The Secret of Great Workplace Design

Image:  Mike Licht, | Flickr
Image: Mike Licht, | Flickr

Over the years, workplace design has evolved to become more and more flexible. Today, we see the workplace not only as a space in which to execute given tasks, but also as a place in which to interact, communicate and foster creativity. Different work environments call for a variety of different needs; and, one thing seems to be most consistent — design for flexibility.


The article entitled “Design for the Changing Workplace” does a good job of describing some of the most popular qualities in the more successful work environments that we experience today. The following is a list of a few of these qualities as described in this article (1):

  • more teaming and informal interaction spaces
  • more supports for virtual individual and group work
  • integrated features for learning in the everyday
  • flexibility in work locations
  • relaxing features to help reduce stress
  • bringing a sense of community to the work environment

    All in all, I think the following quote sums up a lot about today’s workplace designs —Fit the workplace to the work rather than visa versa. (1) As one’s work needs actually change throughout the day, it is helpful to have a workplace designed so the space can support the work. For instance, you might design flexible spaces that foster creativity, focus, interaction, community, relaxation, communication, interaction and virtual interfacing.

    As you can see, today the workplace calls for a wide variety of working styles and business needs. Again, the secret is to design a workplace that is proactive –- where the workplace fosters the work.

    Seemingly simple aspects of a space like personalization, control and flexibility all contribute to environments that encourage healthy productivity, efficiency and creativity — significant factors that lead to a better business culture and ability to meet more business needs.


    Do you have any suggestions that would help other designers create better workplace environments? What new design ideas have you seen integrated into successful workplaces? How do such design features contribute to your business needs?

    (1) Design for the Changing Workplace.. WBDG Productive Committee. July 3, 2009.

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    1. Gwokyalya Joy says

      Hello. I am doing research on the design space and the design process within the field of architecture. I am concentrating on design space within architectural firms and how it can facilitate the design process. Please give me some pointers or you could ask me some questions that would help me take this further. Thank You.

      • Maria Lorena Lehman says

        Hi Gwokyalya,

        For the design of creative spaces I would start by really analyzing what goes into the design process itself. For instance, is making design work “public” important — thus calling for a more open layout? Or is it important for designers to be able to personalize their environment in some ways? Try better understanding what environmental qualities help with the creative process (like how nature helps with attention and focus), and try to really delve into the architectural design process to better understand how architects actually work on projects. How do they work together as a team? How do they work individually? What do they need to be inspired? How do they keep attention and focus? And so on.

        Hopefully, this will be enough to get you moving in the right direction.


    2. Jed says

      Hello Maria, I love reading your blog and it is very helpful. Im currently doing my research about workplaces and I want to push “fun” or “play” concept with the approach of stimulating the senses/sensory experiences. Would you mind if i ask what could be the best statement I can create with that?


      • Maria Lorena Lehman says

        Hi Jed,

        Yes, injecting “fun” or “play” in workplace environments can be quite interesting. If I were you, I would take a close look at how Google does it — I understand that in their offices they have “moments” where fun and play can occur. Toward this end, I would advise you to look at this article I wrote: Going to Work In the Office Designs of Tomorrow. Also, you may want to look at the links between injecting workplace fun and play with consequential boosts in creativity, collaboration, and/or health benefits.

        Hope that helps,