Every person has the ability to choose where they work, so spending time in the office needs to shift from something we have to do to something we get to do. The good news is that start-ups are uniquely positioned to lead this charge. On average, they are better networked, their head counts are smaller, and their employees, by nature, are nimbler. By purposefully creating desirable and collaborative office environments, start-ups will experience both hiring and retention advantages. They will see stronger levels of buy-in from their employee cohorts and ultimately generate higher levels of productivity.
As start-ups reimagine the definition of the office, here are five actions they can take to reinvent their environments:
1. Create soft work spaces
It's time to break down a majority of the cubicle walls and office doors and reallocate space for communal use. Start-ups can intentionally create collaborative workspaces void of barriers, and with balanced aesthetics, food/beverage offerings and even inspiring music — just like your favorite coffee shop. The key here is that these soft workspaces must be the focal point, not an afterthought, of the start-up office design.
2. Create mental health-friendly workplaces
It has been proven that certain office elements can lead to better mental well-being and thus better mental health. For example, adjusting the Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) of office lighting and changing the intensity can boost energy, health and wellness. In addition, CEO Magazine notes that exposure to plants can boost the immune system, lower stress hormones and blood pressure, and improve mood. Start-ups have the unique opportunity to create wellness environments that are even superior to employees' home environments. Imagine a world where it is actually more relaxing for you to be in the office.
3.- Enable 24/hour access
It has been scientifically proven that different people are most productive at different hours of the day and night, impacting workplace productivity. CNN notes a four-year study that found that night owls may be twice as likely as early risers to underperform at work. So why are offices open during such rigid times? In addition, while convenient, working from home may also not be the best solution in terms of focus. Young employees may want to work from home during the day, but find their roommates are home during their most productive evening hours. A 24-hour accessible office could serve as a refuge where they can clock in, put their head down and be both creative and productive. Start-ups of today can create work environments that allow round-the-clock office access.
4. Develop workLive hubs
The advancement of technology has increasingly blurred the line between work and life, and it will only continue to do so. The reality of start-up life is that we do not turn our phones off the second we leave the office and leave them shut down until we return. So why have some start-ups been looking at the swipe of an office keycard as the new symbol of productivity? These emerging companies must define offices as part of our living environments and assume that the best ones will be close to home, and a part of our personal geographical ecosystem. According to Adam Grant, hybrid and remote work is already eliminating 200 million weekly commuting hours in the U.S. alone, so start-ups must locate themselves close to living hubs, and if not directly nearby, close to transportation centers that provide easy access to home.
5. Forget the old definition of in the office.
By counting "days in the office" we are completely missing the point. An employee technically being in the office from 9 to 5 is not a direct indication that they are more productive. It may tell the leaders that they've accomplished their onsite, in-person goals, but it doesn't necessarily make the company better. While being regularly visible in the office is key, start-ups need to foster a culture that understands one employee may need to come into the office for two hours one morning for a team meeting, and then head out for a client lunch, while another may want to return later at night, when they are at their productive best.