The workplace of the past is quickly becoming obsolete—cubicles, dull colors, and water coolers are being pushed aside to pave the way for open offices, bright designs, and kombucha on tap. Spearheading this shift is the tech industry, which has become well-known for leveraging office design as a way to boost employee wellness, productivity, and satisfaction.
But not every company can put a ping-pong table in the middle of their office or offer endless beer on tap. It’s important to strike the right balance between employee-oriented and budget-conscious (especially in pricey markets like New York and LA). Consequently, it’s important to cut through the fluff and ask, “What are the tech office space trends that will have the most meaningful impact on company culture?”
Here are the most worthwhile tech office space trends that any company can implement without breaking the bank:
Shift to activity-based working methods
The cubicle has been criticized for making employees feel isolated and glum. On the other hand, the open office has been accused of making it impossible for employees to focus, thereby killing productivity. When trying to simultaneously maximize both employee satisfaction and productivity, it seems neither of these popular options proves fruitful.
As a result, more companies are transitioning to what’s called activity-based working (ABW), a concept that designates certain zones for specific tasks. For example, there are pods and private areas for those who need to take calls and meeting areas for collaborative groups. Break spaces are available for anyone who needs to take five. Most importantly, each zone should have the necessary equipment to accommodate whoever is using it. ABW helps companies strike an effective balance between openness and privacy.
If you’re not ready to make a total shift, you can adopt parts of the activity-based model, while still having dedicated desks for employees in a semi-open floor plan.
Increase focus on sustainability
Many tech companies are making the shift to more sustainable practices. It doesn’t have to be as radical as WeWork’s commitment to discouraging meat consumption—there are smaller steps that companies can take to have a meaningful impact. For example, you may opt to lower your electricity consumption by using lower-watt bulbs or leveraging natural light sources. This has the added benefit of boosting employee health and productivity. Another option is to be mindful of your office thermostat settings; the easiest way to do this is to install programmable thermostats that self-regulate, but you can also follow the Department of Energy’s guidelines for energy usage in commercial buildings.
Additionally, companies with indoor plants get not only the sustainability benefits of cleaner air, but also the productivity and health benefits of increased focus, reduced stress, and improved mood, among others.
Tech founders know better than anyone how quickly the needs of a growing business can change. To make sure you’re not bogged down with cumbersome furniture and technology, opt for flexibility where possible. If you’re not sure how big your team will be in the next year or two, look for shorter-term leases and turnkey spaces (or spaces that are ready to move into)—they may cost a bit more month-to-month, but will ultimately save you money in the long term as your team scales.
Additionally, select furniture that’s easy to disassemble and move, so that you expend less effort when you inevitably need to find your next office space.
These increasingly common office space strategies adopted by leading tech companies will help boost employee satisfaction and improve productivity and culture in the long term.
Viveka Krishnaswamy is with SquareFoot, a new kind of commercial real estate company that understands the needs of growing companies and delivers the most flexible, transparent experience on the market.