My company has been in six different offices over the past six years.
The first five were completely unbranded. If you walked in, you wouldn’t have been able to tell our office apart from any other busy startup. And that was intentional. We were growing quickly and moving spaces every year, so it felt like a waste of time to decorate offices that we knew were temporary.
That mindset changed when we moved into our current space—a three-story, repurposed warehouse in the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco. Since we’ve decided to be there for a while, we wanted to be very deliberate about how we designed it.
Every office is a little different, but the layout and feel absolutely have an effect on a team’s energy and workflow. If your office is in need of a refresh, here are a few design tips for making it an enjoyable and effective space:
1: Figure out your flow.
Before the big move, the design team of Bart Chin and Kendall Ermshar came into our old office to spend time learning how everyone worked together. So when planning the layout of our new office, they were able to optimize our normal workflow to make sure it was efficient.
For instance, our design, production, and planning teams work closely with one another because they’re largely responsible for creating new products. But we realized that the design team was physically located too far from production and planning. So, we moved the production and planning teams closer to the design area to make collaboration easier and faster.
If you figure out how and where everyone works most efficiently, you can organize your office to reflect that flow.
2: Set up a variety of places to plop.
Think of the worst office space imaginable. You’re probably picturing rows of uniform cubicles arranged in a massive, fluorescent-lit room.
Your office design needs to be the exact opposite if you want your team to enjoy walking into work every day.
Varied seating options—like couches, desks, dining tables, phone booths, and nooks—provide relief from monotony. Just as importantly, these options give people spaces to meet outside of traditional conference rooms. Most companies only have a limited number of these rooms, and truthfully, not every meeting has to be 100% confidential. In fact, quite a few of them can just as easily take place on couches and coffee tables.
Variety is the spice of work life.
3: Strategically place areas for collaboration.
Even if you’re creating a modern, open design where people can move around, it’s a good idea to have specific areas for each team to call their own.
At our office, each team has its own “pod” of desks. And between those pods, we’ve installed large whiteboards that each team can use for collaboration. They all use them in different ways—marketing hangs up calendars for deadlines, the design team puts up images of models. But everyone knows the places they can collaborate and hang visual representations of their work. We also have grids that showcase new or top-selling products placed strategically around the office.
When everyone in a department can see what they’re collectively working toward, collaboration comes more naturally.
4: Show off your brand.
Our brand colors at ThirdLove are white and a light shade of blush, so we used these hues on the walls, in accents, for furniture. We also have our company values and manifesto painted on a wall because I think it’s important to create a physical representation of the mission.
Not every brand will be able to paint their walls the same colors that they use on their website. But if you’re designing your own office, you should strive to make sure your brand is front and center. Display your logo prominently. Use your colors when you can. Remind people who you are and what you’re all working toward together.
5: Keep spaces free of clutter.
Whether it’s a house or an office, nothing ruins a space faster than clutter.
This is especially true for a consumer company that has product samples lying around for design and marketing. All that “stuff” has to go somewhere—otherwise, it will have an effect on the way your team performs.
For example, we have well-organized drawers for storing samples of each bra size. And the design team has bins attached to the walls where they can store product when it’s not being used.
It’s really about keeping the office clean, organized, and welcoming. Why let the little things bring stress to a space you’ve worked so hard to design?