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Workplace culture: Why good workplace design matters

If you’ve seen basically any workplace comedy from the 1990s, you’ll be familiar with the well-worn trope of the workplace as a bleak, desolate wasteland, characterised by flickering fluorescent lights, gray cubicle dividers and the complete absence of personality.
Luckily, a lot has changed since Office Space, and now businesses (at the very least, the smart ones) know that putting some time, thought and money into your workplace design can pay significant dividends in the future.
Lifehacker Australia recently ran a series that profiled the workplaces of some of Australia’s leading tech companies and incubators, which you can view here. If you take a look through this series, you’ll notice more than a handful of similarities between these spaces – we’re talking buildings with character and history, ample greenery and natural light, and plenty of provisions such as coffee and snacks.
Ultimately, as we become more and more focused on happiness, health and wellbeing, the design of the workplace – where most of us spend a significant part of our lives – has become more important than ever.

How workplace design impacted Ento’s recent move

As we mentioned last week, we’ve recently taken on a new office space in Cremorne, Melbourne.
The decision to take on this new space was one based purely on logistics – taking into account our growing team, changing needs, and dates of leases, we decided the best option was to split the team over two offices, until we can move into one space large enough for everyone.
It wasn’t a decision we made lightly, and we knew it couldn’t be a matter of just dumping half the team into the first office we found that was big enough. What we really wanted was a space where we could embrace the tenets of good workplace design, and support our developers in creating the kind of software that we can be proud of; a space that supports our core values.
To be perfectly honestly, we looked at some pretty mediocre spaces. But luckily for us, we found our unicorn at 85 Cubitt St.
Here’s what we were looking for, and what our new digs at Cubitt St delivered:

Natural lighting

You’d be hard-pressed to find lighting more depressing than straight fluorescent tubes, in all their eye-burning, flickering, unflattering glory – and yet, for some reason, offices across the globe remain faithful to them.
Lighting is one of those things that oft goes ignored, but it can have a significant impact on a workplace. A 2013 study found that better workplace lighting could result in a 15% reduction in office absenteeism, while other studies claim that productivity can be improved by 2.8 – 20% when lighting conditions are improved.

Open-plan layout

Open-plan offices have been getting something of a bad rap lately (for fun, try typing in ‘open plan office’ into Google News and see what kind of stories come up), but at Ento, it’s something that works well for us.
That’s primarily because in our environment, we have people performing multiple functions, across multiple teams, and an open-plan environment means it easier for us to do that. On top of that, our team is fairly small – meaning the open-plan environment at Ento isn’t comparable to the open-plan environment of, say, a call centre.
Most of the backlash against open-plan layouts by workplace design experts is based around the fact that they can be noisy, and lack privacy. Our new office has several zones – from a working ‘pods’ upstairs, to a lounge area downstairs, where people can move should they need a little space.

Hot desk capability

With two offices operating in tandem, we have a number of staff (myself included), who work across both. To support that, we needed the space to run several ‘hot desks’ – that is, desks fully set up with monitors, peripherals and power, where people can swing by, plug in a laptop and get to work.
It’s almost something of a luxury to have space in an office that you’re not utilising 100% of the time, but for us, it was a non-negotiable.

Space for downtime

We talk a lot about employee engagement here at Ento, but for a good reason – the reality is, engaged employees can boost a company’s bottom line by up to 20%. However, research indicates that disengaged employees outnumber their engaged counterparts by nearly two to one. And companies with disengaged employees experience up to 50% more turnover.
Obviously, taking measures to engage your employees is just smart business.
As such, we wanted to find a space that was about more than just work. Our new office boasts a lounge area, a fully equipped kitchen and a pretty great coffee machine. It’s also a big enough space for our entire team to get together of a Friday afternoon, to ensure the team stays connected.

Location

Location was a crucial factor in our decision.
With our other office located on Hill St, in Cremorne, we knew we wanted to choose a second location close by – ideally, no more than a ten minute walk away.
While other organisations may have offices further apart than that, we knew that close proximity was important, both professionally and personally.
With only 650m separating our two offices, members of the Ento team can drop in on each other whenever they need to, whether it’s for a meeting, a chat or a beer.
 
We’re all pretty excited about our new space. By placing an emphasis on exemplary workplace design, and thinking about how our surroundings affect us, we’re hoping to see a positive impact on our productivity and creativity over the next 11 months.

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