7 Office Design Ideas

From the home office to the enterprise, our environment affects the way we work
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With the idea of renovate our office and more interaction area, I visited the Microsoft R&D Center in Grand Gateway, where my good friend Eric and Helen work.

Eric is exactly the right person to turn to. He is very (if not over) sensitive to details, and is conscious about the impact of the small things. We toured from the 9th floor to the 8th, and here were our findings.

Writable Walls with/without Pens

There are many glass walls in the Microsoft office. Some of them are full of diagram and notes, and others are absolutely clean? What is the difference? Eric’s answer was: some walls are close to a holder of pens, while there are no pens nearby to others. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Shutdown the Big White Fluorescent Lamps

Although fluorescent lamps on the top provide sunlight like consistent lighting, it does not provide an intimate atmosphere. Replace it with desktop lamps – that is a much better solution – to create the “deep night” type of working environment.

Height of Cubicle

In most modern offices, we have cubicles. The height of cubicles are always a hot topic to discuss. The UX team of Microsoft removed all their cubicle walls, so people can see each other face to face. It is said that the result is great.

I would tend to agree on this approach, but would add that we need to improve communication within a team, and may also want to intentionally cut communication between teams. The idea case is, lower the cubicle for people in the same team, and raise cubicle walls between teams. Ideally, a team is as small as 4 – 7 people, so they can be put into a bigger cubicle group, instead of two rows of cubicles.

Useless of Available/In Use Indicator

Nothing is more effective than bow a little bit and see whether there is people in it or not. The little sliding badge showing In Use or Available is something no one will use.

Conference Room Booking System

On each door, there are papers printed out (maybe by Ayi in the morning) showing that day’s schedule. It is the dream equipment I thought about when I worked in Microsoft, but it turned out to be not practical. It is hard to book the meeting room on the same day, since the paper have been printed out in the morning.

Further more, Eric argues that when a team cannot settle the room usage within the team using an interpersonal way, and they have to rely on a system, something is already wrong. I completely agree.

We should never use a room booking system – just grab a room that is available. If there is no room, just chat with the people using the room to see if they can cut the meeting short.

Every Meeting Room Needs a Clock

The presence of a clock is an effective way to keep meetings short. In places where you need people to take more time communicating, remove the clock.

Ensure at Least One Person can See the Screen of Others

This is absolutely not my idea – it is Eric’s. He suggests that although we should keep privacy of everyone as much as possible, but it is also important that from one direction, at least one other people can have a chance to glance what you are working on, so people can be more productive. This is very debatable. At least what I believe is, screen privacy is very important. We should leverage other ways like shared goal, and consistent reporting, communication to solve productivity issues. Anyway, just list this idea here, and maybe some people may like it.

9 Comments

  1. Hmm… I didn’t know you came to GG office 8F… I am sitting around the UX team~~hehe~

  2. to share with all, this is another cool open office in Malaysia http://www.minishorts.net/2007/03/21/digis-cool-office/

    they have nice coffee place. The catchy names for the meeting rooms make it easy to remember and fun :-)

  3. I think hang a clock in the meeting room is a good idea.

  4. I do agree with Sam, who mentioned a clock should be hanged on the wall, helping people to control the meeting time correctly. haha! So there will be no overtime meeting.

  5. Hanging a clock just gives some hint, and has influence of people’s behavior, but never guaranteed.

  6. with the clock, everyone in the room has to ensure the meeting is productive and has benefit. Not just “meet” and “think” later… :-)

  7. clock in meeting room. really a good idea. but about the Conference Room Booking System, it could be used within big office with complex organization

  8. install dimmers and other methods to control brightness.

  9. I like especially the idea with the clock

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