Office Design Tips that Foster Creativity in the Workplace

Designing an office can be tricky. Just like a tattoo, you should do your best to get it right the first time.

by Matt Panebianco

Designing an office can be tricky. Just like a tattoo, you should do your best to get it right the first time. And in today’s office environment, less is more. An emphasis has been placed on workplace design that is lean and flexible to accommodate the quickly changing needs of clients, companies, and employees. No matter what industry you are in, office design creativity and innovation are essential ingredients to day-to-day success.

“Creativity and innovation are about finding unexpected solutions to obvious problems or finding obvious solutions to unexpected problems. We should use creativity to provide better businesses and solutions rather than constantly trying to disrupt what people are doing.” – Rei Inamoto, AKQA

Fostering these attributes can be a difficult task. Read below, and you will find a list of actionable tips and ideas that can be used to make your office a more creative and innovative place to work.

Dedicate a space to past, current, and future projects

Getting kudos from the higher ups on a completed project is great. There is a sense of fulfillment when an email rolls in your inbox sent to ‘all staff’ that highlights key contributions to a piece of work in which you had an integral role in producing.

However, after a while these accomplishments fade from the memories of staff members, and teams are left scrambling to come up with new, original material for current projects. This problem grows in accordance with the passing of time, size of your company, and the number of clients you serve. After all, you can’t blame the new hire for not knowing what a beautiful job the company did on a project a year ago.

This problem can be avoided by creating a space in the office strictly dedicated to the brilliant work produced by the company. In a creative environment, it’s important to reflect on the previous work you’ve done to continually churn out high-quality products or solutions.

This can be as simple as a wall display, or as advanced as television monitors that go through a rotation of previous projects. By including this space in an office design, you expose your staff to several immediate benefits.

At the very least, this design increases transparency. Refer to the ‘new hire’ dilemma mentioned previously. Having a physical space showing off prior work samples is much easier to digest than sorting through the massive number of files that may be on the company server.

It keeps these projects on the forefront of employees’ minds, ignites creativity, and encourages discussion. As a bonus, key contributors will be continually reminded that their hard work and productivity is appreciated.

Blank office space is a valuable resource

Not all office space should be occupied by desks, chairs, or furniture of the like. What we are talking about is a true open floor area – one where employees have the freedom to do with it what they choose. A game of indoor corn hole? Toss away. Space to play fetch with Fido? Get those tennis balls ready. Company-wide water balloon toss? Okay, now we might draw the line.

The point is, that rather than definitively telling employees how to use the space, leave it open for debate. The way that they use it will surface organically. This interior design tip will vary drastically from one company to the next, and is largely dependent on the overall culture and personalities of your staff.

Giving staff the ability to choose will expose them to individuals they may not normally interact with. Not only could activities in this area spark creativity, but it will heavily impact the sense of community built around your culture. All work and no play is a recipe for boredom. Regardless of the way the space is used, it will facilitate a key element of innovation: collaboration.

Don’t limit your office design to highlight ONLY work accomplishments

We’ve touched on emphasizing recognition and transparency for their hard work, but that can’t be all they care about, can it? Probably not. Your employees are people, and people have lives outside of normal business hours. Hobbies, passions, families. They are the things that make you, you.

Consider incorporating a space for exactly these things. Perhaps it comes in the form of a public service announcement bulletin board. Employees that are actively involved in the community may solicit voluntary participation at fundraisers and other non-profit events. Who doesn’t like a funny photo? Prominently display hilarious pictures of staff whether they be in or out of the office. Got kids? Toss a picture of them playing with their vegetables up there too.

Highlighting any of these things will nurture employee engagement and allows your staff to get to know one another on a deeper level. Ultimately, this sense of camaraderie translates into better working relationships, and thus, better products or solutions.

The modern break room

In today’s work environment, the lines between the break room and the work desk have been blurred. Mobile capabilities allow employees to work from anywhere, and the widespread adoption of an open floor plan fit with low wall barriers can make the hustle and bustle of the workday unavoidable. Sometimes all you need is a little peace and quiet to gather your thoughts and rest your mind.

With looming deadlines fast approaching, leaving the office for a decompressing walk around the block may seem out of the question. Providing employees an in-house office space specifically built for them to kick back and relax can do wonders for the creative juices.

Offer anonymity and confidentiality

Who knows? Maybe Susan from the accounting department has a brilliant, out-of-the-box idea for a current initiative that no one else has thought of. However, she may be reluctant to share her opinions so as not to sound foolish or be shut-down.

Having a private, non-confrontational medium for employees to propose ideas may instill creative spirit in those who are not comfortable voicing their opinion in more formal settings. Maybe a meeting with human resources seems too daunting of a task for some staff members to speak up. Providing a suggestion box, or something similar, removes this fear and doubt from the equation.

Invest in the kitchen

A place for employees to refresh and refuel themselves, the kitchen is an integral part of a high-performing office ecosystem. Open and centrally located, this space should be accessible to all employees in the office.

A high-priority has been placed on health and wellness, and for that reason, the single office microwave just won’t cut it. You don’t want your staff moving sluggishly around from eating one too many Hot Pockets.

Multiple burner stove tops and an oven to cook a proper meal. Plenty of counter space to chop up fruits and vegetables. Ample refrigeration space to store fresh foods. A filtered water cooler to drink instead of soda.

These are all elements that a modern-day office kitchen should be outfitted with. While these features may seem obvious, far too many offices are stuck in the past with outdated appliances, cafeteria style seating, and vending machines full of processed foods and other junk that carry no nutritional value.

Outside of these amenities, designing an attractive kitchen space with suitable seating provides yet another area for employees to work, strengthen relationships, and share ideas.

Bring in external sources

Subjecting employees to sources outside the four walls of the office taps into the creativity of workers from a wide range of disciplines. For offices with unoccupied areas collecting dust, this means offering up the space to outside consultants or other sources for free.

Why, you ask? Simply put, because there is nothing else going on. If they aren’t spying on your company and gathering trade secrets, these outsiders can help foster a collaborative workspace.  Providing a fresh perspective and diversity can stimulate a potentially stagnant workplace.

Even if they aren’t working on a project related to your business, this model of “open innovation” exposes your staff to a different way of thinking, work styles, and professional networks.

Wrapping Up

Creative industries have become stereotyped to have quirky, trendy office design. You can have all the coolest gadgets and technology in the world, but when you boil it down, maximizing employee efficiency and productivity is a balance of structure and fluidity.

Your employees are your greatest resource. Listen to them. Setting them up for success ultimately sets the business up for success. Office design plays a critical role in promoting health and well-being, so nurturing an office environment for creativity and innovation is second to none.


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