Build Diversity Into Your Office Space Design

When I’m at the office, I tend to want to work almost anywhere but my desk.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate my fancy standing desk. It’s also not that I don’t like the coworkers around my “official working space.” They’re great.

I’m just a weirdo who needs to move and wander around restlessly and sit alone (in several places) to get into my most productive/creative/focused states.

And I’m not the only one. At a certain scale, office crowding becomes an issue for many knowledge workers. Lots of us need space – quiet space, unusual space, or else empty space – in which to think and work.

If you want us to give you our best work, incorporate plenty of overflow room into your floor plan. Have additional tables, chairs, benches, pods, boxes, cat gymnasiums, and other otherwise-sittable objects lying around. People like me will come to find a way to use them.

There’s a lot of unexplored territory in humans’ psychological responses to design. We don’t fully understand why and how humans react to built environments. But we do know that designing “top-down” in most systems creates chaos. If you impose the same structure on everyone and you miss the mark, you’ve missed the mark for everyone.

Hedge your bets with a more decentralized, diverse workspace design. Assume that people won’t use your space the way you intend them to. Build a tolerance for desire paths emerging in your workspace.

Give us plenty of opportunities and variations we can seize on as we create our ideal workspaces. Think of this “architectural pluralism” like cultural pluralism. If diversity is a good thing in cultures, or in markets (it is), then it will be just as useful in your architecture and interior design.

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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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