11 Ways Your Company's Office Space Affects Team Output

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Currently the co-founder and CFO of TheSquareFoot, Aron Susman began his career in the International Mergers & Acquisitions group at Deloitte in Houston. Most recently a Vice President with MDTech, a healthcare technology company, Aron oversaw the company's financial, accounting, and business development efforts. He graduated cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a masters degree in accounting and holds a CPA license. 

As co-founder of TheSquareFoot, a commercial real estate company that combines advanced technology with dedicated brokers, I have helped hundreds of businesses find space. Along the way, I have learned quite a bit about how entrepreneurs look for offices and what their pain points are. Many times, founders are just looking for the "best deal." That can be extremely short-sighted for many reasons.

Getting a "deal" on an office space might seem like an appealing prospect, but unless you meticulously vet the office space to make sure that your deal isn't a bust, you're probably getting what you pay for. It's true that a lot of young companies focus on staying lean when they first start out. But there's a big difference between an office that's scrappy and one that's crappy.

What some young companies don't realize is that where they may be saving cash, they're losing in human capital, time, efficiency and ultimately success. For every office, there's an inherent cost that comes above dollars. Is your office costing you in any of the following ways?
  1. It hinders communication. If you don't have a space that cultivates communication, it's almost as if you don't even have an office. Communicating via messaging, apps and email is very easy today, but there's no replacement for chatting face-to-face. An open office space enables communication, but it's not necessary. Having the right office organization is key to communication.
  2. The organization is off. Proper organization will consist of some sort of segmentation between the work area and the break section. You want to define boundaries in your office and make sure that like-minded people are close enough together that they can work towards the same goals at the same time. If you have your teams scattered, you won't all be on the same page or in the places where you're needed at the times you're needed. You want your team to be close enough together that they can talk to one another, but you should also give your employees enough personal space so that they can focus.
  3. It's too crammed. If you don't have around 100 to 200 square feet of space per person, then your workers probably don't have enough space to work effectively. People need to have a home base where they can feel comfortable enough to get their work done. Make sure your employees are comfortable and you'll have better functioning employees -- it's as simple as that.
  4. It's boring. It's no wonder that many of the best companies have setups like ping pong and foosball tables in their offices. Having a "fun" element can keep your employees focused because it gives them an outlet to channel their distractions. A game of ping pong in the middle of the day is something to look forward to and encourages employees to work harder because they have the free time. Put something in your office that can keep employees entertained when they need a break from the grind.
  5. It's distracting. While boring is bad, distracting is worse. If you do have a ping pong table in your office, make sure it's not sitting right behind your employees' desks, so close that they can't even pull their chairs out. Other distracting elements like noise, wall color and excessive decorations can drain their attention. Keep the decorations to a minimum.
  6. It's messy. An untidy work environment leads to untidy work. Keep your office clean in order to maintain respect for the workplace so that people treat work with the type of serious passion that drives success.
  7. It's inconveniently located. If you scored a great deal on an office space but it's an hour and half away from where all of your employees live, you're going to have some grumpy team members. This can happen if you rapidly change office spaces. Especially in New York City, where outer borough prices are tempting, companies must be aware that an inconvenient location can be a nightmare for your employees who commute. If you must have an inconveniently located office, you should at least compensate your team for their travels.
  8. You have annoying neighbors. Nowadays, co-working spaces are all the rage. They're a great option for dynamic, fast moving startups who need interim space. But if your neighbors are practicing their singing or dribbling basketballs, then your office is going to be a tough place to concentrate. Before you move in, find out what companies are around you and if your company jives with them. Having good neighbors can also prove to be a great networking opportunity. 
  9. There's poor lighting. Lighting is integral to the work process. You'll have trouble working if you have a hard time seeing. If you're not getting natural light from outdoor facing windows, then you should at least have enough lighting to emulate daylight. High quality lighting can also improve employee moods.
  10. The utilities are outdated. Heating and A/C are both essential to being comfortable at work. If your office does not have adequate utilities, then your employees will be miserable at work. Miserable employees do not produce high quality work. Keep your office comfortable, and don't skimp on the utilities. 
  11. You have a poor internet connection. People require fast internet connections to do their jobs. Find out what internet speed a business of your size requires and figure out what other digital requirements (phone, TV) your business has.
Trying to cut costs for your office space is a costly proposition. You need to make sure your employees are happy and comfortable in the office. It's essential that your company has the tools it needs to succeed. Cutting office costs in dollars will cost you in more than just money.