Here are seven suggestions from architect and designer Stefan Camenzind, the founder of Camenzind Evolution Ltd., which created Google's innovative new office in Zurich:
1) Involve the staff
Don't assume you know what people in your office want — ask them, not a management committee, Camenzind says. Find their personality types and let changes flow from there. "Too many designers look for image and not emotion," he says. "You need to be open and not have your suggestions already set."
2) Give workers more freedom
Camenzind believes too many offices focus on a slick, uniform corporate design that leaves workers feeling like drones. "I call it the gorgeous but dead look — beautifully designed furniture that is missing life and soul," he said. Don't be afraid to let employees move the furniture around, put up their own posters, make the place more comfy. Being rigid is a sure way to turn them off, he advises.
3) Give soul to communal areas
It's OK to be a little crazy design-wise in the cafeteria, the break rooms, the bathrooms. "Don't go for average," Camenzind said. "You need to create an atmosphere that is not corporate and cold."
4) Don't be afraid of a little paint
Never underestimate the impact of clean, fresh colour — preferably bold — because a shabby-looking office is a big downer for worker productivity and morale. "Paint makes a huge difference," Camenzind says. "It's very easy to change the character of a room in no time."
5) Never forget the coffee
Office social life is all about the coffee. "Spend money on a fantastic coffee machine instead of a fantastic sofa," he advises. People will appreciate that several times a day, every day of the week and feel proud when they can offer really good coffee to guests.
6) Bring on the plants
Employees have five senses — it's time to appeal to them all. "Take a room, fill it up with plants, add a tape with some birdsongs — none of that is expensive." Camenzind said. A common area that looks beautiful, smells great and sounds soothing has far more impact than one plant each for 100 private offices.
7) Spend money on a key highlight
In a 10,000-square-foot office, regular items like carpet, furniture and chairs can really rack up the costs. But does anyone notice? No, says Camenzind. He prefers to pay less for regular items so he can spend some money instead on a signature item or two that everyone can appreciate.
That can be a fabulous window view, quirky lounge furniture, a flat-screen TV or pool table in the break room. "Highlights make a difference," he says. "If you want to keep good staff, it's not just food and money. You need to do more."
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