Designing and arranging your office is a series of important decisions that have the power to influence not only how your employees work, but how your brand is perceived. There are many different tricks you can try here, and many underlying philosophies about how and why offices should be designed in a specific way.
One camp believes the best way to design an office is to make it as “home-like” as possible, offering spaces for relaxation, designing with employee comfort in mind, and including warm, personal aesthetics reminiscent of a home environment.
But is this really the best way to design your office?
The Case For
There are some clear advantages to this approach:
1. Control and customization
First and foremost, you’ll have the power to create the office environment you want to work in. Making a space where you can feel at home makes it easier and more exciting to come to the office each day, and allows you to inject a bit of your personality into your surroundings.
2. Less stress
Creating a home-like workspace is intended to make people feel relaxed, as if they’re in a residential space, or the home of a friend or family member. This can actively reduce stress in your employees, and as we all know, lower stress can lead to higher productivity. This is especially important if you know your team will be working some long nights.
3. Unique branding
Customizing your office to feel more residential can call attention to the casual, inviting nature of your brand. Prospective clients who meet you at your location may be impressed by the boldness of the choice, and prospective employees you interview might want to work at your company a little bit more.
4. Employee retention
Employees who enjoy the relaxed work environment will be less likely to leave it, for fear of returning to a conventional office environment. Accordingly, your employee retention should remain high with this approach.
5. Less formality
A more casual atmosphere will produce more casual interactions. Your team members may be more inclined to have conversations with one another, bond with each other, and eventually collaborate more efficiently.
The relaxed work environment also lends itself to workplace flexibility, which is important for modern offices. Employees may feel free enough to customize their individual workspaces, and/or work in a way that’s most productive for them, whether it’s at a standing desk or on the community couch.
The Case Against
However, there are some downsides:
1. Excessive relaxation
Relaxed work environments aren’t always good for productivity. If your furniture is too comfortable, or if the workspace doesn’t feel like a “real” office, your employees may be more tempted to goof off instead of addressing their responsibilities. This can get out of control fast, especially if your team isn’t used to this kind of freedom.
2. Perceptions of maturity
New clients or employees who visit your office may leave with a negative perception of your brand; a casual, relaxed atmosphere might indicate that you don’t take your work seriously, or that your brand isn’t professional.
3. Hierarchical problems
If your team members feel too at home, you may run into problems with insubordination and/or refusal to follow the chain of command. This is the same reason common advice suggests that bosses and employees shouldn’t become friends.
4. Flexibility abuse
If your work environment is too flexible, employees may abuse that privilege. They may start showing up late, trashing their workspaces, or creating work habits that are otherwise destructive.
Thinking beyond productivity and brand perceptions, there are some other challenges to consider with the home-like office approach:
Office furniture has the potential to be ridiculously expensive, so if you’re looking to transform an existing traditional workplace into something radically different, you may run into budgetary hurdles.
What feels like a home to you may not feel like a home to your employees. That degree of subjectivity might be enough to compromise the effectiveness of your entire operation. What seems inviting to you might be odd or uncomfortable to someone else.
3. Tolerance of change
Once you make your office environment relaxing and casual, you’ll have a tough time changing it back to a more traditional environment, both in terms of cost and employee tolerance.
So should you design your office to look like a home? If you have a clear vision for your brand, want to create a relaxed work environment, and aren’t especially worried about looking too informal, there are some clear advantages to this approach. dTrust your instincts here; as long as the design of your office reflects the corporate culture you want to build, you can’t go too wrong. And if you get stuck, make the decision that allows you the greatest amount of flexibility for the future.