Happiness at work
Why Workspace Design Matters and How to Hack It on a Budget
written by Ralitsa Golemanova
For some, workspace design might be just another passing fad, but here at Swipes, we’d love to prove that wrong.
You know, you can even use your office space as a strategic tool for growth. Aesthetics easily translates into functionality when it comes to office design. This ultimately leads to a bunch of awesome benefits for your team, including improved productivity and boosted creativity.
For a company to create really exceptional work, people on the team need to feel happy and fulfilled - and safe in their common working space. Achieving that is just a matter of opening up to what’s possible through clever - and not necessarily expensive - design solutions.
To make the case for beautiful and functional workspace design, our Chief Creative, Stefan Vladimirov, shares his tips on hacking office spaces on a budget. As a co-founder and the visual mastermind behind Swipes, he's in charge of making everything we create beautiful yet purposeful. Without further ado, here are Stefan’s ideas that you can implement in your own workspace with ease.
Designing the environment where people work and spend the bigger part of their days is crucial for how they’re going to feel in that space. There is an emotional and functional part to office space design.
For a startup as Swipes, designing our office space has been done on a budget, so it’s really the art of working within constraints. The way that we have optimized our work area is to have an open space and common areas where people can sit together and have a quick chat, or work together on a common task on a screen. At the same time, we’ve utilized the layout of the real estate, so that everyone feels that they have their own space where they can focus uninterrupted.
I’ve spent five years in Denmark, so I can’t help but be heavily influenced by Nordic minimalism. Every single detail needs to have a clearly defined purpose. And we also apply this in our products. No detail is left there without a reason. In this context, office space design should not be overdone, at any cost. Design is the balance between functionality, the rational needs, and the creative, artistic and emotional needs. They need to be synced.
Here are five useful tips about office design on a budget that we’re applying here at Swipes, so you can make the best of your workspace - without overdoing it.
Tailor your office space to your company culture
We see a beautiful trend these days, mostly in the IT companies and especially in startups: a culture of transparency and openness is being created and appreciated. It’s not so much about the type of industry, but about the values of the team. And this really should be and is reflected in the design of the office spaces of these companies.
In Swipes’ case, a transparent and open culture is at the heart of what we are as a team. Naturally, this is reflected in the way we’ve designed our space.
Our team is assembled of different talents. All of us are working together, but also on different projects, so we have pretty much the same needs. It’s crucial for us to have areas where people can feel comfortable and jump in together in quick meetings to discuss tasks and give each other feedback on the work.
So the best approach to designing your office space is to extract the main values of your company culture and visualize and materialize them through appropriate choice of spaces, furniture, light and artwork. Then the place where your team spends its time will be fully embedded in the vision of where you want to take your company.
Choose beautiful, practical and inexpensive furniture
Today it’s not difficult to choose furniture that fits nicely together, and does not cost a fortune. It’s important to choose materials that match together and create a positive, calm setting where people feel comfortable. After all, the office space is an extension of our lives, so we should grasp every opportunity to make that space our own.
It’s also a good idea to get nice artwork. It’s doesn’t need to be expensive either, but it does bring a nicer mood in the office space.
Here at Swipes, our furnishing is rather basic, but the materials and the color scheme are carefully chosen. They create a comfortable, warm feeling because of the fuzzy, wool-like material of the chairs and the wooden bamboo tables.
Our furniture is also very adaptable as a system. It can be easily reassembled and the layout can be changed according to the needs of the team. Sometimes our focus is on product, sometimes it’s on marketing, and it’s nice to have the people working on these projects closer to each other by doing an easy rearrangement.
We even made our little visual studio a few months ago. We set it up with a couple of lamps from IKEA and window rollups as background. So it’s all about creating this special feel about the space, not about the expensive furniture or gear. It’s the Swipes Studio now.
Let there be light
One thing that is essential for all kinds of spaces is the light. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that there is as much natural light as possible. If that’s difficult, you have to create that warm and cozy feeling by using lights and without overdoing.
In the Swipes office, we have fluorescent ‘hospital’ lights. That’s the usual thing that you get in an office, and it makes you feel like you’re about to get interrogated, or even gives you a headache.
So what we did was to get smaller lamps with warmer light. In the after hours and in winter, they create the designated space where you’re working. This really helps you focus and feel more at home rather than at work.
(Well, setting them up was not easy and involved drilling the ceiling... but it was worth it.)
Make meeting spaces a playground for ideas
The most important tip for spaces when ideas are born is to have a really quick way to note them and even develop them on the spot. Meeting rooms don’t need to have elaborate furnishing - maybe none at all. They need, instead, to turn into playgrounds where people can relax and unleash their creativity, even if that means walking around barefoot.
That’s why in our meeting room, we’re using something called a Magic Whiteboard. It’s basically a rollup of folio that you can easily stick and remove from the walls - and can write with markers and erase afterwards. In this way, it’s easy for us to sketch out ideas and use them as a starting point to develop projects from there. Besides making the meeting spaces more conducive to creativity and free expression, it’s also crucial to set the stage for more productive and shorter meetings. At Swipes, we have our weekly meetings in the largest open space - and we do them while standing, not sitting. In this way, we encourage ourselves to be quicker and get straight to the point.
It’s a good idea to ask yourself if you really need chairs in your meeting room - or if another, less standard setup can bring better results out of brainstorming sessions and regular meetups.
Create space for creativity
When an environment is beautifully designed, probably most people won’t notice that, but they would experience its effect. When, instead, it is chaotic and messy, chairs and tables don’t fit, colors don’t match, the experience for most people is subconscious anxiety.
To foster creativity in your office space through its design, you have to have two important things in place. First, you have create the personal spaces where people can focus. At Swipes, we’ve arranged the space in our office in a way that the view from each desk is not focused on another person. The desks are either facing a window or are against a wall. Without visual distractions, it’s easier to focus.
The second thing is to create the space in a way that embeds flexibility and freedom to sketch out ideas in collaboration with other people. So, as mentioned before, while being in a meeting, you can walk around and collaborate by using the walls and the Magic Whiteboard.
And let’s not forget the additional layer of objects that you can use - like artwork. We’re talking about artifacts that are not crucial for the functionality of the office, but just inspire you to think in new directions. For us these are things like the funny name of the toilet, the silly things you can write on the wall or the funky posters and the illustrations that we’re making. That’s how we get connected in terms of our common company culture.
Over to you
How is your office space designed and what are your best tips for finding budget and beautiful design solutions? We’d love to get your ideas!
Also, if you've found valuable insights here, we strongly encourage you to share the blog post with your community.