Office designs make for more than just good looks. In fact, the way your company's office is designed can actually make or break the company culture.
Here are five of the trendiest office floor plans, for better or worse. Make sure before adopting one of these floor plans that it's the right one for your company.
Open office floor plans are very popular these days. Big companies like Apple, for example, have popularized these floor plans. While the specific layouts and amenities that come with these open layouts vary by company, they typically all have large communal tables or rows of desks with a kitchen and a lounge area with couches. There are no walls or clear boundaries separating anyone from each other.
That said, be warned that office floor plans that are open do not work for everyone. While open floor office plans can bring coworkers together and encourage communication among all levels of employees, many workers find them to be distracting and invasive, and others think that they put everyone on the same playing field despite some important hierarchical statuses.
According to The Wall Street Journal, some Apple employees, for example, have said that “coders and programmers are concerned that their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting.” Meanwhile, two-thirds of respondents in a University of Sydney study on workplace satisfaction reported having an open office environment and, in general, showed considerably higher dissatisfaction rates than those in enclosed office layouts. In fact, between 20 and 40 percent of open-plan office workers had expressed high levels of dissatisfaction for reasons of visual privacy.
Additionally, a whole gamut of research suggests that open floor plans can be largely sexist. According to research, open-plan offices can change the way women decide to dress for work, with leaders wearing more expensive clothes and jackets, and their subordinates generally choosing cardigans to show their deferences in levels. The same study published in Gender, Work and Organization, found that while open-floor office plans may be "designed to enchant rather than control overtly, and to encourage movement rather than fixity," they can make some women feel constantly watched and, hence, uncomfortable.
Before you design an open office plan, make sure that it's right for your company culture. It may be better suited for a flat structure, for example. A flat structure, also known as a flatarchy, refers to a very specific type of organization that is increasingly popular among growing startups and smaller organizations, as it removes unnecessary hierarchal levels and spreads power across the organization. But matrix structure, which is a bit more nuanced in that employees have multiple bosses and reporting lines, might benefit from more structure in the office floor plan, as well.
Cubicles will never go out of style because, frankly, they work for a lot of companies. In fact, Fortune Magazine contributor Kabir Sehgal makes a solid argument in favor of cubicles: “Cubicles actually absorb and reduce sounds, and their walls cut down on visual distractions. All this makes it easier to perform better at your job. For example, cubicles seamlessly integrate technology by incorporating power and data management in panels, so you can easily plug in and situate your monitor without disturbing your colleagues. Moreover, cubicles give architects and designers flexibility when designing office spaces.”
But if you're going to stick with cubicles, companies are making them trendier by incorporating different styles. Some use glass walls instead of solid ones, while others are choosing softer, individual lighting.
A roundup by Snacknation suggests that companies looking for a middle ground between an open floor plan and enclosed workspaces consider the "multi-environment office." These offices use a generally open plan, but they can go to different, sectioned off areas of the room that are each designed for specific purposes. For example, maybe there's a section for the marketing team that is full of whiteboards and private rooms for client meetings, or maybe there is an extra quiet space for the tech people who may need to work in solitude. Then there could be general, separate areas for anyone, such as a lounge area for those who prefer to work from the couch, or a standing-desk area for those who prefer to stand up while they work.
ROOM co-founder Brian Chen told Inc. why exactly this in-between open-floor plan can work: "The open floor plan is oftentimes misunderstood. It can engender all of those wonderful interactions and engagements between employees, but only if you sprinkle in the right types of spaces to accommodate other types of activities. By creating room for privacy, you create room for collaboration. The mistakes come when you try to collapse all of those different types of activities into a single environment."
Team clusters are a great way to bring teams together, as they're essentially small offices designed just for small teams. This way, the whole team can sit together in an open-floor plan or something similar, without having to worry about the chaos of keeping the whole company together in one space. These clusters can be different physical offices that are perhaps less expensive to rent than a massive office that a startup company, for example, might not have the funds to afford.
Many offices these days have relaxation spaces for their colleagues. These offices tend to not have reception areas, because they're designed to not feel like offices at all. The only features that really makes them feel like offices, perhaps, are the prefabricated soundproof booths that give employees private places to work, take meetings or dial into calls.
"As work-from-home policies have become more widespread, office design has shifted toward more comfortable, less corporate work environments. "The whole idea is that people want their workspace to feel more like home," Brad Sherman, co-founder of New York City-based design firm Float Studio, which has designed the headquarters of companies like Casper, Bombas and Bonobos, told Inc. "That really makes for a space with variety, that feels more inviting."
In fact, Digital Luxury Group in Geneva, Switzerland is a prime example of this. It's designed with modern furniture and minimal lines to keep the interior simple, and it has floating lights to add a soft ambiance. The meeting rooms and private areas for teams to get together are comfortable, and there are even dedicated relaxation areas.
Slack's headquarters boasts an office space like this, too. It's actually modeled after planet Earth, for ultimate relaxation. Each floor of the company's office is designed to look like a different part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which meanders from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest. It includes deserts, forests and mountains, which make beautiful office designs. Meanwhile, Slack's lobby level is designed to be like a base camp, where employees can meet or meditate in tent-like structures before embarking on their ascents to the mountains or other spaces.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.