Office Space Planning: Advice from the Experts

Office Space Planning: Advice from the Experts

Office Space Planning Explained

There’s a saying that goes: “good design is invisible, but bad design is everywhere.” The same applies to office spaces. Well-designed offices can limit distractions and inefficiencies, helping you focus on your work.

Space Planning is the process of designing how a space is to be used and experienced before it is actually created. In terms of designing an office, space planning can help identify unused space, barriers to movement, and areas for utilities like computers or coffee machines.

 

The Importance of Space Planning

Space planning isn’t limited to offices – designers use space planning in the construction of homes, schools, government buildings and places of worship. Planning is essential to saving time and development costs during the formation of a space.

Planning can also help improve a person’s experience within the space, whether they’re a client stopping by for a consult, or an actual employee that will be spending most of their day in that office. As we’ve explored in the past, well-designed spaces can improve team communication and productivity.

 

6 Things to Consider in an Office Space Plan – According to Experts

Your company may be large enough to dictate the space’s layout, or you may only have control over the furniture arrangement of the office. Whatever the case may be, your office space plan will still have a significant impact on your work’s efficiency and quality.

Here are a few suggestions for how you can optimize your office space:

1. Choose colors wisely
One of those invisible elements of office design is the color palette. Even though you may not stare at the walls continuously, different colors can create a different impact. Design psychologist Sally Augustin believes office colors should be chosen according to the company’s work: blue shades offer a greater sense of tranquility, while red shades suggest a sense of activity.

2. Use both natural and synthetic light
Office spaces should have a combination of sunlight and electrical lights like CFL and LED bulbs. Light is essential to navigating and using our workspaces, but it can also be the source of headaches and eye strain. Make sure desks are outfitted with lamps for when the office gets dark, and windows are large enough to allow sunlight even on cloudy days.

3. Create spaces to relax and decompress
Paul Kelly, head of marketing for office design firm Morgan Lovell, suggests creating separate areas from workstations and desks. These spaces can help team members discuss and think differently than if they were to stay in front of their laptop or computer. “Create non-bookable break-out spaces for those informal chats or just a change of scenery,” Kelly says, “these spaces take down barriers to communication and encourage spontaneity in the office.”

4. Add more plants and flowers
The University of Exeter believes that “green offices” not only make the place look more pleasant, but can actually improve concentration and worker experience. Plants can help clean up the air quality of the office, can break up the monotony of computers and gray walls, and indirectly increase worker productivity by 15%. Experiment with simple desk plants like bonsai trees, cactus, or even larger potted plants like the Yucca or Kentia palm.

5. Offer a degree of personalization
Despite your best efforts of designing a beautiful and efficient workplace, there’s only so much you can do to empower your employees. The rest will come from their own feedback and experiences. Allow your team to decorate, adjust, and rearrange as they see fit. According to HBR, when people have more control over their space, it creates a greater sense of identity.

6. Rearrange furniture to maximize flow and utility
Don’t block important equipment like printers and computers. Tuck away any loose cords or cables. Create a movement path from the door to the main office areas. Everyone should be able to move through the office without being obstructed or injured.

 

Office design is vital in creating a healthy and efficient work environment. To learn more about how coworking can accomplish all these considerations and more, visit Novel Coworking.

5 Workplace Trends for Small Business to Monitor in 2019

5 Workplace Trends for Small Business to Monitor in 2019

Why you should care about workplace trends

2019 is in full swing, and that means it’s time again for businesses to revisit their strategy. Each year, new innovations and market changes force traditional workplaces to change and adapt accordingly. By staying up to date with the latest workplace trends, small businesses continue to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

We asked some of our clients what they predicted would make a major impact on the workplace, particularly for small businesses. Here’s what they said.

 

1. The end of the nine-to-five routine.

Modern employees are looking for a more flexible alternative to the traditional nine-to-five workday. It’s no longer uncommon to see employees taking 4-day work weeks, coming in later during the day, or even working from home. “While 9-5 may have made sense for factory life,” said Novel Coworking client and career coach Gina Marotta, “it is less realistic for humans whose work involves sharing their brain power and creativity.”

“Professionals often work better and stay happier and more balanced when they can spread out their work hours in a way that works best for their own natural rhythm and lifestyle.”

 

2. Shared offices and coworking spaces

As commercial real estate property values continue to skyrocket, coworking spaces will continue to provide a financial advantage for small businesses. Not only can coworking spaces provide all the same amenities and benefits of traditional office spaces, but they even offer some unique advantages over traditional offices, such as the promise of collaboration and unique networking events.

In 2019, expect coworking spaces to expand throughout other major metro areas, and for small businesses to eschew the traditional office building in favor of something more modern, open, and collaborative.

 

3. Gen Z workers entering the workforce

Time to make room for the next generation of workers. Gen Z covers anyone born between 1996 and 2010, and according to Bloomberg, Gen Z will comprise 32 percent of the global population, eclipsing millennials as the largest generation.

Gen Zers were born and raised on smartphones and social media. Compared to millennials, Gen Z is understood to be more self-aware, more able to naturally “create their own solutions.” Based on research by Nielsen, “Gen Z are bombarded with messages and are a generation that can quickly detect whether or not something is relevant to them.” Businesses will need to learn how to best adapt to this incoming generation.

 

4. Artificial intelligence to automate more work

As the Super Bowl LIII commercials made abundantly clear, robots and AI have become part of everyday life. Once considered a sci-fi pipe dream, artificial intelligence has become an important component of modern business.

AI is currently being used to help small businesses in a number of ways: from collecting and analyzing complex sets of data, to 24-hour customer service. McKinsey & Company estimates that AI has the potential to generate “$3.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion in value annually across nine business functions in 19 industries.”

 

5. Culture and benefits

Across all industries and businesses, workers are in search of companies with an engaging culture and work-life balance. Employees need reassurances that they are respected and that the company has noble values and goals. In a Glassdoor survey, 87 percent of employees “expect their employer to support them” in their work-life commitments.

Whether it’s creating a healthier work environment or adding valuable benefits like paid time off, small businesses that take the time to genuinely help and listen to their employees will see the change in their performance.

 

How to modernize your workplace

The workplace is almost like a second home for the people inside a company. Employees spend a majority of their waking life at work, either in the office or at a coworking space, so it’s important for companies to create an environment of acceptance and productivity.

Inspire your team members to take on some stress-relieving hobbies.

And get inspired to decorate your office.

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

Modern businesses have witnessed the rise of a major phenomenon in the past decade: remote working, or “working from home”. Portable devices and cloud-based software have allowed just about anybody to work from anywhere.

Remote working has introduced a variety of benefits and challenges, for both employers and employees. We’ll cover both perspectives, the positives and negatives, and a few tips for deciding if it’s right for you.

 

The employer’s perspective

 

Pros

Happier workforce, less attrition – A study from Global Workplace Analytics has shown that on average, two-thirds of employees would like to work from home, and 36% would choose remote working over a pay raise. Allowing employees to work from home can also reduce employee attrition, with 95% of employers claiming it has a high impact on retention.

Creates positive brand perceptions – Remote workers, particularly millennials, consider the ability to work from anywhere one of the biggest perks a modern company can offer. From a PR perspective, offering remote work can generate all kinds of positive buzz. Employees are more likely to speak highly of their company when they are afforded a certain level of flexibility.

A more diverse talent pool – If employers want to bring more unique and creative perspectives, they need to search outside their usual recruitment methods. For starters, hiring remote workers can open up the talent pool to new mothers, offshore developers, or even professionals in transition periods.

Reduces overhead costs – Office space, heating, lighting, electricity, Internet… there are a dozen different costs associated with having an employee work on-site. By having employees work from home, businesses can expect to save tremendously. One example cited in Forbes claimed to save roughly $78 million per year. Some remote businesses have even begun using virtual offices, which affords them a prestigious business address, mailing services, and meeting space.

 

Cons

Inhibits collaboration and communication – When employees work from home, all communication is done through email, Slack, or group video chats. While that’s not inherently a negative, the lack of a physical presence can result in slow dialogues or even miscommunication, especially if remote workers have a poor Internet connection.

Introduces new security concerns – Employees that work from home may be accessing sensitive company information from unsecured networks or compromised devices. Without tech support present, it can be difficult to gauge just how safe a remote employee is from being compromised.

Reduces employee accountability – Since remote workers aren’t constantly being supervised, there’s much less pressure to actively focus and complete certain tasks. When you throw in the comfort of one’s home in the mix, it’s very likely that remote workers won’t always be working on the clock.

 

The employee’s perspective

 

Pros

Creates a better work-life balance – Even when employees are only given one day to work from home, it can have a tremendous impact on how one juggles work and home life. It can also help reduce the stress that results from a frantic office environment.

No commute – Whether workers drive to work or take public transit,  getting up early, paying for gas or train fare, and then sitting in traffic (or standing in a crowded carriage) can be a rough way to start the day. No commute means employees can start working almost immediately, and they may even save money while they’re at it.

Eco-friendly – No commute also means no pollution. Carbon emissions from vehicle traffic are one of the major contributors to air pollution and can lead to various health risks. Working from home is a safer and greener option.

Instills a sense of employee autonomy – Without a supervisor to micromanage every single decision or action, employees have greater freedom to own their work process, and even their appearance.

 

Cons

Prone to home distractions – Remote workers may be free from office distractions, but not from distractions in their own home. It might be something important, such as some pipes that need maintenance, a garden that needs cutting, or pets that need tending. Other times it can be completely trivial- like wanting to watch Netflix or meet up with friends.

IT Infrastructure dependent – In an office, employees already have computers, Internet connections, printers, scanners, and software installed. In remote settings, some of that will have to be manually set up by the employee, which can create situations where some employees have better connections and experiences than others.

Overworking and burnout – The danger of working from home is that you might end up working after office hours. It’s important to create a system in order to distinguish your work responsibilities from your home life.

 

Is working from home right for you?

It takes a certain personality and character to work from home efficiently. For some, working from home can feel liberating, for others, it can stunt productivity. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you work at home without getting constantly distracted? – Getting sidetracked every once in a while happens to everyone. However, if you’re easily distracted from completing your work on time, working from home could be a challenge.
  • Do you have a working computer and a stable internet connection? – Without an office, you’ll be expected to set up an adequate workstation to get all your tasks accomplished.
  • Can you draw the line between work and home? – Some people take their work home with them, and never stop working. Can you turn off the work notifications past a certain time?
  • Can you stay responsive to the rest of your team? – Working from home can sometimes make you feel like you’re on your own timeline, isolated from the rest of the team. It’s important to schedule regroups and even video chats every once in a while.

 

The Importance of a Physical Workplace

Have you ever tried working while laying in bed or relaxing on the couch? You’ll find that you get much less work done. Whether your employees work from home or on-site, it’s vital that they have a set space for their office supplies and equipment. Not only does it create a more organized work environment, but it’ll help establish a more productive and professional mindset.

Novel Coworking offers competitive plans for remote workers, as well as those who prefer a traditional office space.

The Pros and Cons of Wearing Headphones at Work

The Pros and Cons of Wearing Headphones at Work

Whether you’re in an office or an open working space, it’s easy to get distracted by others. For many people, headphones can be useful tools for staying focused, but for others, they can be another source of distraction.

So are headphones good or bad? It’s really a matter of perspective and depends on who you’re talking about. For managers, it can be worrying to see a whole team with headphones plugged in, but for the employee, work might otherwise be too stressful or chaotic.

In today’s post, we’ll cover the case for both sides, as well as some tips and etiquette if your team wears headphones.

 

Benefits of wearing headphones at work

 

Concentration

You’re working on finishing up an important document, but your colleagues are already talking about lunch. Or maybe your phone is buzzing with a dozen notifications from your parents. Whatever the reason may be, headphones can help you stay focused on the task at hand. They can help drown out ambient noise and chatter, helping you concentrate on your work.

 

Higher productivity

Headphones and productivity can go hand in hand. Studies have shown that listening to music can help enhance your creativity, attention, and overall productivity. According to Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami, music can “break you out of just thinking one way.” Her research showed that music listeners are able to finish tasks more quickly, and even come up with better ideas than people who work without music.

 

Stress release

Let’s face it, work can become monotonous, overwhelming, and just downright stressful. You may work for several hours with just a few minutes of rest in between. Why not elevate your mood by listening to some upbeat music? Music streaming service Spotify even has a playlist dedicated to feel good songs and deep focus. You don’t even need to listen to music! Some people like to listen to rain or waves, or light ambient sounds. And if you prefer some internet radio programming, check out Novel Coworking client Live365, an internet radio broadcast network.

 

Disadvantages of wearing headphones at work

 

Isolation

A common issue with headphones is that they discourage listeners from talking and communicating with other colleagues. That might be useful if you’re working on a solo assignment, but for projects and collaborative efforts, headphones can be detrimental to the team dynamic.

 

Added distraction

Sometimes listening to music only exacerbates your inattention. You may start listening too closely to the music and start looking up lyrics or artist information instead of concentrating. Worse, when the music is too loud, it can become distracting for others within your proximity.

 

Etiquette tips for using headphones at work

 

  1. Be mindful of others – Know when to listen to music, and when to put the headphones away. If you’re on your own or focused on finishing a certain task, listening to music is perfectly acceptable. But if you’re working with others, know when to take the headphones off. And when you go to the bathroom or get water, leave your headphones off so people aren’t afraid to talk to you if they need to.
  2. Respect your deskmates – If you happen to share a desk with others, keep your music volume in check. You never want to play it so loudly that it might sidetrack them from their work.
  3. Earbuds over headphones – For the best of both worlds, try using a single earbud while working. The music will be enough to keep you engaged, but also keeps you aware of others that might want to speak to you.
  4. Establish rules for headphones – If you have a larger team and headphone use is becoming a rampant problem, then it may be best to lay down some rules for how they can be used. Generally, if their role doesn’t involve much human interaction, or they feel more skilled or engaged with their work when listening to music, they should be allowed to use headphones.

 

Should you wear headphones at work?

Ultimately, using headphones while working depends on the listener. For some, they truly do make work more enjoyable. For others, they might be too distracting.

If you have a problem with widespread headphone use, start by speaking with your team before you institute new rules or a ban. Are they productive or distracting? You might find the answer varies depending on who you speak to.

 

Looking to find some gifts that can boost someone’s productivity? Check out our productivity gift guide right here!

For more guides on productivity, entrepreneurship, and employee wellness, visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.

How to Craft the Perfect Vacation Responder Email

How to Craft the Perfect Vacation Responder Email

As we approach the end of the year, team members and leaders are starting to plan their time away from the office, and with their families and loved ones. Everything seems to be in order: project deadlines adjusted, last-minute website updates completed. But there’s one thing that you may be forgetting: your email inbox!

 

Why is a vacation response important?

Even when you or your team are on vacation, you should still expect to receive important business emails. Whether it’s a new business proposition or a special client request, failing to respond in an orderly time can result in squandered opportunities or a negative customer experience.

By setting an auto-response email informing the sender about your limited availability, you’ll not only reset your client expectations, but you’ll also give yourself a much-needed break from checking and replying to each individual message.

 

Important elements to include in your “Out of Office” response

Each brand is different, so instead of prescribing a uniform message, it may be more useful to learn the most vital components for your vacation response.

 

Straightforward subject line

Don’t overthink the importance of the subject line. You need only convey that you or your team will be out of the office. Sometimes, the subject line will be automatic and cannot be changed, but if possible, stick to “Out of Office”. It’s simple and easy to understand.

 

Gratitude

Auto-response emails can sometimes be off-putting. Don’t you hate it when you call a number and get put on hold by an automated message? Auto-response emails behave the same way. Start the email by thanking the sender for the email, even if it’s just a few words or a single sentence.

 

Timeframe

Give your customer or email sender some idea of when you’ll be back in the office. This will help save them the time of having to craft multiple emails just to get your attention. To give yourself some breathing room, give the date a day or two after you return, so you’re not tackling emails as soon as you’re back.

 

Alternative contact email

Although it’s not necessary, some people may direct customers and clients to reach out to the next available point of contact, usually another supervisor or manager. This can be useful in case of urgent matters or emergencies.

That’s all you really need! Don’t feel obligated to include a reason for being out of the office, nor should you feel required to reply to each individual message in a unique way. Once you set the auto-responder on, you should be all set.

 

5 Examples of Effective Vacation Replies

Here are a few samples of vacation responses that you can modify to fit your needs. Some are adapted from Yesware’s blog post.

 

Example 1: Boilerplate

 

[Your Greeting]

Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office and will be back after [your return date]. During this period I will have limited access to my email.

For immediate assistance please contact me on my cell phone at (your cell phone number).

Best Regards,

[Your Name]

 

Example 2: Alternative Contact

 

[Your Greeting]

I will be away from [Leave Date] until [Return Date]. For urgent matters, you can contact [Alternative Contact Person].

Best Regards,

[Your Name]

 

Example 3: Informal

 

Hello and thanks for your email! Unfortunately, I’m not in the office right now, but I will get back to you as soon as I can (expect a response by [return date] latest).

Looking forward to connecting with you!

 

Example 4: The Sales Lead

 

[Your Greeting]

Thanks for reaching out! I am currently out of the office from [Leave Date] until [Return Date], and will be happy to respond after I return.

If you were curious about learning more about our business, please feel free to [download relevant content] from our website, or to [relevant action related to your brand’s website].

Talk soon!

 

Example 5: Events and Conferences

 

[Your Greeting]

Thank you for your email! This week I will be attending [conference or special event] and will have limited access to email.

For all matters and concerns, please reach out to [alternative contact person]. For issues regarding [specific subject matter], you can reach [alternative contact person 2].
If you’re also attending the conference, let me know and I’d love to connect for a few minutes in person. You can learn more about our booth and presentation here [if relevant].

Thank you!

 

These are just some ideas to get you to start thinking about how your brand would set an auto-response email. By taking just a few minutes to write a couple of sentences, you can better manage your inbox flow, leaving you precious time to spend with your loved ones this holiday season.

For more tips, guides and advice on achieving work-life balance while staying productive, follow Novel Coworking’s blog today!

The Best Digital Rolodex Apps

The Best Digital Rolodex Apps

Remember the Rolodex? The toylike office accessory was originally designed to allow professionals to thumb through a Ferris wheel of business cards. They were efficient at organizing the clutter of your contacts physically, but by today’s standards, look dated and limited in their capacity.

Today we live in the information age. We can easily capture thousands of contacts and access them with just a few swipes and taps on our phone. Thus, the question of contact organization has now become a digital one: which app is best for storing and organizing contacts?

 

CamCard

As the name suggests, CamCard makes it simple to snap a photo of your business card and digitize them. The app automatically orients the image, transcribes it into your contact list, and exports the information to your email, contact list, or social media. CamCard is excellent at reading words and numbers but fall short in categorizing information to the right places. You may have to manually edit a person’s company name into the right field, for example.

CamCard is available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry. There’s a version with ads and limited card slots, and a premium version that ranges between $10 and $20.

 

ABBYY Business Card Reader

ABBYY Business Card Reader is billed as the “world’s fastest business card scanner and contact management app”, and has even been recommended by The New York Times, CNN, The Telegraph, Computer Business Review, and Macworld. ABBYY works like a breeze, even auto filling missing text and offering automatic or manual backups. It’s also more extensive some of its digital Rolodex counterparts, with support for Apple Watch, Facebook, LinkedIn, and MS Excel exports.

The free version comes with ads and offers 10 card recognitions. Premium offers unlimited card storage, auto backups, and ad-free support for either $8 each month or $30 per year.

 

Evernote Scannable

Perhaps you are looking for an app that will not only store your business cards but also your receipts, contracts, or other business documents. Evernote Scannable is the solution you’ve been looking for. With a clean and sleek interface, Scannable acts more like a secondary camera app, except documents ready to be scanned turn blue. All images are auto-oriented, cropped, and adjusted for readability, and are easily exported into PDF or JPG, and sent via email or text.

Best of all, Evernote Scannable is totally free to download and use, without limitations.

 

ScanBizCards

Despite the odd name, ScanBizCards is actually one of the more powerful options on this list. In addition to the same scanning abilities offered in the other apps, ScanBizCards also allows you to export your cards into the CRM platform of your choice, including Salesforce and SugarCRM. For those worried about transcription issues, ScanBizCards even offers manual transcriptions, with 2 complimentary included and then 50 transcription credits for $10. The app has received praise from Apple Gazette, TechCrunch, and the Appy Awards on ABC TV.

ScanBizCards has only one flat price: $2.99, and comes with no subscriptions or limits (except for the aforementioned transcription credits).

 

SamCard

If you want something that does away with all the cloud technology and fancy graphics, SamCard is your best bet. SamCard doesn’t have any fancy features or flashy interface but instead opts for a simple UI and imports information directly to your phone’s local contact list. Some power users may fear that the app is too barebones compared to the others mentioned on this list, but if you want to capture the simplicity and ease of the Rolodex, SamCard is all you need.

SamCard has a free lite version and a $4 premium version.

 

WorldCard Mobile

Perhaps you work with several international clients and want to support a variety of languages. WorldCard Mobile has the best language support out of all the apps. With 21 languages available, from Chinese to Arabic, you can format names that don’t translate easily to Roman English. For Gmail users, there’s the added benefit of being able to sync to your Gmail and Google contacts. One caveat is that it does not have the auto-snap feature when the card is in the right position. This may not be a dealbreaker for some, but definitely noticeable for others.

WorldCard Mobile is available in a free lite version and a $7 premium version.

 

These are just a few of the most popular card scanning apps, but there are many more on the market that serve different niche needs. Regardless of which app you choose, you can look forward to speeding up your contact information organization and ditching (or avoiding) that ancient contraption called a Rolodex.

Which one is your favorite? Have an app in mind that we missed? Get in touch with us through our Twitter (@NovelCoworking) and Facebook. Check back each week for more tips on how you can increase productivity and more!