

Why Space Planning Matters

Gensler, a leading design and architecture firm based out of San Francisco, has extensive experience in creating ideal work spaces.

They’ve had a hand in designing amazing spaces all over the world for huge companies like Airbnb, QVC, Facebook, and Ritz-Carlton. Their quest to design highly productive environments led them to the discovery that people need four different types of spaces in order to perform at their best. Although the ultimate goal is to have employees focus and produce, they actually need time throughout the day to socialize, learn, and collaborate as well.

Unfortunately, the traditional “cubicle farm” work environment isn’t conducive to productivity. As such, many of the largest corporations in the world are embracing a new design model for their corporate facilities. The best part is, a well-thought-out environment that encompasses all these spaces can have a smaller footprint than a traditional cubicle floorplan.

In other words, you can have more productive (and happier) employees, in a smaller workspace, thus reducing the overhead.

Set Aside Room for Collaboration and Education

Collaboration centers and learning spaces can be dual-function, but the traditional meeting room may soon be a thing of the past.

Jeff Sutherland, the CEO of Scrum Inc. and author of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, is a fan of stand-up meetings. He traces their origin back to a team working on Quattro Pro for Windows, but believes his meetings are more effective when kept to 15 minutes or less.

Kristen Gil, the VP of Business Operations at Google, says that their meetings are successful because attendance is limited to no more than ten people, and each one must actively participate.

In either case, the large conference rooms people tend to associate with work, are not part of the company culture. Businesses may benefit more from hosting meetings in unexpected areas. For example, the Wall Street Journal reports that the marketing firm, Yodel built bleacher-style stairs to serve as collaboration areas.

The Gensler-designed Airbnb building has numerous rooms inspired by real Airbnb listings. It’s no longer a matter of setting aside a vast space for a large meeting. Companies are accomplishing more because of better space planning.

Create Areas for Socialization

Google really sets the standard for making socialization part of their space planning efforts. New York is notorious for offering tiny, and often outdated, commercial buildings.

However, in their online tour of their NYC office, Google shows that their building is anything but archaic. Corporate heads understand the value of having members of different teams continually come in contact with one another, so the building is designed to encourage “chance encounters” between staffers.

Moreover, the company has gone so far as to ensure that no person is ever more than 150 feet away from food. Employees are encouraged to mingle at a coffee stop, visit a produce bar, or grab a bite to eat in a family-style kitchenette. They have dry-erase boards in the halls and even game rooms, which also serve as collaboration areas.

Because the building’s elevators move incredibly slowly due to age, designers chose to install ladders for employees to climb floor-to-floor, complete with padded chutes for laptops. (There’s a chance that might have been just for the fun of it, though.)

Individual Work Niches are Still Essential

Traditional cubicle farms provide only a small amount of the isolation needed for focus, and they lack the space needed for socialization, collaboration, and education. All of these things are necessary to have a productive work environment. Google’s offices still have some cubicles. However, they also have shared workspaces and individual isolation rooms carved out of unused areas. Plus, employees can make use of collaboration rooms as they wish, even as an individual.

The ad agency Venables, Bell & Partners, which does work for companies like Google, Audi, Reebok, and Intel, has a room with hanging cocoon swings as well as alcoves to the side of busy hallways.

One of Gensler’s projects, the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto, has smaller open-use glass offices with sliding doors. They’re similar in size to a cubicle, but can be left open for socialization and collaboration or closed for solitary work, plus they don’t tie an employee down to a single workstation.

Four-Tiered Space Planning Can Transform Your New Office

If you’re considering a move because your business has outgrown its existing facilities, it makes sense to strategically plan your options.

However, recent trends and data indicate that bigger isn’t always better. You need space planning to help make the most of what you have. Investing the time early on and finding out how much time your employees need to spend in each activity can not only reduce your annual rental obligation, but can have a huge impact on your employee's overall productivity and time management.

Perhaps a larger space is warranted. On the other hand, you might find what you really require is a property or space with a more efficient layout for your needs.

Get an Expert Assessment of Your Company’s Space Planning Needs

We understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to commercial real estate, which is why we partner with professional architects and space planners.  We use hard data, your business profile and interview your team to provide you with a customized solution.

For a no-obligation consultation, please contact us through the link on this site or speak with us directly by calling 201-694-2870.