Why You're Not Improving Your Workplace, And Three Things You Can Do About It

Endless amounts of research has been done on the subject of how people work in and interact with their space on a daily basis.  Many have come to consider it the differentiator between a great workplace and an average workplace.  More and more people want to know how to make their space the best, or how to make a space that attracts the best talent.  How do you compete as a smaller company with the likes of Google and Facebook?  The easiest answer for many, is to try and copy what those highly ranked companies are doing.  However, those companies have spent countless amounts of time, dollars, and research into optimizing their spaces to attract / retain top talent.  To be honest though, even they’ve gotten a lot wrong along the way.  So how can you avoid getting it wrong, or at least learn from their mistakes?  Below, I will describe three common elements to creating a great workplace, that are very easy to get wrong.

1) Open Space Planning Vs Providing A Way for Everyone to Work the Way They Want

The open space plan is one of the most controversial subjects in workplace.  Countless articles have been written in regards to the horrors of lost productivity and privacy. However, many large / succesful companies are using this method of space planning.  There’s a major caveat here though:  the succesful ones, are also providing a menu of other types of spaces for employees.


When you open your space up to increase collaboration you also have to give your employees options to work in other ways than just at a desk. The same way not everyone likes to work in a closed office, not everyone likes to work in a coffee shop.  There’s no one type of employee.  It’s important to study your employees and make calculated decisions as a company as to how your employees work together.  You can then create a menu of space (open desks for collaboration, conference rooms for meetings, libraries for seclusion, etc).  

2)  Food programs that increase productivity and encourage community vs Junk food and Energy Drinks 

The endless food and beverage offerings of large tech companies are legendary in the tech communities. “I heard they have pho every day!”  When focused in the right way, a good food program can help foster community, improve the health of your employees, and optimize your employees time.  Now before you go installing a kitchen in your office and pumping out endless pizzas, you should step back and ask yourself why you’re providing food to employees, and what kind of program you want to create?

Mmmm pizza

Mmmm pizza

Believe it or not, your food and beverage program needs clear goals and strategy.  When you reach a point of wanting to provide a service such as this to employees, it’s important to take a moment and formulate a plan.  Are you trying to get your employees to maximize their time at the office?  Are you trying to get your employees to build better relationships with their teammates and other coworkers? Do you want employees staying after hours and just socializing in the office? Once you start to answer some of these questions you can begin to look for more resources to help you implement the proper way.  

There’s no one size fits all solution.  You need to customize your programs to your company, culture, and employees.

3)  You should be Collecting and Utilizing Data to make decisions and improve your workplace.

 It’s very normal for companies who are just getting started to quickly throw desks into a space, and throw up some meeting rooms.  You’ll buy some whiteboards and maybe some couches too.  However, once you start to scale up and grow past your first 100 employees, it’s important to start making data driven decisions.  If no one’s using the couches, or that 50 person board room you thought you needed, then it’s probably time to make some changes. 

Without data - you're just in a maze with no clear direction. 

Without data - you're just in a maze with no clear direction. 


If you measure how your employees utilize their space, what foods they do / dont eat, and even how they feel about the temperature of the office - it can help you build better spaces as your company grows.  However, collecting utilization data is just the first part of the puzzle.  You also need to dedicate time and resources to actively researching best practices and how the workplace is constantly changing. 

Custom Solutions Are Key

In summary, looking at your workplace strategically is vitally important to your company as you grow.  The earlier you begin to look at your workplace as one of your greatest assets for increasing productivity and the overall retention of employees, the better prepared you will be for growth.  There’s no one size fits all solution to workplace programs.  You need to customize your programs to your company, culture, and employees - or risk falling behind the competition.