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Six Critical Things to Get Right in an Office Renovation

Cicero Development Corp. recently completed a 10,000-square-foot renovation for Clutch Studios in Chicago.

PLAINFIELD, ILL. — Buoyed by a strengthening economy, more companies have the resources to invest in office redesigns. That is good news — a well-designed office renovation can transform an existing workspace into a dynamic, energy-efficient nerve center for staff. If properly carried out by a skilled contractor, an office renovation can optimize employee productivity and craft an effective work environment.

Zara Johnson, Cicero Development Corp.

Zara Johnson, Cicero Development Corp.

Here are six ideas that reflect today’s most influential office design trends, according to Plainfield, Ill.-based Cicero Development Corp., a general contractor specializing in commercial renovations.

1. Make a color splash
The typical aesthetic of office design is being replaced by workplaces that integrate bold pops of color. This is not just to elevate the visuals, but also to code different sections, whether they are departments or desks.

As a contrast to many offices’ neutral decors, jewel tones (resembling the colors of gemstones) and energetic patterns are becoming more popular in making a strong statement.

Vibrant colors do more than show people that your business is creative and dynamic. Colors can have psychological effects on employees, as some tend to inspire creativity and productivity.

2. Improve the floor plan
Open, fluid floor plans improve efficiency and mobility for your staff.

Open office spaces tend to be the favorite among millennials, tech firms and startups, and they’re becoming more common in traditional businesses, too. There are a lot of good reasons for this — open offices promote interaction among employees of all levels and functions, helping facilitate teamwork and innovation. Offices are beginning to feel more like college campuses with a sharing mentality.

Maximizing space not only makes it easier to work together, it also saves money. Open offices require less square footage per employee, since employees are all sitting together and moving around throughout the day.

3. Silence is golden
Office acoustics contribute to performance and overall wellbeing in the workplace. To complete highly focused work, many employees seek out quiet places. This need has to be balanced with giving employees the ability to have spontaneous interactions, which is important for teamwork development.

Seeking this delicate balance makes a strong case for sound-masking techniques. In offices with sound masking, employees report improvements of up to 38 percent for the performance of simple tasks and 27 percent for complex tasks.

Sound masking is not the only way to reduce unwanted noise. Office layout, flooring materials, walls, ceilings and behavioral protocols all can make a difference.

Another solution is quiet zones. These are soundproof rooms that help employees to think and get things done. Often, they offer room to stretch out and focus on work while keeping other employees nearby for a quick brainstorm.

4. Go green
Conserving energy is essential to protecting the planet. Here are a few updates you can make during renovation to optimize efficiency:

  • Replace incandescent lighting with CFL or LED lighting. This not only measurably reduces energy consumption, but is clearer and more luminous, helping employees see well without having to squint or strain their eyes.
  • An office renovation that improves airflow, such as adopting an open and collaborative office, can be a transformative solution to lowering utility bills and improving air quality.
  • Move to a paperless documentation system to cut down on use of paper and printers.

Modern lighting is important for energy conservation and employee productivity. Better workplace lighting, both natural daylight and artificial light, has been linked to a 15 percent reduction in absenteeism in office environments. Other studies have reported productivity increases up to 20 percent, attributed to optimum lighting levels.

The presence of ample daylight and windows, as well as opportunities for active and passive contact with nature, sensory change and variability, all have a positive impact on employees’ wellbeing.

5. Plug and play
The proliferation of mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets has increased requirements for easy-access electrical and USB charging ports at the work surface, along with a way to store these devices. More companies are opting for furniture that safely secures and charges mobile devices rather than have staff feud over too few electrical outlets.

6. Customized workstations
Non-assigned seating, easily movable furniture and height-adjustable desks are replacing old-fashioned cubicles. Workspaces are increasingly customizable and multi-purpose, almost entirely eliminating the need for dedicated offices. This is largely to appeal to millennials.

The cost and burden of poorly designed, obsolete workplaces is too large to ignore — and millennials are flat-out refusing to work in them. Open seating is particularly effective for younger employees engaged with creativity and marketing, and other tasks that benefit from easy collaboration.

— By Zara Johnson, Director, Business Development & Administration, Cicero Development Corp.

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