Photography Credit: Tricia Shay

5 Tips to Create a Winning Workspace
By Jackie Posselt , ASID, LEED AP ID+C, Senior Interior Designer, Eppstein Uhen Architects

Jackie Posselt Innovation is the lifeblood of the technology, media and entertainment industry, and an increasing number of employers are examining how workplace design impacts not only creativity, but also collaboration, productivity, employee recruiting, retention and engagement.  Whether you’re building an office from the ground up, overhauling an existing workspace or simply looking for immediate ways to improve your company’s work environment, Jackie Posselt has five tips to help guide your efforts. Jackie is a LEED certified workplace designer with more than 20 years of experience in her field. Her clients include the Milwaukee Bucks, GE, Godfrey & Kahn and American Family.

1. Start with Employees

Before you incorporate open address or new technologies, the first step you need to take is to fully understand how employees will use the workspace. The best places to start is by asking employees what they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively and how their current work environment is holding them back. Cisco utilized focus groups, interviews, surveys and observations to gather critical data before designing its collaborative, connected workplace.

2. Remember the Basics

An ultra-modern couch is not going to make your workspace…especially if the most practical design elements are missing from your office. Up-to-date technology, writable surfaces, natural daylight and proper lighting are fundamental design elements that aid productivity.   

There are also some low-cost ways to improve a work environment. First off, I recommend decluttering. Purchase some pizza and beverages and have a scheduled cleaning day. A fresh coat of paint is another quick and inexpensive way to transform an area. Consider introducing a neutral palette or adding a pop of color to define a work area.  A final idea is to incorporate art into the workplace.  Research local high school art programs and create a rotating gallery for your employees to enjoy.   

3. Create Zones for Collaboration & Conversation

Collaboration in the workplace is both spontaneous and scheduled, so you should allocate work zones to accommodate both types of activities. One of the biggest complaints we hear from employees is that there aren’t enough conference rooms, so consider your employees’ needs when designating space.

Social spaces at work are increasingly important, especially among Millennials. By weaving in cafes, gaming spaces and outdoor patios, you create opportunities for employees to relax, gather and have conversations. These social opportunities foster employee engagement and help build meaningful relationships across departments.

4. Utilize Eco-Friendly Building Materials

We spend 90% of our lives indoors so it’s critical that we are designing healthy buildings.  As a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) weaving in sustainable design elements is a first and foremost priority for me, but it’s also a priority for many employees. In fact, a recent Fast Company article cited survey findings that nearly 50% of all respondents and 75% of millennial workers said they would accept a smaller salary to work for a company that is environmentally responsible.

As an interior designer, I often start by placing offices inboard and incorporating glass fronts to allow workstations and collaborative work zones to have access to daylight.  Material selection is also an important step in the sustainable workplace design process.  Since the U.S. Green Building Council was created in 1993, it’s led to transparency labels and third party certifications like Cradle to Cradle, Declare, environmental product declarations (EPD) and health product declarations (HPD) that aid in the process of identifying and using the healthiest building material. 

Lastly, when possible, it’s important to use local materials.  I have used Wudeward Urban Forest Products in several Wisconsin projects as the organization salvages trees that have to come down due to disease, storm damage or other reasons. By using them for construction, these trees are diverted from a waste stream.  It’s smart sustainability.

5. Leverage the Advantages of an Agile Workspace

Sometimes a change of scenery does wonders for the mind! Providing employees with a variety of workspace options will help boost productivity as well as spur creativity.  By equipping everyone with mobile technology (e.g. laptop, tablet), you provide employees with the freedom to choose the proper work zone (permanent desk, private phone booth or a collaborative work area) for the task at hand on that particular day.