Ditch Your “Open” Environment Build A Flexible Office Instead

flexible work spaces As a marketing consultant I get the opportunity to visit many different office environments.  Each one reflects the company’s culture in both subtle and obvious ways. The colors, furniture, layout all make a huge difference in how people work and collaborate.

Recently, I spent two days at a new clients HQ location. It was lovely in many ways. The location was convenient, the furniture comfortable and there was plenty of space to layout my work belongings. They even had free drinks and snacks. Yet, I couldn’t help feeling blah. Those two days reminded me how much my surroundings impact my mood and my productivity.  

I was craving more energy.  I was there to learn their business and meet lots of new people. I wanted noise, engagement, visual stimulation.  I was operating on the principal we need to seem busy, to get busy. And everyone else was heads down getting their tasks done.

When I took a step back and considered what everyone else was trying to do it made me realize how much we all need different environments on different days.  On days when I need to get in touch with my thoughts, doodle down ideas and ponder, I love to work tucked away at the local Panera fueled by hot chocolate, pastries and the ambient noise of a busy gathering spot. On other days I am desperate for no interruption writing time and nothing is better than my lonely, but silent home office. And when I want to get my creative on, well I need a little bit of chaos and lots of people to bounce ideas against.

I read so many articles about the benefits of open space plans vs. private offices but the truth is we need both depending on the tasks at hand. Instead of picking one of these – or worse living in limbo – consciously build flexible work spaces that can accommodate lots of different work styles and needs.

The best work environments aren’t one size fits all – in fact they aren’t even the same from one day to the next, and sometimes even one task to the next. Have casual work spaces where people can brainstorm, consider stress-free zones for meditative thinking, even build a pump up the music zone for those high energy jolts. Combine office space with jammed together tables.  Shine bright lights in some areas, and soothing lamps in others. Use bean bags, bar stools, couches even. Use traditional computer chairs and formal board rooms. Fill the walls with inspiration – color, art, science, quotes. Have plenty of white boards, cork boards and even plain spaces.

Bottom line – vary your environment and you guarantee a variety of work – which is exactly what we need.