Office design is more than just where you put desks and chairs and decisions about who gets the corner office. On the surface, it’s about getting work done in the most efficient ways possible. But beneath that surface, office design also relates to employee and job satisfaction, organizational culture, teamwork, communication and innovation. Among other things, the layout of your office can reinforce communication practices, define corporate culture and influence employee productivity and creativity. To make a successful change to office design requires understanding your corporate culture, being aware of any needs for change in strategy and project management skills that keep your office design change on-time and within budget.

Office Design and Business Strategy

Know your organization’s goals and objectives for the foreseeable future; approximately 5 to 10 years forward. For example, you might know that you have a new product or service planned to introduce to your customers in a couple of years. In the meantime, you want space and office design that encourages the energy and creativity necessary to keep this important product moving forward to its release. So know where your organization is going and be as clear as possible about business strategy and objectives. Decide how office design fits in your business strategy as a means to meet your business goals. For example, you might know enough about your corporate culture to be able to project how difficult a switch from cubicles to an open-floor plan would be and how much productive time and money this might cost your business. You might also know that, given a short-term loss in productivity, you can reasonably expect the same office design change to add to your business’ bottom line in the longer-term if it’s in line with your business strategy. You need to know if you need more organization or hierarchy (think: offices and linear design) or more communication and teamwork (think: open-floor plan, low-walled cubicles, etc.). Know the demands of your physical space requirements now and in the future, according to your business strategy. For example, if you have a plan to expand into other geographical areas and markets and will need to open additional service centers, you may then have different long-term needs for communications and mobility. That might mean more office design that supports virtual offices and inter-office communications instead of bricks and mortar offices and face-to-face communications.

Project Plans, Budget and Management

Determine your budget for the design change. Based on what you’ve identified as “important” and “strategy-congruent” in Section 1, you’ll need to determine as accurately as possible what your total budget is for your design change project. Include costs for furniture (new vs. refurbished), information systems and technology, shutting down the office on “move-in” and implementation dates and consultant/out-sourcing costs (see Step 2 and 3 below). Determine whether you have the necessary talent and personnel in-house to manage the change design project. Based on the work you’ve done in the section and steps above, you may decide you need to outsource the project management role to keep expenses, performance and timelines in check and in line with your project budget and business strategy. Be prepared to be flexible and know which parts of your office design change project can be altered and which cannot. As with most complex business projects, the needs of your business may change quickly and you’ll need to find aspects of your project you can adjust. In the contemporary business climate, this is more the standard than the exception. Know whether you can adjust timelines, materials, technology, budget constraints, etc., to meet your business needs.

Buy, Build and “Go Live”

Use your project plan and budget to make purchases for equipment, furniture, assembly and moving (if needed). Remember that delivery on items needs to be commensurate with your end project date so you can set up your new design most efficiently. Make sure you build in time to your project plan for equipment and/or furniture installation and assembly. Even if your furniture or other materials aren’t newly manufactured, there may still be some time and costs associated with physical assembly and configuration for the new office design. Plan a way to formally mark the “go live” day for your new office design. Calling attention to and celebrating the change in office design underscores the intended results for your change project (i.e. culture change and preparation for increased or new business) and encourages open discussion between employees and management about the effects of the change. You want these discussions to be open and the topics and concerns accessible in ways that facilitate the goals of your design change and de-emphasize any of the more natural but subversive organizational behaviors that can accompany change.