Designing for Wow’s or Designing for Employees?


There is really nothing better for an office photoblogger than amazingly beautiful shots of offices. But after 4+ years of looking at these spaces, I often find myself wondering whether many of these offices actually turn out to be great places to work.

Stop Designing for Wow's
When looking at office photos, it sometimes seems like inordinate amounts of time and money are spent decorating the office with the latest and greatest trends. And usually, the first question people ask when designing for wow's is, "What will look best in here?"

Is there anything wrong with asking that? No - it simply starts from the wrong place. I mean, I like the idea of reclaimed barn wood and Eames furniture as much as the next person, but 'designy' office features shouldn't come at the cost of improved productivity. Like when companies decide to have desks custom-made while employees only have one small computer monitor and an uncomfortable chair.

At no point during there day, will the achy-back employee who is frustrated with the lack of monitor space think, "Well, at least I have this great desk." 

Start Designing for Employees
Companies that design for employees spend a lot of time figuring out what employees need to be successful- and then designing based on that rather than just following the latest 'cool' trend. And all it takes is a little bit of flipped thinking. 

Questions to start with: 

  • What do my employees need to be most productive while working?
  • What do my employees need to be most healthy at work?
  • What do my employees need to feel most comfortable at work?
  • What do my employees need to be most collaborative with each other?

It would be wrong to say that aesthetics have no part in office design, there is a lot more that goes into making a great space than just making it look good and photograph well. The best part of a design that starts with employees is that aesthetics don't have to be left out.

You can design to the exact specifications that make your employees work best, and then spend a bit of time figuring out how to make that look good.    

If you're interested in learning more about Employee-Centric Design, here are a couple resources:


Michelle J May 24, 2012

This is such an interesting discussion! I think, like technical equipment, sometimes you need to design to an open-architecture idea. An environment that is flexible to adust to future “upgrades” like sit-stand computing, evolving computer technology, etc. Wow is still good, but employee empowered wow is priceless. wink

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