Four office design tips from a workplace anthropologist

    By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

    Designers might promise that a well-designed office space can improve productivity and enhance worker efficiency and well being, but many small businesses have higher priorities for their limited budget dollars than office furniture and interior design. If you operate in Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, or Dallas, here’s your chance to win a $20,000 office makeover.

    Office furniture company turnstone will launch its “Culture@Work in the Heartland” contest later this month. A team of the company’s office design experts will set out from their Grand Rapids, Mich., headquarters on a ten-day roadtrip through nine states on their way to the SXSW festival in Austin. Traveling in a sleek state-of-the-art mobile office and conference room—converted from a Michigan State University football team bus—emblazoned with the slogan “Be Yourself at Work,” the turnstone team will stop in each of five cities to overhaul the office space of a contest winner.

    The turnstone bus will pull up at five Heartland small business spaces later this mon …

    To enter to win a $20,000 office makeover submit your entry by February 10, 2013. Be prepared to include photos, answer questions about your work culture, and tell how you think an office makeover could contribute to your success. Be prepared, too, for a surprise day of some downtime if you win: you won’t know till the turnstone bus pulls up at your curb that you're in for a redesign. Winners will be announced on site in each city February 25 – March 4.

    For small businesses who don’t have the chance for an in-person consultation with office design experts, Kevin Kuske, chief anthropologist and general manager for turnstone, offers these four ways to make your office valuable in today’s wireless world:

    1. Think like a great urban planner. Vibrant cities have various zones, and every great workspace should too. Create zones to play, concentrate, collaborate, socialize, and create. Provide work areas throughout your office that cater to different needs. Play around with your floor plan to see how you can revamp your space to accommodate different types of work. Bring in the familiar and comfortable to help make the office a more attractive environment. Include a kitchen counter as a place to gather, socialize and have standup meetings. Break up space with couches, rugs, planters, large lamps, and screens. Provide places for standing and walking.

    2. Free up people to move. Movement and choice are key elements to creativity and wellness. You don’t need to add more space to mix it up, just make use of the spots that go empty for hours. Don’t worry about assigning spots or having one desk per person. In your design, truly support mobility by having a variety of work areas and addressing practical things like having power near all couches, counters and group areas. Consider coworking as an option. Having options is key to mobility.

    3. Think like a great restaurant designer. Every great space should have an element of hospitality. Things work, people are welcomed, and events are frequent. There is an optimal density to planning that keeps enough people in the space so that there is a buzz. Find ways to make workers more comfortable talking and collaborating. Play music, talk in normal tones, and treat your office like a booth at a busy restaurant.

    4. Let the inmates run the asylum. Creativity is enabled when people are free to be themselves. We see this time and time again in truly great companies. Recognize that not everyone creates or shares the same way. Some go digital, some love doodling, some love Legos, so embrace these design options in your space. Express the personality and culture of the company by encouraging employees to personalize the space. Allow workers to bring their bikes, pets, pictures, and crazy iconic objects to work. Creating a welcoming and enjoyable environment will make traveling to the office more appealing than working from home.

    See the Yahoo! Small Business Advisor interview with Kevin Kuske here.

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