How to Design an Office for Flexible Employees

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Modern offices have changed rapidly over the decades. With digital technology dictating how we go about our work, our spaces needed to adapt to the use of computer-centric systems. As a result, what used to be large square rooms with individual cubicles have now transformed into open spaces that encourage collaboration. 

Now, designing for flexibility is the new thing. The ideal flexible workspace can suit a variety of digitally centered modalities, converting into what organizations require at any moment. 

Essentially, they directly address the needs of flexible employees. 

In the time before the pandemic, full-time employees had to work 40 hours a week in the office. After going through many upheavals, this paradigm had to change, resulting in the rise of the work-from-home setup. Some experts see this trend sticking for good as both employees and employers are beginning to see and enjoy the benefits of telecommuting.  

With that said, the physical office has yet to be phased out. Some companies are already choosing to return to regular arrangements after preventive measures have been lifted bit by bit across the country. Certain lines of work also can’t fit in a home space for long.

As of the moment, most office spaces have 35-50% vacancy. If you work in a firm’s management, you must ensure you’re using space efficiently. Going about this smartly can help you increase productivity while cutting operating costs, thereby increasing your bottom line. And the best way to do this is to focus on building flexible workspaces.

Here’s what you need to know about them.

Table of Contents

What Is a Flexible Workspace?

Designing A Flexible Workspace

  1. Provide a Quiet Place
  2. Use Soundproofing
  3. Use Adaptable Furniture
  4. Set Aside a Call / Conference Room
  5. Add Plants
  6. Install Artwork
  7. Use Appropriate Lighting
  8. Allow Autonomy And Control
  9. Keep Cords Tidy
  10. Set Everyone Up With Status Indicators

Flexibility Is Key

What Is a Flexible Workspace?

Flexible workspaces, sometimes called “dynamic workspaces”, provides employees with the freedom to work where, when, and how they want in a safe and secure environment.

Globally, Europe leads the pack in the number of flexible workspaces at 4,200 as of March 2022, followed closely by Asia at 4,100. Their popularity comes from how they provide on-site employees with an efficient space to collaborate and interact with those working off-site.

Nowadays, security is increasingly a concern for business owners. Business security systems can help you protect your business from intruders.

Designing a Flexible Workspace

Considering your team member’s needs and requirements is essential in designing a functional, flexible workspace. Naturally, creating one will require considerable investments. For example, you’ll have to buy new furniture and equipment. But you can think of it as furnishing an asset that provides a great return of investment. 

To design an effectively flexible workspace, you need to consider the following things: 

1. Provide a Quiet Place 

In a busy office, peace may be hard to come by. There are always conversations, clacking keyboards, music playing from headphones, or shuffling shoes. All of these minute disturbances can hamper productivity by distracting your staff from tasks that need concentration. There will also be times when workers need some quiet time to refocus and collect their thoughts before returning to their work. 

One aspect of flexible workspaces is that they help employees recharge and decompress by giving them a space to chill and wind down. 

A nook dedicated to peace and quiet can help employees do just that. You can try adding a meditation room for your employees. A balcony or rooftop garden can allow them to feel refreshed. Small adjustments like these have been known to improve productivity, work output quality, and above all, work satisfaction.

2. Use Soundproofing 

Some office areas may be action-packed and slightly noisier than the rest. Call rooms, for one, may produce a lot more noise than other rooms in the office because of conversations and meetings. Soundproofing these areas would be best to keep the productivity of other employees from tanking. Not everyone can tolerate noise while working, and you need to consider their preference for a serene space.  

To insulate noise, consider the following:

  • Sound masking: This is adding sound to the environment to drown out the noise in one area. You may do this by installing speakers to deliver ambient noise. Ambient noise has the same frequency as human speech and is not as distracting. It helps camouflage obnoxious sounds, allowing them to sink out of your workers’ perception to better concentrate on their work.
  • Thick carpets: These don’t reflect sound effectively, allowing them to muffle noise instead. Try putting them in the pathways to conference rooms. Aside from this, you may add upholstered furniture to achieve the same effect.
  • Acoustic panels: In large spaces, acoustic panels absorb sound like a sponge. You may install this on walls or suspend them from the ceiling. They may even be placed like a piece of artwork.

3. Use Adaptable Furniture 

Adaptable furniture refers to pieces you can easily adjust, allowing you to create workstations that can be transformed depending on the user’s preference and needs. An example would be a workstation that can adapt to a seating or standing workstyle. 

Adaptable furniture doesn’t lock people into a specific place or position. Because of this, it can encourage productivity as well as promote camaraderie among members of the team.

Another quality they have is their sheer utility; you can count on using them for a long while, offering much value in return for the space they occupy. Instead of putting them away once a team doesn’t have to use them, you can adjust them to meet the needs of others.  

4. Set Aside a Call / Conference Room 

Collaborating with off-site team members in a flexible workspace is a regular occurrence. Video conferencing can be loud and heard by others in the office. So, instead of having employees attend video conferences at their desks, provide a call room as a dedicated space. This reduces disturbances and ensures confidentiality as you communicate.

5. Add Plants 

In an office, plants don’t just add beauty. They also reduce stress and place a sense of refreshment in the air, increasing productivity and positive outlook. Some organizations even report a significant reduction in absenteeism by having smartly placed plants in their rooms.

This design trend is called biophilia, and it’s here to stay. The idea is to bring the outdoors inside to help nurture people’s physical, emotional, and mental health. The design philosophy evokes a sense of the beauty of nature and connection with other life forms, a sentiment that is sadly taken over by digitalization.  

An engagement with nature provides many substantial benefits, and workplaces are reaping the rewards with the use of plants and other elements of nature like wood and water. Mimicking an untouched landscape gives employees a sense of refuge and a respite from mundane and repetitive tasks.  

Another idea you’ll see in a lot of modern offices is an outdoor green area. Sometimes found on the rooftop of buildings or out the front, these spaces offer employees the chance to unwind in a green space. You’ll generally find the areas are kitted out in artificial grass to ensure minimum maintenance and optimum greenery all year round.

6. Install Artwork 

If you visit the offices of prominent corporations, you’ll see art on their walls and installations in their lobbies. Art significantly impacts team member productivity, creativity, and mental health.

Seeing beautiful is an activity that encourages the release of serotonin in the body. This is the chemical messenger responsible for regulating mood and many cognitive functions. In a way, the presence of art can be therapeutic, and many employees will appreciate having them in their surroundings.

Art has a way of elevating culture, communication, and interpersonal relationships. It can even be used to display the company’s values in a way that would be effectively retained by the employees. Doing this strengthens the collective identity of the organization, in turn bridging gaps and differences between workers and giving them a sense of collective direction.

One observation in an art-laden workplace is the significant reduction in task-related frustration. It has also been observed to curb the retaliatory behavior of employees that turn aggressive. Furthermore, many business leaders reported favorable outcomes such as reduced absenteeism and lower turnover due to having art for decoration.

You can quickly transform your space with art from Singulart, an online marketplace that features talented and prominent artists from around the world. Consider choosing pieces that work with your office’s aesthetics and the type of mood you want to project.

7. Use Appropriate Lighting 

Lighting is also crucial in a flexible workspace. It can directly affect the efficiency of cognitive functions as well as mood, productivity, and work efficiency. Basically, it can put your workers in the right state of mind to do their work while also providing the practical benefit of making things more visible to the eye. 

Some of today’s flexible workspaces use intelligent lighting systems that employees can adjust anytime. They can dim or brighten the lights depending on their preference or the time of the day. This provides an extra layer of operational efficiency, allowing you to scale light use for lower power bills.   

8. Allow Autonomy and Control

This means giving your employees the chance to work in a manner that suits them. In designing your office space, you might want to make provisions for this in the rules you’ll put in place for your team. Let them share their views on how much freedom they can reasonably have while in your workspace, such as whether or not they can personalize their station or if they can step outside at any moment. 

Of course, you should also have them prioritize completing their workloads for the day. But after that, what else can they do? This should give you a framework for much leeway they have to do their own thing.

9. Keep Cords Tidy

Excellent, flexible workspaces are also safe. Tidy and organized tech spaces provide a comfortable working environment and lessen the hazards of trips and falls resulting in injuries. Snake-like cords in offices are an eyesore and a magnet for accidents. Plus, you risk shutting down systems when they’re exposed to accidents. Have a technician aid you in practicing proper cable management.

10. Set Everyone Up with Status Indicators

This is a nifty way to let everyone know what people are currently doing inside the office. Much like those status updates on chat and video call platforms, you can have everyone put up tags to show if they’re busy, away, open for contact, or in need of help.

Flexibility Is Key

Firms of all industries and sizes should always be willing to adapt to changing demands and needs. The benefits of flexible workspaces address them, and designing one for your employees can do both you and them a lot of good. Review your current workspace configuration and consult your teams to revamp it for optimal flexibility.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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