Zach Robbins is an entrepreneur and expert in performance marketing, website optimization, lead generation, and marketing technology. He is co-founder and CEO of Leadnomics, a digital marketing and technology company, and Margo, a digital insurance agency.
Google the term "coolest offices" and you'll find no shortage of results (likely including Google's headquarters itself). Articles like "The 25 Most Beautiful Startup Offices" and "10 Tech Offices You Need to See" could keep you clicking through images of nap pods, rock climbing walls and Swedish-inspired conference rooms for hours. It's enough to make cubicle dwellers dust off their resumes and CEOs start plotting space for an indoor slide. But at the same time, the focus on increasingly imaginative office layouts can all seem a little comical, like in an episode of HBO's "Silicon Valley."
Do office space aesthetics actually have an impact on companies and their people? Or are we just caught up in a temporary fad, the "Nordictrack of the working world"? While I agree the battle of the coolest workspace has gotten out of hand (case in point, lickable elevator wallpaper), your office design matters. Here's why.
1. Your team spends a lot of time there.
Your office design matters to your employees' health. According to a study comparing workers in different office environments, workers in older, darker and noisier offices had higher stress levels than those in newer, sunlit spaces. In fact, the effect was great enough to impact heart health. Your staff works hard, and they deserve to do so in a place that not only meets their needs, but makes them happy. That means going beyond ergonomic chairs, coffee stations and standing desks to create a space that is both pleasant to look at and healthy to be in.
2. Prospective talent will Google your company.
Prospective employees will search for your company to get an idea of what it would be like to work there. And just like you carefully choose your LinkedIn headshot, you want your office to look good in its "profile picture." Top talent will look for any nuance to help whittle down their application list, so you need to do what you can to stand out. It can be simple, but your space should be unique. And once you've designed something eye-catching, invest in having it professionally photographed.
3. Your clients have expectations.
You want your office space to live up to the promises you've made to both your clients and partners. While building our new insurance agency, we had several insurance carrier reps visit our office. As potential clients, our pitch to them was that we could reach their audiences in innovative, tech-savvy ways, so it was important that our office portrayed the same message. People do judge a book by its cover, so make sure yours matches what's inside. Are you regal and experienced? Maybe that mahogany-shelved library is the way to go. Playful and imaginative? Add a few arcade games. Secure and futuristic? Go for the refurbished nuclear bunker.
4. It speaks to your values.
Where you locate your office space -- and what you do with it -- speaks to your company values. You can build an LEED-certified space to show your commitment to being green, or lease in a transitioning neighborhood where you can add to the economy. Inside, you can support local artists with your furniture and art, go healthy with your snack supply, or setup kid-friendly areas for working parents. We leased our space in a city-designated innovation zone, close to transportation for both city and suburban dwellers. It shows we're committed to our community and value work-life balance for our staff.
5. Purposeful design supports a purpose-driven culture.
You'll see a lot of companies using their office features as "perks," when they should be thinking of them in terms of culture. Great culture doesn't just happen naturally; it has to be imagined, nurtured and supported. If you want a culture that focuses on teamwork, make sure to leave plenty of gathering space for collaboration. If creativity is important, show it with inspiring art and places to play around. Ask your staff for suggestions about what spatial features would allow them to do their best work. At our office, seeking input on design helps us maintain our core value of giving everyone a voice.
Office design matters. You may not need to install a pirate ship next to your reception desk, but you do need to think about how you want to be perceived, what messages you want to convey and how you want your staff to feel when they're at work. When you get your space right, the investment will pay off.