What Is The Best Way To Design An Office For Your IT Team?

What should your team's office look like?
What should your team’s office look like?

Image Credit: Andy Davies

So here’s something that most IT managers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about because we don’t have any IT manager training in doing it; however, perhaps we should. The offices that our IT teams are working in. Generally speaking, the company that we work for has either purchased or leased an office space, our team is assigned to this space, and we move in and that’s it. However, if you take just a moment to think about it, the environment that we all work in is actually very important to just how productive your team is going to be. Is there something that you can do about this?

My Experiences With Offices

I can tell you from my own personal experience that the office space that I work in affects how much work I am able to complete. In my first job, the office was layed out in what has come to be viewed as the “classical” office fashion. The office was made up of rows that were separated by high office partitions. Each row had enough room for fourteen desks to be arranged from front to back with an aisle that extended along the row in between the two lines of desks. This meant that I had no privacy and I spent my day looking at the back of the head of the person who sat in front of me. Phone calls and anything else that was going on in my aisle were an ongoing distraction.

Things got a bit better when I moved on and finally got my first cube. I was in a cube with three walls that then opened up to a hallway. The person sitting across from me had the same arrangement and so anything that went on in his cube was potentially a distraction to me. The higher walls in this cube did a good job of filtering out the distractions of what was going on around me, but loud conversations could still start in another cube and end up distracting me.

One of the last office environments that I was in consisted of a very expensive “open office” arrangement. This meant that everyone had their own “cube”, but it had effectively no walls. It had a low partition that ran around it simply to define your space, but you could see clear across the room and you could hear a phone conversation a long way away. Earphone or earplugs were a requirement in this office setup. Visual distractions were everywhere because you could see anything that was happening on the floor.

Office Design Considerations

So what should IT managers be thinking about when they use their IT manager skills to start to consider what office layout would work best for their IT team? One of the first things that they need to realize is that efficiency is not everything! If you leave it up to the company to design the layout of the office that your team uses, the focus will be on productivity – how can things be arranged so that people can get the most work done? The problem with these layouts is that generally the team members hate them. They feel that they’ve been reduced to numbers and they don’t like the utilitarian environment that these layouts create.

Right now the concept of an “open layout” is hot stuff in the world of office design. The motivation for using this type of design is to promote more collaboration. However, what happens is that any sense of privacy that a team member may have had is taken away. Surveys of workers in open layouts have revealed that they sorely miss their sound and visual privacy. What this means for you is that you need to make sure that if you adopt this type of design you allow your team members to retain some form of privacy.

So what should a team’s workplace look like? It really has a lot to do with what your goals as an IT manager are. What you want your team members to do is to walk more and be more active during the typical work day. If it is at all possible you want to incorporate more plants and natural lighting into the office to create an inviting environment. Ultimately, you want to provide your team with a bright varied setting that consists of different materials and different textures that will help them to focus on their work and get more done.

What All Of This Means For You

As an IT manager, you may spend a lot of time working about the details of what it takes to mange your team: staffing, project management, IT team building, and coaching. However, there may be bigger issues that you should be dealing with also. The office space that you are expecting your team to work in may be a key factor in how productive they are.

During my career I have experienced a number of different work environments that all had their pluses and minuses. In today’s office designs you need to makes sure that the office space is not designed just for efficiency. Your team members will recognize and reject this approach. Open layouts are quite popular now. However, an open layout takes a team member’s privacy away and so you need to make sure there is a way to restore it if you adopt this approach. In the end, providing a bright environment that requires walking and action is the key to having a happy and productive team.

If you can improve your team’s work environment, then you’ll end up making your team happier. A happy team is one that other workers will want to join and so this could solve some of your staffing challenges. Take the time to understand what office layout will work best with your team and then go out and make it happen!!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: In an open office design, what would be the best way to provide your workers with some form of privacy?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it: your life can easily get out of balance. Look, you are a complicated person who has a lot of different responsibilities that you need to meet all at the same time. Yes, you are an IT manager with IT manager skills and that is probably a big part of your life, but you may also be a husband / wife / boyfriend / girlfriend / parent / etc., you may belong to a church / Boy Scout troop / civic organization / etc. Oh, and their there’s the issue of keeping your weight down and your abs up. Just exactly how are we to go about doing all of this?

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