Workplace & Human Resources

Top tips for updating your office space

Photo by Emily J. Davis

Top tips for updating your office space

Getting ready for an office refresh or move into new digs? Design creatives share some do’s and don’ts

When Minneapolis-based marketing firm Zeus Jones began planning its new Eat Street office, partners Peter Petrulo and Brad Surcey first surveyed their employees. “We discovered one of the biggest wants was to have a more diverse collection of spaces in the new office. Instead of just conference rooms and tables, we’ve evolved to a space with over 10 different types of areas, offering different styles for everything from small, quiet individual work areas, collaborative zones, small-team huddles, and an outdoor patio and more, giving everyone many options about where they’d like to sit and work every day,” says Petrulo. 

The end result was a space that brings people together and nurtures relationships. 

“We looked for natural ‘collision points’ where people would naturally meet and engage throughout the day. Multiple kitchen spaces and open work areas casually trigger these types of engagements,” says Petrulo. 

For those of you who are going through the exercise of strategizing an office redesign, we asked two Minneapolis-based office interior designers for their advice on workplace trends and must-haves. Here’s what they shared.

On Trends
“I would say the word ‘trend’ is falling by the wayside. For the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen all of these movements. First was the movement to do hoteling. Then that became more of the open office environment. Then the trend was collaboration spaces and workstations,” says Tanya Spaulding, principal of Shea.

“In most of today’s workplace environments, you can’t just apply one distinct thing to them all. You can’t just say, ‘This is going to be all private offices,’ or, ‘This is going to be an open office environment.’ I think the key is to create a strategic plan for the type of company it is that balances all of those different components.”

“If I had one trend, it’s that everything in office space needs to be focused around people: People as a group, people as individuals and then people as a culture. As part of that experience, people in their workspace want to know where they are; they don’t want to just be in cubicle land.…They want to actually know where they are because they feel connected to that. That helps with their personal experience. That helps with their interactions with their co-workers,” says Megan Kennedy, creative director of Fluid Interiors.

On how often you should refresh your space
“Across the board, I think it’s always a good idea to do more of a refresh at least every five years, if you will, and to put some capital dollars into making improvements that show your employees that you’re paying attention to how they work and how you can give them a more productive space. But I believe every year you should do minor things,” says Spaulding.

“Even if it’s upgrades in technology, even if it’s offering employees an opportunity to do a sit/stand desk in their existing workstations. No matter what it is, I think there should be at least an annual conversation among management saying, ‘Hey, what little things can we do to show employees that we’re continuing to pay attention to how they work and improving those things?’”

“I would say be smart about how you’re designing today because you know it’s going to change. This isn’t like design in the past where you had giant computers and a corner-facing desk, and it was like, ‘Well, that’s how we’re going to be working for a while.’ So just be mindful. We talk [a lot today] about using mobile walls and having convenient power located in strategic ways, so in the future [you can say], ‘Well, cool. We can just move these walls, and we’ve got power over here, and we don’t have to do a lot of construction or demolition,’” says Kennedy. 

On which elements every company should consider
“[Look] for options for flexible desks where you can stand and sit. [Look] for options, whether it’s in the traditional workspaces or just places around the office. I think these are absolutes. We’re going to a more mobile workforce overall no matter what industry you’re in. People are relying more on laptops and more on portable computer systems.…We have to [enable the] employees to be productive almost across the entire office,” says Spaulding.

“Incorporating white noise.…In our open office area, when you turn [the white noise] off everybody turns and glares at you because it’s so uncomfortably quiet that no one wants to talk. If no one wants to talk, nobody’s collaborating. If no one’s collaborating, then you’re losing out on relationship-building in the workplace and on the innovation that comes from that relationship-building.…In addition to helping people feel like they can collaborate, it also helps people focus. And when people can focus they can get their work done,” says Kennedy.

For Petrulo and Surcey at Zeus Jones, all their employee research paid off, but they know they need to remain vigilant. “Our team loves [the new offices], but we also know it’s not perfect. We’ve been listening to their feedback and adjusting as we go. For example, we heard people wanted more individual desk workspace instead of so much open flex space, so we adapted and created these new spaces,” says Petrullo.