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Workspace upgrade: Design tips for the productive

August 12, 2010

Dear Rebecca,

I’m a 37-year-old firm administrator.

Our firm is moving from a boring suburban office to a cooler, downtown location. A lot of our people - especially the ‘next gen’ employees - are excited about the move.

I’ve been asked to help design the new space. In surveys with our staff, the younger staff says they want things like game rooms, free drinks, and cooler break rooms.

Is there any research that shows the impact these would have on productivity? I’m willing to take these ideas to our partners, but I want to have the numbers to back it up.


Design Diva

Dear Diva,

A couple years ago, we moved our team into a cool downtown building, and we had to narrow our list to the biggies: things the team would love, and would serve the firm. Here were the biggies we came up with:

- Natural light. Employees who work in natural light are more productive. Even if you can’t get everyone next to a window, you can replace the bulbs in your office with those that have a fuller spectrum of more natural light.

- Fresh air. We found an office where the windows actually open, and we’re located right on a bike and walking path. We know that when employees can step out for some fresh air, they come back to their desks more rejuvenated. (We also sometimes have “walking meetings.”)

- Great chairs. As our bookkeeper said, “A happy butt is a productive butt.” We chose a brand that offered fun colors, and let the staff choose which colors they wanted. This way, they could personalize their space a bit.

- Unlimited water, snacks, and a full kitchen. Water and snacks keep everyone hydrated (and averts headaches.) The full kitchen was designed to be a meeting area...where we could eat lunch together, and kibbitz.

- A great paint job. Your office space - it’s color, lighting, etc. - makes an important impression on your clients and your staff. You want people to be proud of their work environment, and you want clients to be impressed as well.

- Wii and Rock Band. We work very hard. And we need to play sometimes, too! So we bought this and set it up in the conference room every month for “Beer-thirty.” We’d stop work at about 3:30, open some ice cold beers or soft drinks, gather in the conference area, unplug, and rock out. (We like Rock Band because multiple people can play it.)

About the blogger: Rebecca Ryan is a consultant who helps firms develop and keep their top talent.

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