If your company is relocating or you're remodelling your premises, I urge you to get input from the people who'll be working in it, not just the boss, the architect or the interior designer! Nearly every week I hear stories about offices designed with a primary focus on what looks good, not what encourages real efficiency. Maybe there's something missing in the curriculum for architects and designers?

Far too often the people who will work in the new space are only consulted after all the design elements are finalised, if they're lucky. More often they're presented with a fait accompli often it's only a choice as to where their desk will face, sometimes not even that (especially in big offices). And then, within days of moving, complaints start to surface about inefficiencies.

I might be wrong, but it seems few get advice from building efficiency consultants who specialise in helping companies use their office space effectively. They can save you many thousands of dollars and costly mistakes.

Here's a small selection of stories I was told last week by frustrated workers (in different locations around New Zealand.)


One organisation has just moved most of their staff from all over town into one lovely new building. They reckon having them all in one building will be more efficient. They will certainly spend less time walking between buildings but as to efficiency, I'm not so sure.

The organisation is mostly open plan, which if they had plenty of quiet rooms, might still be okay. However, space is already at a premium and they haven't yet got everyone moved into the new building. This is already putting a lot more pressure on quiet rooms and the workers already there report people running around with clip boards, counting heads, trying to work out how they can squeeze in 50+ more people into spaces already quite tightly packed with humanity. Heard of battery hens, anyone? (If you read my article 2 weeks ago you'll know what I, and almost all of the 34 readers who took the time to respond, think about most open plan situations.)

Of course we can make do with whatever the environment allows I've done it myself more than once. And we can work very effectively (with one proviso which I'll talk about in another article) in very small spaces. Problems arise, however, when we have to constantly share with other people in small spaces. Why? Because we all have different space needs and work styles, let alone different roles.

Then there's the new building designed to meet the coveted 5-star 'green' rating. I'm a big supporter of energy efficiency but did anyone stop to consider worker efficiency and eye strain factors. At least some of the staff can't see to do their work with the lower wattage light bulbs that meet the coveted 5-star standard. Guess what people are doing ?(If they can reach the light-bulbs!)

While we're on lighting, you might like to do some research into the impact of working under fluorescent lighting all day long. Many people get eye-strain, others report headaches, and there are many other potential issues reported. And if a light is flickering because it's due for replacement, some people will get really sick, often with dreadful migraines.

And one last one for today. Avery attractive-looking building with a lot of glass is impossible to work in if you're seated anywhere near the windows. People couldn't see their screens. At first they put up cardboard near their desks. That didn't look too good! The firm then installed blinds. Now the workers have to put their lights on to see, can't tell what the weather is doing, feel like they're in a box.

I'm sure all the organisations involved in these stories were trying hard to create beautiful efficient buildings. But in these cases they've missed the most useful planning resource their staff and it would have cost them virtually nothing to get the input!

Reader giveaway: We have 2 double passes (worth $190.00 each) to give away to each of Robyn's next Breakfast Clubs Wellington 30th November; Christchurch 7th December, Auckland February 1st; Tauranga February 22nd.


To be in to win, email your entry now to jill@gettingagrip.com with Breakfast (NZ Herald Online) in the subject line. Entries close by 5pm Friday 23rd November for Wellington, Friday 30th for Christchurch. For those who miss out, tickets and more details at: gettingagrip.com/breakfastclub/.