Displaying articles for: 06-24-2012 - 06-30-2012
You invest money and time deciding who to hire and how to build your business. Often overlooked or discounted as a frivolous expense is the physical aspect of building your workspace. Interior design is a significant investment, with the power to make your office a more productive environment. The place where you and your employees spend so much time should be conducive to collaboration, provoke productivity, and inspire innovation.
These are six concepts to consider when embarking on a new or renewed office design:
Office design offers a unique puzzle. Before diving into design elements, reflect on the needs of your business and your employees to guide where you put those puzzle pieces. Ultimately, you want a good fit with a balance of communal and individual space plus flexibility for expansion.
Natural light keeps people happier, more alert, and more productive. Cut the glare (and energy costs) of overhead lighting, offer flexible task lighting, and use windows, skylights, and glass divisions to make the most of the sun.
Take a note from Steve Jobs’s redesign of Pixar studios, which sparked conversation and innovation, by designing a traffic flow or putting in a break room to get people to meet and collaborate. Put down benches in nooks and corners for impromptu meetings. Set up the kitchen area as a multi-use, social space like a café. Paint some chalkboard walls for lounges and kitchens because you never know when inspiration will hit!
The usual advice for walls is to go neutral, but try pale blue for improved focus. Splash a single wall with orange or red to keep energy high. Leave the bland artwork to hotel rooms and exhibit some art that speaks to you, your employees and your business. Join forces with artists’ collectives and other groups who will loan their art to you to show like a mini-gallery.
In the quest for creating collaborative energy, don’t forget to leave some breathing room for your employees. Give them enough space to move around. To maintain a clutter-free space, provide useful storage options like modular shelves, cabinets, and baskets. Bring in some plants to help cleanse the air and cultivate a sense of natural life.
Like your business cards and website, the look of your office is a functional, visible extension of your company’s identity. Spend some time thinking about colours, wallpaper, and other décor that will fit in with your brand. The visual statement made by your office will impact visitors, people who come in for meetings, and your own employees. Check out some creative office designs from companies all over the world like Pixar and digg for some inspiration!
The dog days of summer are yet to come pawing at our doors, but that means it’s a good time to think about some strategies to keep cool at the office. Not only do these energy-efficient strategies keep you and your employees more comfortable and thus more productive, they also save you some valuable cash. Here are five tips to keep you cooler.
- Equip yourself with energy efficiency. Running energy efficient machines such as air-conditioning, printers, water coolers, and refrigerators generate less heat. HP ENERGY STAR qualified products, like the Touchsmart 7320 All-in-One computer, produce less heat by 15-30% and use half the amount of electricity. Upgrade from CRT (those bulky cathode ray tube) monitors to LCD monitors, which can provide up to 70% in power savings and last twice as long.
- Change the light bulb. Cut the overhead lights, which are often glaring and indiscriminate. Use a combination of natural light, desk lamps and other task lighting as needed to illuminate your work. Blinds and curtains can shade your workspace from hot, direct sunlight, but solar control window film is the best option for keeping heat out while allowing light in. Switch to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, which consume 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last ten times longer. Replace exit signs (easy to overlook yet always on) that use incandescent or fluorescent lighting with LED signs.
- Manage your power. Simply turn off equipment and lights at the end of the day and when not in use for lower energy consumption and cooler temperatures. Along with movement-sensing lighting controls, there are many “smart” power strips with occupancy sensors or timers.
- Maintain and clean. Check for any stark differences in temperature in office areas, signaling an airflow or systems problem. See if all vents are working and free from obstacles like furniture or papers. Clean vents, fixtures, and light bulbs to make sure everything’s running as smoothly as possible.
- Look up. Making changes to an office building roof requires more initial investment and coordination, but cool and green roofs are taking off. A roof can be painted or coated with reflective material or fitted with solar panels, which pays in energy savings.
- Green roofs or roof gardens, while requiring the most up-front cost, provide the most benefits. Not only does a green roof insulate the building, reducing energy consumption, it absorb pollutants, captures rainwater preventing runoff and flooding, and provides an aesthetic benefit for the people who work in the building.
Cynically flouting your ‘green’ credentials won’t do you any favours in the long run. But if your business is genuinely sustainable, it will build messaging into the brand. How?
Brand innovation firm BBMG’s produced a report, “Disrupt and Delight”, which offers an inspiring guide to creating sustainable brands. It has five principles for brand innovation that are as easily practised by an SME as a big business. Here’s our take on the suggestions:
- Start with what’s sacred. UVA psych professor Jonathan Haidt is quoted as saying it’s not just product benefits that motivate buyers, but stories that create “a sacredness” around something. “That’s why Zappos and Coke are in the business of Happiness.” So is Happy Computer, a small IT training company whose simple, happiness-centric vision informs everything it does – from its Happiness Manifesto to its partnerships to founder Henry Stewart’s forays into the world of stand-up.
- Design holistically. This is most famously seen in floor manufacturer Desso’s Cradle-to Cradle approach, but small US-based Ecovative Design has partnered with the likes of 3M to this quite literally. It is developing mycelium (mushroom) technology to create biodegradable material for packaging.
- Create collaboratively. Use customers and employees to co-create the products or services they want and you’ll avoid wasted time and materials. You can use open forum platforms such as InnoCentive for crowsourcing, work through coalitions such as the Sustainability Consortium, create products socially at Quirky. But don’t forget employees. Mayday Network’s Trading for Good digital service is specifically for small UK businesses.
- Get game. It’s an ugly term, but ‘gamification’ is a handy way of nudging along behavioural change, especially among Millenials. Offering rewards or points and social-gaming-style approaches for sustainable behaviour also makes it less serious and more fun – Recyclebank’s a great example.
- Disrupt and delight. Environmentally-conscious cleaning product maker Method’s classic challenger mentality is just one example. Innocent, the smoothie drinks business, was once a start-up that used its ethical and environmental beliefs to build the business. More recently, Hiut denim is trying the same thing, challenging the notion of clothing as a throwaway commodity by making high-end jeans locally in Wales. Ella’s Kitchen has become an award-winner by engaging with its core ‘audience’ in a playful way – while gently promoting it ethics along the way.