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What we can learn from Startups and their Spaces

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Posted 20 August 2015 23:56:00 BST | By Admin

In workplace design circles, and especially in places like the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a fascination with how post-recessionary companies have approached their office space. At a Work Design event, we learned more about the quickly evolving workspace trends of today’s most innovative companies from panelists: Denise Cherry, director of design at Studio O+A, Christopher Coleman, a former director of design at Google, Everett Katigbak, former Pinterest brand manager and Paul Singh, investor and former managing director of seed fund 1776.

Culture and mission must be integrated into design

Workspace design is nothing without a thorough understanding of company culture. Some companies are rooted in hacking, others ideation, and even others in concentrated programming. It is important to understand the balance of those different work styles and translate that into the right workspace. As we discussed in a blog post back in May, trends like an open workplace are certainly not one-size-fits-all.

You may also like to read: "From Meeting Rooms to Collaboration Spaces."

Even if two workplaces are based on similar cultures and working styles, the way their employees work with one another will put different demands on the space. A collaborative culture could have a tendency to talk face-to-face at their desks, collaborating instantly or, collaboration can occur in designated areas, such as meeting rooms and break-out spaces. 

Panelist Denise Cherry highlighted how the company mission also plays a role. Yelp, which is built on the idea of self-expression, has offices that allow its employees to customize their space to their liking, whereas Uber, a company built on the idea of populist luxury, uses more luxurious materials in its space.

With workspace technology, the simpler the better

Manipulating the office space must be easy and seamlessness. The act of meeting room booking shouldn't be a hiccup in most employees’ work days when it should be as simple as walking into the room. As Everett put it:

“It’s not about the many new products that you can buy. It’s more about getting people together physically in one space so that they can talk.”

Many office technologies that are required for the basic operations of a company – such as wireless access points – are incorporating unique add-ons, such as logging into the Wi-Fi using Facebook. This technology makes access easier for the users, can help integrate the company with social media, and can potentially provide demographic data on guest users.

Space must grow with its tenants

Companies, especially those in the Bay Area, grow extraordinarily fast, and real estate, as it stands right now, is less than accommodating.  As Paul Singh lamented,

“A common problem that we hear is: ‘my board wants me to grow to 200 people in a year but my company is 55 people now and I am locked into a 2-year lease.’”

On top of that, as companies grow, they begin to attract a higher level of talent, and with that talent comes an expectation for an inspirational and beautiful space.

The savviest companies ensure that workspace utlization is a part of their space from the very beginning. They do not necessarily invest in larger spaces than what they need, but they monitor how their employees work and design space strategically so that there is just the right amount of desks and meeting rooms. 

Image Source: Pinterest Office, David Basulto

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