Anatomy of the Perfect Office Space


It’s no secret: Beautiful office spaces work wonders when courting new clients or impressing investors.

But innovative workspaces play another vital role in corporate ecosystems — attracting talent.

When your favorite candidates for your open positions walk into your workspace, they will immediately judge the environment. And once a candidate is hired, a well-designed office can dramatically improve employee innovation, morale, and even retention.

“The most dynamic workspaces I have seen all contain a number of common threads tying them together that transcend mere placement of office furniture and a fully stocked kitchen,” said Jeff Chaitman, workplace design expert and vice president at IdeaPaint, which helps businesses work more efficiently, effectively and happily through intelligent workplace design.

“These trends get to the heart of what it means to be a motivated and loyal employee in today’s workforce and encourage ideas to come to life wherever they might spring from,” he said.

Since he’s ingrained in the productive office-space culture, Chaitman walked us through three recommendations to consider when designing effective workspaces:

1. Create work environment choice

Say goodbye to your elbow room. According to a 2013 Workplace Survey by design and architectural firm Gensler, the average square foot of space per worker dropped from 225 to 176 square feet between 2010 and 2012, and it’s expected to approach 100 by 2017.

But this drop in personal space doesn’t mean that the overall amount of office space is decreasing. Actually, many companies use that reclaimed space to create diverse work environments that employees love, allowing them to have more flexibility in where they work, think, create, and engage with colleagues.

That flexibility drives performance and innovation. In fact, companies that grant employees choice grew more and had one-third the turnover versus more traditional organizations.

2. Give everyone a seat at the table

Good ideas can come from anyone, from upper management to interns and new hires. Chaitman said offices that maintain open workspaces foster more democratic brainstorming meetings and therefore capitalize on the employee knowledge base.

“The access these employees have to managers, specifically the variety of access they have to them, creates unique relationships between new hires and veterans that forge a strong professional bond and creates a sense of empowerment that keeps them engaged day after day,” said Chaitman.

More proof: Boston-based energy intelligence company EnerNOC sought to empower its millennial workers — roughly 50 percent of its workforce — by getting them more involved during brainstorming meetings and connecting them with senior management. They found that their younger employees were eager to learn from their managers and develop their own creative voices.

3. Keep them coming back

At the end of the day, work is just that. On average, we spend one-third of our day at work. But that doesn’t have to be a negative. Chaitman explained that a well-designed workplace can inspire employees on a daily basis instead of deflating them.

Take the Quicken Loans corporate headquarters in downtown Detroit. The space features a repurposed bank vault for meetings; a nod to Detroit’s industrial roots through iron artwork, antique equipment, and brick-and-beam architecture; and bright open-office spaces complete with floor-to-ceiling windows and pingpong tables.

“The result is a workplace employees want to go to on a daily basis,” Chaitman said. “Companies of all shapes and sizes, from Apple to Zappos, are realizing the benefits of great office design. The common thread throughout is a boost in innovation and creative thinking, employee retention, and overall engagement.”

In your effort to think holistically about how you attract and retain talent, consider investing in your office layout — beyond stocking free soda and coffee in the break room.

About the Author

Dana Manciagli is an executive career coach, keynote speaker and the author of Cut the Crap, Get a Job! A New Job Search Process for a New Era. Find out more on danamanciagli.com.