Office Design

Balancing Workplace Design and Optimization: What’s the Sweet Spot?

David Spence
February 23rd, 2016

When designing the perfect office layout, you’re going to face a few challenges. One of the biggest will be to properly balance efficiency and workflow, while still creating an aesthetically pleasing space. The most functional and beautiful office layout will hit the sweet spot between performance and design and although it might take a couple iterations to get right, it’ll be time well spent.


The benefits of this will be twofold: Optimizing your office will improve the productivity of your workers and, as a result, the bottom-line of your company. At the same time, having an elegantly designed workplace layout will help to improve office culture, which can lead to attracting and securing top talent from younger generations.

What is space optimization? Space optimization is the act of optimizing a space through designing the best possible office layout, properly balancing efficiency and workflow, and creating an aesthetically pleasing space.

The importance of blending fun and function

Rubik's cube office

Top tech firms continue to lead the charge in revolutionizing workplace culture and what it truly means to be an office. The days of isolated cubicles and boring break rooms are behind us. To truly create an office that stands out while still enabling worker productivity, you need to start thinking outside the box.

It’s all too easy to go off the deep end when you’re trying to craft a creative and fun office though. Perks like ping-pong tables, couches, play rooms and quirky furniture can make your office a fun place to hang out, but will it still be possible to get any work done? A mistake office managers make when designing specifically for worker productivity is leaning towards the other end of the spectrum. Instead of letting workers be creative, you end up creating a super minimalist work environment that might be easy to work in, but does little to improve employee happiness or act ascreative inspiration.

The best offices seek to blend both worlds into a holistic workplace that honors both play and work. This might take some experimentation and employee feedback to get right, but the steps below will help you get going in the right direction. 

Find inspiration from a variety of sources

magazine desk office

When you’re first beginning the office overhaul process, you’ll want to get inspiration from a variety of sources. For instance, are there any styles of offices you particularly enjoy? Or are there other companies who have a similar ethos or vision as your own?

What about unrelated sources like museums, or books, or pieces of art? All of these disparate design elements will communicate to you in a certain way. Let them be inspiration when it comes to re-designing your office setting. Imitation is the highest form of flattery after all.

Know what you need

Notebook office simple

What does your company stand for? The better you understand the core values that your company rests upon, the better you’ll be able to reinforce those values through your physical workspace office layout.

For instance, does your company believe in simplicity and a minimalist aesthetic? If so, your office could take design cues from Zen gardens and other relaxed settings. Consider having office furniture that’s comfortable, yet prioritizes minimalism. This might lead to a more stark office, but each piece you include will have a definite purpose and function.

Or maybe your company is all about being loud and proud by living and breathing the brand (hello Google), then vibrant colours, inspirational quotes, and a design that meets a fast-paced, yet kick-back, let’s do it montra, will likely work well for you. 

No matter your core values, aligning with them with your office layout design brings together your employees, thus driving your bottom-line and your business. 

Take note of space restrictions

Small_Business_Office.pngIf you have a smaller office, then you’re going to need to get creative to work with what you’ve got. For instance, if you’re looking to add more comfort to your workplace, yet have a lack of usable space, then it’s probably a better idea to opt for improved desk-chairs over a comfy oversized couch. Or consider upgrading to office furniture that can be moved at a moment’s notice like foldable conference tables, stackable stools or lounge chairs with wheels. 

Modular desks that can be modified by the employee also help to give your workers a sense of customization to feel more at home in the office. This will be especially important in the future as flex workers and employees who value office culture become a common fixture of the workplace.

Be honest with your limitations such as budget, space and office requirements. Only then can you create the best space suited specifically for your company.

Poll employees for perks

coffee pour desk

When you’re considering adding extra office perks like foosball tables or soda and snack machines, ask your employees what they actually want first. There’s no need to fill your office with senseless “junk” just to look hip. For your amenities to actually be amenities, they need to provide extra (beyond work) value to your employees. Maybe after speaking with your workers you learn that the extra space in your office will be best suited to becoming a meditation and relaxation room for a nice mid-day rest.

Design with an open mind

Design doodle notebook

The office re-design process will always be a work in progress. Rarely is it a one-and-done effort. If your company has a high churn rate, then you’ll be looking to design an office that can flex as new employees join your company or that can accommodate part-time and remote workers. However, if you have workers who tend to stay with your company for decades, then you can create a more stable office that’s entirely geared towards each individual’s needs.

All in all, your workers will perform best in comfortable workplace environments that are uniquely suited to how they function. Combine this with useful furniture, inspiring paintings and other design cues that help to reinforce your company culture and you’ll have a beautifully functional office that acts as a living and breathing part of your company.

Photos: Pexels, Luis Llerena, George Yanakiev, Helloquence, StartupStockPhotos, Leeroy, Annie Spratt, Jeffrey Betts