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August 31, 2022

A Culture of Transparency Begins with Space Design

Transparency in the workplace is a key value of employees that can increase productivity, boost morale, and foster a culture of trust.

A study by Sprout Social found that transparency makes 85% of people who interact with a company more likely to give it a second stance. 

Transparency is crucial for an organization because it encourages trust between employees and management while also boosting morale. As a result, employees feel free to perform up to their potential instead of worrying about whether their employers are masking their practices or otherwise concealing the truth. 

You can use your space design to foster this kind of transparent culture.

There are many environments that promote innovation by using the space to bring people together. The spaces have fewer boundaries and offer all employees, regardless of how long they’ve been with the organization, an equal opportunity to interact with one another.

Admittedly, this bucks a long-held tradition that only executives should have access to the “premium” office spaces. 

Executives and high leadership, for instance, have been blessed with private offices and boardrooms while mid-level and entry-level employees had to use less desirable spaces for meetings and socialization. 

By shrinking the physical distance between employees and upper management, you give everyone—at every level—visibility into each other’s spaces. In this way, you can eliminate the physical gaps that often prevent productive interaction while enhancing a sense of accountability for your workforce.

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Are executives “with us” or removed?

The line between physical and metaphorical space is thin. In the minds of employees, there may be little or no difference between a manager that’s physically removed and one that’s aloof. In most organizations, there’s no need to underscore someone’s position by adding physical distance. The difference in title is enough.

Sequestering your decision-makers says, in effect: “No one else has a place in the decision-making bubble.” Conversely, by unifying everyone in the same physical space, you erase divisions and honor employees’ values. This shift changes the way executives fulfill their roles.

The negative effects of hierarchical design elements on productivity

Being physically close to managers may inspire employees to work harder and better. While it’s always good to assume the best of your employees, you also don’t want to ignore human nature when designing your spaces. 

Having executives and other decision-makers physically close to employees can bring a sense of positive peer pressure to your work environment. Being “seen” can inspire employees to put their best feet forward and can boost morale and productivity.

Hierarchical design on the other hand can have the opposite effect on morale and productivity. By categorizing employees into limited groups, you isolate them, which results in siloed thinking. 

Do leaders trust people to work in less-structured spaces?

In some organizations, making a physical shift away from a hierarchical design structure may also emphasize the need for a corresponding cultural shift, particularly when it comes to trust. Rigid, consistent, predictable workplace layouts may be more comfortable for some executives because they feel the sense of structure correlates with a sense of discipline; however, in many situations, this isn’t true.

The objective when designing a workspace should be less about reinforcing the comfort of executives and more about supporting the productivity of employees. 

People work better--and are more productive--in comfortable environments. 

For example, some people may feel more productive in spaces such as:

  • Couches, lounge chairs, and other seating designed to maximize comfort.
  • Places filled with plants.
  • Areas filled with artwork, both paintings on the walls and sculptures in corners or as centerpieces
  • Spaces that provide a generous outdoor view, such as those near floor-to-ceiling windows or skylights.

The positive correlation between freedom and productivity

Many organizations can learn a lesson in office design from the rise of co-working arrangements. The global co-working market is expected to grow from $8.14 billion in 2021 to $13.03 billion in 2025. 

One of the reasons co-working spaces continue to grow in popularity is due to how their freedom and flexibility inspires employees to do their best work. 

From plush couches to reclining chairs to standard desks to stools in front of bars, co-working spaces are frequently filled with a range of seating provisions. In this way, they encourage people to roam freely until they find the most productive position. 

Every company has the opportunity to transform their offices in this same way.

By letting people work wherever they want--instead of only amongst team members or segmented into departments--you allow them to go wherever the muse leads. If they can think, calculate, enter data, or create better on a couch one day but at a desk the next, they have the freedom to explore their options, all while maximizing productivity and innovation.

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How to leverage collisions with transparent space design

In the corporate world, workplace collisions refer to times when people who may not normally intersect, “bump into” each other to share ideas and innovate.

To accomplish this, some companies have designed collision-friendly spaces by limiting things like the number of water coolers in break rooms that subliminally help people interact while grabbing a refreshment. Others have removed the tethers holding people in certain areas by allowing them to move about the office, nomadically. While they move from one spot to another, collisions with other thinkers are inevitable.

The result? Employees end up gathering insights from others that help them solve problems—insights they wouldn’t have been exposed to had they been confined to a specific area.

Further, collisions in the workplace can produce other auxiliary benefits that directly or indirectly boost productivity.

A tighter-knit community

In a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, almost 80% of startup founders described building a community as a key to staying competitive. By providing a human-centric employee experience, you create an atmosphere that fosters the kinds of personal connections that inspire strong teamwork. Furthermore, by embracing a collusion-friendly culture with a transparent workspace, you help people connect with—and ultimately, get comfortable with—each other. 

How a sense of community helps productivity

A sense of community helps productivity by boosting the number of teammates people can partner with to get work done. Also, a tightly knit community is more likely to inspire people to join forces to solve problems.

Consider this example: 

You have an internal software development team working on a proprietary web app. One of the front-end developers, Keisha, has a brain block. She can’t figure out the best location on the opening screen of your app for an image carousel. She’s afraid it may supplant other important information if it’s too high but may get missed if it falls to the second fold.

While standing up to pop her fingers and stretch her neck and mind, she catches the eye of Tim, someone on the sales team, who sits right next to her. Tim says, “What’s up? I wasn’t sure if that was your knuckles cracking or early fireworks.”

Keisha, who checks in with Tim a few times a week, explains the carousel conundrum. Tim replies, “Well, for what it’s worth, my clients are always asking for ‘Pics, pics, pics!’ So I have to email them a brochure, but I think the iron goes cold by the time they open it.”

“A-ha!” Keisha thinks. Keisha decides to put the image carousel above the first fold, front, and center. She then runs a few UI ideas by Tim, who listens and offers feedback. Meanwhile, you, Keisha’s manager, are sitting on the other side of Tim. You see the collaboration and make a note to give Keisha props in her next employee review for being open to cross-departmental input.

The winners? The dev team, Keisha, Tim, the sales team, everyone. The hero? Innovative, transparent space design.


Why innovative space design at work matters

Businesses like Google and IBM have already been reimagining the workplace by building buildings with lots of greenery, natural light, and open, comfortable meeting places.

The San Francisco-based firm Twilio--which makes communication technologies--is going all-in with a related idea: company-owned coffee shops. They plan to provide staff with free coffee beverages, a chill atmosphere, and a space to work without having to go into a cubicle. Employees will have unrestricted access during business hours and may come and go as often as they like. Only staff will be allowed entry. In addition to its main office hubs, the coffee shop concept can also work for satellite locations with smaller workforces.

This kind of innovative space design is important because it provides a more comfortable environment—one that inspires people to produce their best work. While some employees may be able to pump out high-quality work with just a desk, others need a relaxed, human-centric space that prioritizes comfort. By meeting these needs, your organization can build the kind of work environment that empowers more employees to produce amazing work.

How you can incorporate human-centric design with Saltmine

Agile technologies and techniques are necessary for planning the offices of the future, both for the morale and productivity of employees and to enable last-minute alterations and upgrades. To unite numerous stakeholders with various levels of knowledge—and give them access to the design process—this endeavor also requires a trustworthy source of guidance. Saltmine can help you combine your requirements with the needs of your employees to develop your own maximally-effective workspace.

Whether you’re redesigning an existing space or creating a new one, Saltmine provides the support you need to make safety adjustments, crucial design modifications, and better inform space planning decisions.

To learn more, watch the video below: 

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