The pros and cons of a workforce of telecommuters have made headlines recently. If your employees share the same office, the key to making the workspace more efficient and effective may be to think of it like an urban planner does a city.
That’s how Kevin Kuske, general manager for Turnstone, an office furniture manufacturer that specializes in small and emerging companies, views workspace design. “Vibrant cities have various zones — for play, concentration, collaboration, socialization and creativity. Every great workspace should, as well,” says Kuske. “The overall setup of the space is crucial to creating a productive work environment.”
Related: 4 Reasons Telecommuting Can Be Bad for Business
He recommends that companies reconfigure team spaces and add alternative settings that provide access to people and technology. Kuske says the workplace is about people solving problems together. Here are his tips for creating a space that fosters collaboration:
1. Think beyond the desk.
One of the elements of physical and creative well-being is movement. “Our bodies weren’t designed to sit in a 90-degree posture all day,” Kuske says. “Movement has physical and psychological benefits. An effective workplace has a mix of spaces and postures. It’s about breaking the bond between the user and the desk.”
He suggests that small business owners create work areas that allow for standing as well as sitting, such as café-height tables for lunch or coffee breaks, traditional workstations, and sofa groups for meetings.
2. Your office is an extension of your culture and brand.
When you are designing your office space, consider what you want to convey about your business’s personality and culture. “It’s important to employees,” says Kuske. “It gives them a feeling of belonging, and that is what builds trust and creates bonds. Belonging also inspires innovation and creativity.”
Not sure where to start? Kuske says a simple way to express your company’s personality is the use of color and the choice of furnishings. For example, “all white and gray can have adverse health effects,” he says. “Studies show that color impacts health and stress responses. Choosing the right colors may feel like the frivolous part of designing your office, but it’s not.” Kuske says the color blue helps workers feel more calm and productive while red is good for jobs that require accuracy and attention to detail.
3. Include an area for meaningful play.
“We’re all buried in emails, tweets and phone calls. Play breaks that non-productive drag and frees up the mind,” Kuske says.
He’s worked with small-business owners who have included a ping-pong table and game area in their office. “We have a tendency to think only crazy start-ups design a workspace like that,” he says. “But these social spaces build bonds and get people communicating. It’s especially helpful when a company is in a fast growth period. Play means connection.”
4. Allow employees to design their own workspace.
“There is an idea that people have to be somebody else when they come to work,” Kuske says. He encourages small-business owners to give employees creativity in their work area, from allowing them to design and decorate their space to inviting them to bring their pets.
“It teaches people it’s OK to be yourself,” he says. “When people are comfortable, they are more creative and productive.”