Why Workspace Design is People Centric Design

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I have been doing a lot of research on the ever-changing world of office space design. Over the years, work places have swung from private offices and closed-off cubicles to an open work space. Some employees celebrated these changes, seeing the open office as a great way to collaborate and build teams, while others lamented, longing for quiet areas to accomplish heads down work. And now we are seeing that the open space is being brought into question. Does it make employees more, or less productive?  Add to this the individual needs of employees, with a mixture of introverts and extroverts in every industry and every office.


These are all important facts, because more and more it is agreed that a shrinking labor force makes finding and keeping top talent more important than ever. An intelligently designed work space that speaks to the culture is a very important aspect.


I have taken my 30 years of design and furniture industry experience to focus SideMark on solving these problems for our clients. How does your workspace speak to your company culture, while at the same time making (almost) everyone feel engaged when at work?  There will always be the outliers…


Part of the solution is indeed space related. You can make small but important changes to bring your culture to life. Introduce nature by using organic materials and shapes such as wood walls, rough cut tables, and round stools that are interesting to the eye.  Windows bring in natural light, but natural light inside and green walls can achieve a similar effect.  Think about visual noise, those things you can see in your peripheral vision when you are trying to focus. How can that be addressed?


The other part of the solution is looking at your office norms. They are key. Does your culture truly match your offering?

For example: Your employees need to feel they have permission to use the amenities you offer. Having break rooms and collaborative space can make employees feel comfortable and excited about sharing ideas with the team. But when they are in the break room, or using that ping-pong table you generously provided, are they concerned you will see it as goofing off? Private rooms and enclaves can give your team a place to go for heads down work. But are they concerned that others will find them unfriendly and standoffish? Your culture needs to walk the talk, not just talk the talk. Employees needs to be encouraged to embrace what you have offered.


Your culture must also set social norms, because they have changed as well. The thought of my neighbor taking a conference call while sitting next to me might not bother me a bit. So, I am confused when they seem upset when I do the same. Provide a place to take that call, and then ask everyone to refrain from conference calls in the open area.  Drive your culture and encourage your employees to be guided by it.


Another key factor is being strategic in how you place your private and collaborative spaces. We used to simply decide by department. Accountants must all be introverts who want private space and have similar learning styles. Sales people must all want large open spaces in which to talk and exchange ideas. But now we have many generations working together, many cultures, and many learning styles. Planning by department was easy, but inaccurate.

You need a good ratio. Collaboration for team productivity, idea exchange, and creativity. Private enclaves for phone calls, heads down work, and focus. And your culture needs to promote using it all!


At SideMark, we focus on helping employers analyze space and align with culture. In fact, we offer a terrific workshop called the Diagnostic Engagement. SideMark is the only company within the furniture industry that offers this service free of charge. The Diagnostic Engagement can bring alignment to a management team and / or the departments of a company that seem to have competing needs.  After the workshop, you will have clarity around priorities and goals for your project. 


We also have Change Management Specialists who can teach your team to look at change from a different perspective. Most of us would say we don’t like change. But that is not true. If I put a million dollars in your bank account, that is a change you would embrace easily.  It is actually LOSS that we dread. Our Change Management tool can teach your team not to fear change, but see it as part of the solution.


Getting your company into the right office space and the right office furniture doesn’t have to be hard. Whether you need to adjust the space you have, or create another environment that fits your needs, SideMark can help bring your company and culture to life.


After all….We Make Work Feel Good.



Sandi Jacobs 

President & CEO