If you’re building a software product of any kind, you’ve probably found out very quickly that building something is the easy part. Building something customers can use, want to use, and want to share? That’s the hard part. So many ideas sound great in a meeting and then fail to please any customers upon release.
That’s where user experience design comes in:
User Experience (UX) Design – the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product – Wikipedia
UX engineers and designers focus on taking the core functionality of a product and building an interaction that delights users. This process is half the battle the world’s biggest apps are fighting, from Uber to Facebook to Spotify. It’s why your apps get that weekly update – creating a good user experience takes lots of work, lots of feedback, and lots of changes.
But UX doesn’t stop with your users. It goes all the way up the supply chain. You don’t want to forget your most important capital: your employees. Especially if you’re a smaller company with a big problem to solve, they need to have an experience with your company that justifies their late nights and early mornings and weekend shifts and long commutes.
A big part of that employee user experience is your workspace. So, how do you create a workspace that is usable, accessible, and delightful for your employees?
I recently moved into a new office with my company, so I got to see firsthand some of the wins and losses of UX design in our new space and our old space.
Here are a few observations I’ve gathered over the past three years on how to make a great workspace for committed, long-haul employee retention. Some of them are nice to haves, but most are doable without any extravagant capital investment.
- Consider first impressions. What are employees greeted with when they come in? Your entry space should be secure, first and foremost. But it should also be welcoming, professional, and reflective of your company’s personality. Don’t skimp up front just because you don’t have a receptionist or frequent visitors.
- Create closeness. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s often better to be a little too crowded than to have too much space. As long as you have close-knit team, floor space is negotiable. 1The more space you have, the harder it is to maintain energy and connection between your various teams. Dead space can also create some subconscious stress about growth as long as it’s not filled.
- Create openness. While you’re creating closeness among employees, find ways to make your main common area and entry way expansive and open. A great way to do this without expanding floor space is to use your ceiling space. High, unfinished ceilings are a great way to create a sense of space and growth and potential.
- Let there be light. Poorly-lit offices are dreary and depressing, especially in the already dark months of winter. If you can do floor-to-ceiling windows, go for it. And don’t skimp on overhead lighting. There’s great energy in a well-lit space. Just don’t make it too hard to dim the lights as the day goes on.
- Pipe in some sound and imagery. Quiet offices are eerie and unenergized. Get a group Spotify account, install some basic speakers, and play music which will boost the mood and energy around your office. Don’t leave monitors turned off. Pull up
- Block out outside sound, not outside views. A quick subpoint here. The more windows the better, especially if you have a good view. Even if you’re just facing out onto traffic, don’t block your peoples’ view of the world outside the door. Your office becomes a much bigger place with good views and a much more claustrophobic place without them. Do soundproof your office as much as possible against outside noises. Traffic and construction noises can throw a real wrench into focused work.
- Make conversation happen. Don’t make people eat lunch at their desks. Get a table, designate a common area, and set a practice of eating lunch with your team.
- Make collaboration happen. Design your meeting spaces and workspaces to allow for quick idea creation and quick course correction. Whiteboard walls (or at least multiple whiteboards on the walls) can be a big help here. The more places your employees can write down ideas, the more likely they will be to actually write them down. And you should design your space so they never feel afraid to make a mess in the creative process.
- Factor in quiet places. Many people get their best work done when they can get away by themselves, away from noise and distractions. You must have quiet rooms for meetings, calls, or video/audio recording.
- Set aside spaces for breaks. Don’t underestimate the value of quick power naps to give long-haul workers a second wind. Some bean bags will do the trick just fine those quick siestas.
- Think about health and exercise. People these days feel stressed about work-life balance. Don’t make your employees feel a tension between being at work and taking care of their health. A treadmill desk or a stationary bike is a relatively low-cost investment if it keeps your people in the office longer, and it may save them the pressure of making a commute to the gym. Standing desks are another great way to make a healthier workspace.