There are no two ways about it: where you work affects how you work. Research has found that one’s surroundings have a measurable impact on level of achievement – this study found, for example, that natural light and views of the outdoors correlate with higher test scores among children. Another study (PDF) determined that office design has a “substantial impact” on worker productivity.
Several forward-thinking companies are taking workplace design very seriously. Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters offer one example of enlightened design, while Google’s new London offices present another.
While RingCentral’s offices aren’t quite as visually arresting as Google’s or Twitter’s (we don’t have a rooftop garden full of succulents), we do value good design. When we migrated to a new building earlier this year, we made efforts to imbue character, color, workspace collaboration, and fun into our office.
We knew, for example, that the kitchen tends to be a nexus of activity. So, when designing our suite’s kitchen/dining area, we spec’d an open floor plan and employed a bright color palette. Coffee and espresso machines are available for those needing coffee breaks, and employees never go hungry with an array of food and beverages. The RingCentral team congregates in the kitchen for small team meetings, company presentations, and catered lunches every Wednesday.
The design touches in our office extend beyond the kitchen. Our “cubes” are boomerang-shaped with low dividers, resulting in an airy workspace that encourages collaboration. Everyone sits on an ergonomic chair, and conference room seats are orange, the official RingCentral color. There are also a dozen medicine balls bouncing around the office.
Little design details abound, too: some walls are painted orange, some are navy blue (the other official RingCentral color); “Kill PBX” signboards are displayed throughout the office; and comfortable sofas and bean bags provide employees a respite from desk work. And we’re serious about play – we’re equipped with a ping-pong table, Nerf guns and a mini basketball hoop.
Last but not least, the entire perimeter of our office is lined with windows that look towards San Francisco Bay to the east, Silicon Valley to the south and San Francisco to the north.
With all these niceties around, are we able to do any actual work? Absolutely. In fact, we see a fun, colorful office as a competitive advantage.
Moreover, having an office in which people want to spend time just makes sense. If we’re excited to come here each day, we’ll be more likely to do good work and commit to building a great company.
That lesson may be the key takeaway from our experience. Design does affect how an office works. And even a single design tweak (like a new coffeemaker or a different color scheme) can make an office more livable, boosting employee engagement, happiness and productivity along the way.
Any examples of good design to share? Post them in the comments section!
Originally published Aug 23, 2012, updated Aug 07, 2020