Four Keys To Modern Office Design


While designers and architects may take in every detail of the spaces we visit, we don’t all give them quite as much attention.

But whether you give it a piece of your mind or not, spaces profoundly affect how we feel, work and interact.

Psychology Today reports that adults with exposure to sunlight during the day got almost an entire hour more of sleep per night (that is if they aren’t being hounded by bright streetlights.) Reuters reports that workers who are surrounded by plant life are happier, and there are numerous studies linking employee happiness to a thicker bottom line.

Employees that feel valued, respected and in an environment which supports their growth are surely more likely to innovate, contribute and go above and beyond. But just to satisfy the analytical, here is a Fast Company article on why happier employees are 12% more productive.

In today’s post, we’ll be rounding up four keys to modern office design.

Good design. Period.

Gone are the days when cubicle farms will fly with the world’s top talent. While there is a variety of opinions on how “fun” an office can stand to be (check out Clive Wilkinson’s Barbarian Group Project, which would make any adult giddy), the point is that the design of the office environment should have some personality, and include intent that is consistent with the company or brand. To wit, the typeface brand Monotype enjoys its stylish new digs complete with its logo laser-etched in 750 different typefaces.

Perhaps a ping pong table is not adding much in the middle of a hedge fund, but it may provide a welcome means to break the ice with coworkers in a job that thrives on social connections and teamwork. You want your company to stand out? Then forget design that fades into the background.

Supporting Work/Life Balance

A CDC presentation points to employee heart (and general) healthiness saving up to $18,000 per employee per year in 2002. Though healthcare legislation may have made a couple changes since then, the point still stands: the lack of support for wellness and preventable disease costs companies the big bucks. This might explain why so many firms offer their employees included or discounted gym memberships. Some even have in-house chefs to ensure their staff has the option of a well-rounded meal—minus the decision fatigue.

Investments in employee health need not be out of reach for small or growing companies for whom striking a deal with the local gym isn’t quite feasible. Providing a proper kitchenette for team members to do some light prep for a salad or other fresh food is the perfect way to support their overall health. An office fridge (plenty standard these days, but still not universal) is also a great feature, as are real plates, flatware, and a surface to eat on.

Studies show that real breaks that don’t involve a foil-wrapped sandwich at your desk actually boost results in the office (not to mention help prevent burnout). And to all who say that a walk around the block is the best break, we suspect you must live in L.A. This is why its essential to build “break space” into your office. At the moss studio, we provide indoor bike parking for all of our team members to make it easy for them to bike commute to work (cost-effective, and a workout to boot!). We also participate in the Bike Commuter Challenge each year as an office.

Let There be Light (and Air and Plants.)

Since work often continues beyond physical borders these days, it’s to our benefit to create a wonderful environment for employees, one that does not involve being sealed up, space station-like away from light, air, and greenery. Additionally, while providing workers with remote and telecommuting options can increase employee satisfaction, there are also studies that point to employee productivity increases when they have access to an office. Basically—it depends.

When your employees are actually in the office though, it’s important to consider light, air circulation and to add a pop of green. Plants can add oxygen to the room, connecting employees to the outdoors. Architects and designers are always finding ways to incorporate greenery into the structure of buildings, instead of just confining it to pots. Green roofs, community gardens, living walls— the sky’s the limit.

Collaboration is Key as is Versatility

Having desks and tables that can serve as either individual workstations or meeting points is great to support the fast-paced, extremely dynamic workplace we inhabit. As our tools become smaller and more compact, the types of tools and their necessary support will need to change, too. Ironically the lowest tech of support surfaces is likely to be both the most elegant and the most enduring.

Imagine if you’d built custom CD storage into each of your employee’s desks right as the iPod hit the scene. Keep it simple, beautiful and classic so that your space never looks dated or overly trendy.

The modern office is different from offices of the past because how and where we do our work is constantly in flux with the pace of technology. Additionally, changing trends and expectations have not only clarified the connection between employee satisfaction and company-wide success, it has created different expectations for how the workplace should support work/life balance. What do you think is key to modern office design?