Gone are the days of going to work, sitting at the same desk every day, staring at the same cubicle walls, and traipsing off to meetings in cramped, closed conference rooms. Study after study have shown a more dynamic work environment that makes employees feel at home and comfortable increases their job satisfaction and productivity. Flexible environments spur creativity, a sense of collaboration and cohesiveness across departments, and offer a versatility of design that's more conducive to innovation in a competitive business world.
In office design circles, a lot of debate rages about the best use of space. Is an open office environment too distracting for those who need a bit of quiet time to focus or make phone calls? Is a large, café-like seating area inefficient, or does it qualify as the Third Place, where back-of-the-napkin inspiration occurs, but connectivity is more work-conducive?
Unconventional doesn't mean inefficient.
As technology revolutionizes document storage, small areas of the office like file rooms and wide hallways designed to hold banks of cabinets are no longer necessary. What can be done with these spaces? They're too small to repurpose into a meeting room.
Consider turning enclosed file rooms into recharge spaces for employees to get a mid-afternoon boost, such as a meditation or yoga room. If that doesn't appeal, turning them into privacy booths for phone calls or teleconferencing areas offer employees a place to avoid distraction when they need to buckle down for a deadline.
For those extra-wide hallways where once file cabinets stood, line one wall with comfortable, relaxed seating, inviting workers in the midst of conversation to linger in the exchange of ideas.
Even space under stairs can be utilized as an impromptu brainstorming space while putting an area that would normally go unfilled to good use. Flexible, modern furniture can be configured in a variety of different ways to fill those nooks and crannies, turning dead space into something useful.
Unconventional doesn't mean weird.
Yes, there are some companies who have slides instead of staircases, and tree houses instead of meeting rooms. While those are fun and in the case of slides, easier on the knees than steps, they're not every company's cup of tea.
But color and style doesn't have to mean strange and unusual. AirBnB patterns their conference rooms after some of their most popular and plush rental locations. GitHub's San Francisco office bears exposed brickwork and air ducts tempered with the warmth of wood pillars and desks, encouraging collaboration and movement. They also have a large employee lounge with a stocked bar to rival any upscale restaurant in the city.
Installing meeting room pods in in the middle of open space can add interest to a large room as well as provide a dedicated area to minimize distraction. The styles and designs of these rooms can be as colorful and playful, or as elegant as your imagination makes them.
Unconventional doesn't mean irrelevant.
Employees are just as susceptible to brand awareness as consumers, and positively associating your brand with a relaxing, comfortable work environment makes your employees your biggest advocates. When Etsy doubled their office space in Brooklyn, NY, they took the opportunity to purchase artwork from their New York-based Etsy sellers. In fact, half the furnishings in the entire building are made by Etsy artisans, including furniture and light fixtures. Everywhere you look, there's a nod to Etsy's brand and purpose--providing a marketplace where people around the world reimagine commerce--with places to host workshops on crafts of every color, Etsy seller artwork throughout, and inspiring design and color to create atmosphere.
Keeping your brand front and center in imaginative ways not only helps center your company culture into the day-to-day workings of the office, but it can also inspire employees with new ways to market your brand to the world at large. It gives purpose and recognition for why you do what you do.
Whether you're filling up dead space with useful furniture, providing an environment that encourages employee movement and connection, making your office space as relaxing and comfortable as you can for the hours of dedication your workforce gives, defying convention with the unconventional can not only spice up the office, but it can also make good sense.