April 9, 2009

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Make Your Workplace Professional and Personal

By Spencer Sutherland

April 9, 2009

With the likes of MySpace, iPod and YouTube, technology has created a “me” culture—consumers have gotten used to turning anything they touch into a reflection of themselves, including their office design. Many employers are finding ways to make their space feel less like work and more like an extension of the personality and mission of their company. “We are seeing a trend to move away from the stereotypical office design,” says Kurt McGrew, vice president of architecture and design firm Blalock and Partners. “Many firms are looking to differentiate themselves and personalize their offices.” It’s not just creative industries like ad agencies or architecture firms that are giving their work space a makeover—doctor’s offices are becoming more sleek, law offices are becoming more modern and IT companies are becoming more fun. No matter the type of business, “individuality is the key,” McGrew says. Home from Home It’s a depressing fact that we spend more time at work than just about anywhere else. Omniture’s headquarters in Orem, however, feels more like a getaway destination than a place to punch a clock. In addition to traditional work stations, the Web analytics company’s location also features plenty of places for its 600 employees to unwind. The building’s edgy, warehouse design is nicely complemented by a video player’s dream: industrial-style steel gaming platforms connected to Xbox 360s and projected onto a 14-foot screen. Other gathering spaces feel more like living rooms, complete with comfortable furniture, games and food. Musically inclined employees tend to gravitate to the room that houses a baby grand piano, guitars and amps for impromptu employee jam sessions. “Omniture is passionate about attracting and retaining the best talent, and our company culture is a tangible thing that permeates through everything we do,” says Omniture Human Resources Director Shane Koller. “By designing our offices with [these] components, we reflect the type of environment that our employees enjoy being part of.” What Works for the Workers Possibly more unique than Omniture’s office is the way it was designed: by listening to its employees. “As we build out or remodel new space, we listen to what our employees are saying so that the design and architecture of the space meets the needs of those occupying [it],” Koller says. McGrew echoes this sentiment, recommending that design should always be driven by functionality. “Too often we buy a desk and chair at an office supply store and expect people to adapt how they work to the furniture—usually because we were able to buy it cheap.” With the decreased productivity and increased health care costs resulting from problems like carpel tunnel syndrome, back pain or poor circulation, it makes sense to spend a bit more for high-quality, appropriately designed furniture. “Working with a reputable interior designer or furniture dealership can provide a lot of options to you, even in hitting your price budget and getting the best bang for your buck.” Make the Building Work Smarter The furnishing arrangement is as equally important as the furniture you choose. The Murray City Library recently completed months of renovations and rearrangements. “The goal of the project was to make the building work harder,” says Library Director Dan Barr. “We could not afford to add square footage, so we focused on what could be done to use the available space more efficiently.” To make room for more public-use computers and other technology, service points were consolidated and moved closer to the entrance and staff. Interior color themes and furnishings were also updated to identify different functional spaces, and the lobby was redesigned to create a hospitable entry. The result is an arrangement that is more intuitive and has improved public traffic flow and functionality for staff, Barr says. “Response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive,” he confirms. “Many patrons comment on how much bigger the building seems, even though the square footage did not increase.” Clearing Out the Clutter If you are not ready to put much money into revamping your office, one simple change can make a big difference: get rid of the clutter. “We don’t usually notice it because we live with it and see it every day,” McGrew says. “Take a critical look at your office with an eye for visual clutter. Are there too many home-made signs taped to the walls? Are there power cords and papers visible? Are there too many plants, too much furniture or a lot of mismatched furniture?” If the answer is yes, McGrew re-commends spending a few bucks on storage cabinets, a central bulletin board and screens to cover the backs of computers. “These are all small expenditures that go a long way toward making your office look more organized and professional. Your office is your chance to make your first impression.”
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