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The Design of Your Workplace Can Impact How Innovative Employees Feel

Gone are the days of cookie-cutter work spaces where rows of cubicles confined creativity. Today’s workforce needs a flexible workspace that allows for spontaneous collaboration as well as privacy.

The Design of Your Workplace Can Impact How Innovative Employees Feel

By: Catherine Conlan

Does your office inspire your employees to be more innovative and creative? Is it a place that generates workplace productivity

A survey by Gensler, a design firm based in San Francisco, cites a connection between the design of work spaces and the level of innovation employees say they feel a part of. Not surprisingly, a well-considered work space helps drive creativity and a culture of performance

The goal is to enable employees to perform their daily work routines and leave room for creative inspiration. 

“You never know when, or where, the next big idea will strike,” says Cory Grosser of Cory Grosser + Associates, a design studio based in Pasadena, California. Workplace design is increasingly reflecting this realization by providing more variety, Grosser says.

Here are some ideas on how to structure your workplace design and cultivate creative innovation at your company.

Delineate Spaces to Allow Collaboration and Focus
The open-plan workplace, once the darling of forward-thinking and dynamic employers, is starting to fade away. Why? It tends to increase distraction, not to mention transmission of illness. 

Instead of an open space floorplan, experts say, think about separate spaces for group and individual work. The Gensler report found that innovative companies are five times more likely to have workspaces that prioritize both individual and group workspaces.

"Collaboration may be the buzzword of the decade for workplace design, but without its counterpart – worker focus — productivity may actually decline,” Grosser says. Providing both private offices and workstations that are visually and acoustically separated from larger spaces that facilitate group work is important. 

Build for Flexibility
A rigid, unchanging environment can feel stagnant and put a damper on creative efforts. Spaces that are dedicated to only one use could have an effect on creativity and innovation by enforcing routines or locked-in work groups.

Look for multiple uses for spaces. “A lunch room might also serve as an ad hoc meeting room, casual client presentation area or all-hands engagement hall,” says Heidi Hendy, managing principal of H. Hendy Associates, an interior and architectural planning firm in Newport Beach, California. 

Hendy says this approach can often reduce the need for space. “Many newer buildings have shifted cores that allow for flexible layouts, which result in increased occupancy and more productive space utilization,” she says.

Bring on the Bright Colors
Beware of “50 shades of tan” when decorating, says Susan Robertson, who teaches creative thinking at Harvard University and is the founder of Sharpen Innovation, a consulting firm based in Orlando, Florida. Offices that are entirely neutral can stifle creativity.

“Visual stimulus is a sure-fire way to enhance creative thinking,” Robertson says. “Bring in some splashes of bold color. Put some interesting art on the walls and sculptures in the hallway.” Robertson also recommends encouraging employees to customize their own spaces. 

Keep in mind that an uncomfortable environment — physical or emotional — will significantly detract from creative thinking, she adds. “So encourage people to add an extra cushion on the back or their chair, or bring in a plant or a personal picture.”