At HumanCentric, we’ve found it beneficial to design the way we work based on the goals we want to achieve. We’ve applied this approach to many areas: our daily work location, how we manage our teams, how we choose our tools, and how we design our policies are all driven by the type of workplace we want to create and the experience we want our team members to have.

For example, we want our team members to experience as little stress as possible balancing their work responsibilities and their personal lives. This goal led us to creating our unusual PTO policy, selecting asynchronous work communication tools, elimination of set working hours (or days), disabling any “online” status indicators on the tools we use (so you can never tell who’s working), and more.

We take this same approach towards designing a workspace. Our goals are to design a workspace that will:

  • Reduce physical pain and discomfort; both immediate pain and pain that could happen later due to current habits and behaviors.
  • Maximize work output, both in the amount of work and the quality of the work.
  • Optimize communication with others through any relevant medium (in-person, audio, video)
  • Improve how I feel about my work (and my mood overall)

While these goals are different, they’re interconnected as well. If I reduce my physical discomfort, I’ll improve both the quality and quantity of my output, and I’ll likely be in a better mood. And if I improve my mood, I’ll likely increase my output. And if I increase the quality of my output, I’ll feel better about my work, improving my mood. And if I improve my mood, it will improve my communication with others. You get the point.

Generally, these four goals map to the four core elements of workspace design:

  1. Ergonomics (also referred to as Human Factors Design)
  2. Productivity
  3. Communications
  4. Aesthetics (or Visual Design)

We list them in this order because we believe that they build on one another:

(Insert visual: Triangle with ergonomics on the bottom, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.)

It makes sense: In order to be productive, we need to eliminate pain. And once we’re productive, we can focus on our communication with others and our emotional needs as well. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make your workspace beautiful if you don’t have an ergonomic task chair, but it does provide a helpful framework to prioritizing your workspace upgrades.

As mentioned before, HumanCentric is a fully-remote company with all of our employees around the globe working from home. So while much of our advice is tailored to remote workers, the same principles apply to an office environment (taking into account the balance between individual and group productivity).

Whereas office employees (at least in large companies) have experts dedicated to designing these aspects of the office (hypothetically with the employees best interests in mind), people who work from home are generally on their own to design their optimal work setup. On one hand, this can result in outcomes that are worse than any office environment (such as working on your laptop from bed). On the other hand, it opens the possibility for creating an optimal personalized workspace that would be nearly impossible in the standard office.

In future articles, we’ll be covering the main areas that map to these four core elements of workspace design:

  • Ergonomics: Proper work posture and habits, furniture selection, and technology and accessory selection.
  • Productivity: Technology and accessory selection, workspace organization
  • Communication: Room design, technology selection, interior design
  • Aesthetics: Room selection, interior design, technology selection

Starting out, creating a great workspace can be overwhelming. Remember, it’s an ongoing process, and even small improvements can make a big difference. We’ll try our best to provide actionable, helpful content that guides you along your journey. If you’ve ever renovated a bathroom or a kitchen, you know how much work and how many decisions go into creating a great room that’s both practical and beautiful.

And given the amount of time that your probably spend at your desk, we’d say it’s worth it!

September 09, 2022