Communication is universally considered one of the most important attributes of a successful business, both between colleagues and with customers. Good communication improves efficiency, helps spark innovation, enhances the customer experience, and is the root foundation of a positive company culture. But not every office design is conducive to facilitating effective dialogue with your workforce. So how can office design help improve your workplace communication? Let's take a look.
Talk the talk
Begin by--you guessed it--communicating with your employees to find out what their blind, or in this case, mute spots are. Is there a problem with choppy floor plans that both visually and audibly cut off conversation between essential departments and collaborators? What about faulty networks? Maybe the noise level in a particular room is too high. Your employees are the ones who work in this space day in and day out, so they know where the weaknesses in communication lie. Get their perspective on problem areas before putting a plan for a redesign into motion. It's better to ask up front than miss the mark and either neglect something major or fix what isn't broken.
Technology, technology, technology
These days, communication should be lightning fast, uninterrupted, and multilayered. Colleagues from across the hall or across the country should be able to consistently access networks vital to their work. Sure, everyone experiences glitches or unexpected downtime, but if this is the rule rather than the exception, make sure your tech is up to speed. By providing a multitude of communication types, such as a variety of devices, different channels like interoffice chat software, email, video conferencing, etc, and common systems through integrated networks, you're ensuring communication never stops. So if there is a glitch or unexpected downtime of one channel, two or three more are readily available and business rolls forward with nary a hitch.
How's your space?
For a while, cubicles were the norm. Then open plan spaces wowed the business world. But we're learning there are disadvantages to homogenizing your office space to one type. Provide various atmospheres in which to work, and your employees will thank you. Not everyone thrives in an open plan office, citing noise and lack of ability to focus as tanking productivity numbers, but others don't want the anonymity and claustrophobia of a cube either. The best way to accommodate a multitude of working styles and needs is to vary the type of space in which your employees work and let them choose what's best for their current work.
Quiet pods for lone working environments and sound dampening acoustics are one option. Give teams a place to huddle where they won't be disturbed or interrupt anyone else. Large and small meeting alcoves provide both privacy and efficient use of space and are perfect for those spontaneous team meetings or impromptu brainstorming sessions. Assigned desk seating may stifle a design team, whereas a customer service rep may prefer a static location with good acoustics so they don't have to juggle a laptop, phone equipment, and deal with high noise levels that distract them from helping customers.
It's all about the environment
The quality of your office space matters just as much as the configuration. Natural lighting helps employees avoid eyestrain from a lot of screen time. Biophilia as a design feature not only helps make the space more natural, it helps with air quality and makes a room full of people more breathable. These things help with your employees' focus, but they can also improve health and well-being, resulting in less absenteeism, and more productive workers. Installing a small fountain or a wall waterfall could even help tame high tension environments with the soothing sounds of burbling water. Plants and sunlight freshen a room, and by extension, your employees, who will appreciate not feeling quite so cooped up and secluded from nature while they work. By brightening their environment, you brighten their outlook, which helps keep them calm during high-stress times, and gives them patience and stamina to talk through tough scenarios.
Taking steps to make sure your employees have all the things they need, from technology and equipment to the right room design and furniture, really goes a long way toward keeping employees happy and feeling productive. It's that feeling of productivity that gives your workforce a sense of accomplishment and pride in what they do. By recognizing where improvements in their office environment can be made to facilitate communication, you're communicating to them that what they want and need matters. And that can make all the difference.