Office Makeover Missteps, and How to Avoid Them

At some point, you may be asked to take the lead on redesigning or reconfiguring the office. Learn what pitfalls to look out for to help ensure the best results.

If you’re tasked with redesigning or reconfiguring the office, you might welcome the chance to show off your creativity. Your efforts could also have a big impact on your co-workers: In the 2017 Staples Workplace Survey, more than 1 in 5 employees said they would take a 10 percent pay cut to work in a nicer environment.

Yet changing up the office can come with risks. Consider these common pitfalls so that you can steer clear of them.

Mistake #1: Not soliciting input

The best makeovers are based on changes that will improve productivity and meet the needs of as many people as possible. While you may not be able to put in new floor-to-ceiling windows or make other huge structural changes, you can make adjustments that improve traffic flow, allow for more privacy and make shared equipment easier to access. Get buy-in from a broad cross-section of your colleagues before you start reordering things.

Mistake #2: Not thinking ahead

Your plan may accommodate your current employees — but what happens when there are more of you? Talk with HR and senior management about positions that could be filled or departments that may be expanded near-term, so that you’re not having to redo your hard work a few months down the line.

Mistake #3: Chasing the latest trends

A Ping-Pong table or a wall of green plants may be great for some companies, but are they good for your team? Before you convince management of the merits of these sorts of additions, think about whether they truly make sense for your office. If they create distractions or aren’t something your colleagues would truly appreciate or use, you may be wasting time and money.

Mistake #4: Neglecting your reception area

The saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” applies to your office. Try to see your waiting area through visitors’ eyes: Are the chairs comfortable? Can people easily pass the time while they wait — for instance, with magazines or Wi-Fi? Consider whether there’s anything you could add to make the space more welcoming, such as fresh flowers, free coffee or candy.

Mistake #5: Overlooking lighting

Studies suggest that lighting influences mood and work performance, but at many companies, it’s an afterthought. There may be little you can do about the overhead fluorescents, but perhaps there’s room for improvement. Ask your colleagues for their suggestions — some might prefer a floor lamp to turning on the overheads, while others may like task lamps. Visit office design websites or check Pinterest or Instagram for photos of creative office lighting that might work well in your workplace.

Mistake #6: Skimping on storage

There may be furniture or office items that don’t fit into your new design scheme but that you don’t want to get rid of. Be sure you have a plan for where they will go. Often, things that are no longer needed get pushed aside “temporarily,” cluttering the space you’ve worked hard to tidy up. Decide in advance where you will move them — or, consider listing the items for sale.

Mistake #7: Going it alone

Just because you’re the one tasked with rearranging or redecorating doesn’t mean you have to do all the work yourself. Make the process more efficient and potentially fun by enlisting a few co-workers to help. Though they’ll be giving up their time, some people may welcome the opportunity to have creative input. Try to find a quiet time to do the work, such as the day before a long weekend or holiday.