What HGTV has taught me about creating a great place to work.

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Yes, your HGTV addiction is a management tool.  It can help you turn your office into an inspiring and functional workplace that makes your employees like coming to work.

Here’s how:

Have a Clear Focal Point.  If you’re a fan of just about any of the home makeover programs, you know that the biggest crime a room can commit is not having a focal point.  The focal point is the place the eye goes first, the spot where people gravitate, the central element that defines the space.  In the home, this is usually a fireplace.  Sadly, in the office, it’s usually the copy machine.

What should the office focal point be?  It really depends on your organization.  Maybe it’s the inspirational view outside the window.  Or maybe it’s your central meeting area.  Or your system for tracking performance metrics.  Maybe it’s a visual representation of your mission. (I love this open plan office at charity: water with the vibrant photos of the people they serve.)  Whatever you choose as your focal point, it’s the heart of your design.  It should represent the culture and vision of your organization.

Create an Open Floor Plan.  Tune in to House Hunters or House Hunters International and you quickly learn that the one thing everyone is looking is an “open floor plan”.  Chopped up, closed off rooms are out.  The great room is in.  Why?  Because it promotes interaction.  (And, as every house hunter points out, it’s “great for entertaining”.)  Thus, the open floor plan is a must in real estate.  And it defines the modern office as well.

But…as an introvert, I know that open concept can be very draining. So to make it comfortable and functional for everyone, you need to have defined areas for different types of interaction. Create activity zones (a la the ubiquitous “conversation area” beloved by all designers). Allow your team to choose what they need at a particular time, whether it’s a space for focused, individual work, a comfortable spot for a one-on-one, or a flexible room for group brainstorming.

Keep it Updated.  Every HGTV fan knows that the kiss of death for any design is to look “dated”.  Brass fixtures, tiled countertops, shag carpeting.  No sale.  Why?  Because no one wants to live in a time capsule.  But more importantly, it’s a red flag that other, non-cosmetic, maintenance has been neglected as well.

It’s the same in your office.  Giving the workplace a face lift every now and then indicates that your organization invests in its employees, cares about their needs, and wants them to feel that work is a nice place to be.  A can of paint, some fresh art on the walls and decent technology can go a long way.


(Photo by theilr via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)



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