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What Employees Want From Office Space: Flexibility

About a year ago, I was facing a big office space decision. Do we stay in our current office or move? Keep the current space design or blow it out? Our landlord paid for a fancy architect to come up with new layouts and designs. In the end, we decided to stay in place, sign a short lease and use a modest budget to think about what the next generation Matrix Group office space should look like.

I held meetings with staff, we visited other offices, and we scoured design magazines and blogs. After a year of discussions and moving furniture around, here is what we’ve learned:

It’s not about offices, workstations or open space. It’s about flexibility. Turns out most of my staff like being in an open, airy area. BUT, on a regular basis, they want the option to work from home, be isolated so they can concentrate without interruption, or crash on a project with 2-3 other team members. It’s not unusual to find the IT team huddled in one of our huddle spaces during a launch. Or the new biz team meeting in Tatooine (one of our conference rooms) when crashing on a proposal.

Small meeting rooms can meet a lot of needs. Previously, we had two small meeting rooms and one large one. The large room is used infrequently – a few times a month when we have staff meetings and for large meetings. We replaced the finicky projectors with large TVs and Chromecasts and never looked back. We use the small conference rooms for group calls with clients, troubleshooting teams, and as isolation rooms for people who need quiet time.

Good design and lack of clutter are inspiring. Over time, office space just degrades. We accumulate junk, the walls get dinged, and stuff gets dingy. It’s so important to step back and give the office a fresh look. In our case, we didn’t have budget for a complete overhaul, so we cleaned the carpets, repainted some walls, bought some new lobby furniture and came up with new artwork for the walls. We also encouraged the staff to declutter their spaces; it’s amazing how much stuff I tossed just from my own office! When I walk around the office, I can feel the breathing room we created just by tossing a lot of junk we had stopped noticing!

Rethinking how we communicate. On any given day, I have staff working from home or working in a location other than their desk. So how does the poor receptionist find people when they get a call? How do I find someone I need to consult on a project? In our case, Slack has been a godsend and a game changer. Using Slack, we can communicate directly with other staff. Even better, we have Slack channels for each client and each team (e.g., the MatrixMaxx team or the new biz team) so we can easily collaborate, share, and keep each other updated. The expectation is that all staff stay on Slack if they’re working. So it doesn’t matter if you’re working in the kitchen or Tatooine; you will respond if you get a Slack message. Most of us have Slack on our phones as well, so it’s easy to respond to quick questions. Yes, Slack has reduced the amount of in-staff email we send out.

I’m almost done with the my office redo and the new wall stickers and artwork are coming next week. So stay tuned for a blog post with before and after photos. I’m loving our office and loving the conversations we continue to have about next generation office space.

How about you? Do you love your office space? What’s working? What do you wish you could have and do?
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