The decision to rent office space is one of the first major commitments every growing company must eventually make. Not only is it a huge commitment in terms of overhead, but this space will be a critical factor of maintaining your budding culture, your ability to recruit and retain talent and your team’s happiness.
As with everything in life, it’s a balance. You don’t need to spend half of your revenue on rent, but you shouldn’t move into a lifeless space either. You’ll have to understand what’s important to your team to reach a minimum standard that your employees will accept.
As someone who spent nearly a decade helping companies find office space and interviewing founders, I can assure you all is not lost. There are plenty of ways to get your team’s buy-in for your new space.
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Involve your team in the research. Your team will love that you’re asking for their input. Find out how they like to work: standing up, sitting down, on a beanbag or lounging on a coach. Also figure out when they like to work: early morning or late night.
Understand what is important to them and get as much data as you can and start factoring that into your search.
Have them assist in finding furniture. One activity that I found helpful was giving each team member $100 and taking them all to IKEA. The money won’t buy much, but the message of trust and empowerment is priceless and will bring your team closer together. You may spend a bit more with your stipends but the ROI is worth it.
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Make a day (or week) out of putting your office together. Before Braintree’s big move, they let each team member spend his or her first day putting together their furniture and setting up their laptop. Was it unorthodox? Sure! But employees loved it. “That’s what made life so charming,” said founder Bryan Johnson. Amazon’s famous door desks are another good example.
Decorate the space together. Why not pick an empty wall in the office, get some paint and markers and have your entire team decorate it? Your team will thank you for letting them take a day to get to know each other while working on a project together.
Ask questions. Put up a chalkboard or a dry erase board and write a different question on it every day. The right questions will garner some passionate responses, helping your team members to find commonalities and build genuine relationships in the new space.
Allow each team member to customize their own space. When we ask our interviewees about their favorite part of the office, many say it’s their desk. It’s a home away from home, and they love making it their own. For example, Google gives each team an allowance to decorate their areaa, which allows their team members to get creative.
Provide areas for serendipitous collaborations. From “accidental collisions” to unplanned meetings, the gist is to create areas where people can come together. As your company grows, innovation and collaboration become more important but also more difficult. At ValueClick, where collaboration is key to success, dozens of collaborative areas are intentionally built into the space to ensure collaboration.
Keep in mind, It’s not about the space. Ultimately, though, the space doesn’t create your culture — your people do. The space ends up being a physical manifestation of your culture, but its key role is to help your team. A space that reflects your culture, that your team can enjoy coming to and building relationships is a space well done.