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Feels Like Home

by Kiley Baun and Betsy Helm

We’ve found that a productive work atmosphere begins with happy employees. As designers, we have seen a huge shift in employees choosing to make their careers a part of their lifestyle. In turn, employers have made strides toward ensuring their offices reflect those lifestyles. We are tasked with making the workplace more focused on employees’ lifestyles, as a means to both attract and retain top talent, and also to increase productivity. Establishing a unique company culture and having a thoughtful and well designed office space that reflects core values is a huge marketing tool to gain valuable employees for your team.

Many companies are still adapting to this internally and operationally. Operationally, these ideals are reflected with perks such as vacation days, job sharing and paid time off for volunteer work. The physical design of the office layout should mirror these important changes. A company’s culture and brand should be a reflection of its core values, work environment and office space. A balance between all of these things can be easily accomplished without a complete renovation. If budget does not allow for a huge office redesign, here are a few small changes that will have a big impact on your space.

Create what we call ‘work-where-you-want areas.’
These can be in the form of a few comfortable wingback or lounge chairs in an otherwise unusable corner of the office. These areas are perfect to hold impromptu meetings, or to grab a laptop and get some work done. Standing desks are becoming the new norm for many companies. One way to mimic that function is to add in some high top tables. Many layouts we design incorporate open area seating so private phone rooms have become invaluable for employees to hop on a private call. Sitting at a desk all day can be mind numbing and we have found that employees who have the option to work individually or with their team members in various settings are overall happier in their workspace. Who wants to eat the same thing for lunch every day? The same goes for your actual working space.

Set up a lounge space.
Lounges are a great way to encourage laid-back brainstorming sessions, some time to flip through a magazine away from your desk, or an area to hold after-work team-building activities. Our clients love to host different types of activities based on their employees’ outside interests. Examples include a wine and cheese pairing with tasting notes, a cooking class based around a specific origin, a book club meeting or even a poker tournament. Think about activities that will truly show your employees that you listen to them and their personal interests. Have fun!

Invest in your kitchen.
This will end up being your main gathering point for employees. The kitchen design is one of the most important elements of the overall office design. Go with something timeless, like white, and a forgiving countertop material like quartz. IKEA is a great resource for well-made and inexpensive kitchen cabinets. Make a space where you can post activities happening around the office, new hire interviews and a monthly office newsletter. If you don’t have a lot of money to invest, think about purchasing a large Parsons-style dining table and bench seating for people to gather together. Buy fresh flowers and some plants. Keep the kitchen clean and the counters clear of clutter.

Stock the kitchen.
Make sure the kitchen is always stocked with healthy and unhealthy snacks. Offer things like sparkling waters, craft beers for after-work happy hours and locally ground coffee with notations on the roast on a chalkboard. Try to cater to employees who may have food allergies or sensitivities, this shows that you are listening and care about your team. Making sure your staff members are well caffeinated and well fed is an important piece of productivity. And, while the afterwork beer may not increase productivity, it will make for a more enjoyable end to their work day and make the office somewhere they want to come to every day.

Using one or all of these ideas is a great way to change or add to your company culture. By blurring the line between the feel of work and home, we’ve found the general response to be an increase in productivity and overall happiness. Create a workplace of which you can truly be proud.

Kiley Baun and Betsy Helm are the co-owners of ShopHouse, a Philadelphiabased boutique interior design firm. Visit

Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 6 (May, 2016).
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