The Well-Designed Office: Practice What You Preach

February 1, 2002 · by Scott Simpson, FAIA

Image is everything. When it comes to your workspace—-your office environment, don’t just generate ideas that claim good designs benefits for clients but also live your ideas of good design.

Image is everything. When it comes to your workspace—-your office environment, don’t just generate ideas that claim good designs benefits for clients but also live your ideas of good design. Your own strategic objectives will be greatly strengthened through practicing what you preach. Use your own life as a test bed for ideas of design, ideas for organization and anti-clutter, and for high performance. Why do we say this with such passion? Because your firm’s office and studio environment actually defines you. It’s your brand. You are how you work.

We have come to understand that there is a significant link between workspace design and top organization performance. Architects, engineers, industrial designers and interior designers are visual people. Yet some do not choose to work in a well designed, well organized, uncluttered environment. Design professionals who work in clutter can become confused as to the priorities of the day. Organizationally, they can become dysfunctional in a space that is at a glance “in chaos.”

One of the key priorities for design firms is to present their office environments as a model to clients, fellow professionals, and future employees. Played out correctly, the result will be higher productivity, greater satisfaction and lower turnover. We also encourage colleges and universities of architecture, engineering and design to teach organizational skills and habits of discipline in workplace design and operations strategy.

Consider for a moment the prospect of attracting the best talent into your firm. What are prospective employees looking for? At base, they are looking for a design firm to believe in. When we asked architects and designers who were in the process of interviewing in firms to give us the values that they were looking for in employment here is what they told us:

Take a look at your own office environment. Now more than ever, architects, engineers, and designers want to work in spaces that reflect their values, directions, and aspirations. It’s not just about what’s innovative — it’s about what works. It’s not just about what will “wow” people, but really it’s about what people will respect and admire over time. Workspace design matters significantly in the success of the professional firm.

Sometimes firms are so caught up in the day to day priorities for their clients that they fail to take proper care of their own designed spaces. Clutter develops, organization slips, and the message becomes clear: Living good design is something we talk about but don’t care enough about to live out ourselves. In the mind’s eye of future employees, to say nothing of clients, these firms are suspect from the get go.

In the current business environment, firms can’t afford not to have an attractive, well-functioning workspace. It’s become one of the bottom-line factors that future employees have when making a choice as to which firm to join. It’s increasingly a factor in client decisions as well. Think of your space as a strategic weapon. Use it wisely. Consider your well-designed workspace an important tool and expect a return on your investment. You won’t be disappointed.

*Questions:

What does your workspace say about you?

How can your space/office attract new hires and clients?

What will you do to create a high performance and well designed workplace for your firm?*

—Scott Simpson/James P. Cramer

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