Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Creating an Effective Small Business Workspace

Creating an Effective Small Business Workspace

One of the subtle, but still important, factors in the success of many small businesses is the design of their primary workspace. Although many small business owners and team members spend at least a chunk of their day or a week on the go, having a dedicated and well-designed workspace to return to - and to get work done easily in - can help increase productivity.

Although it is not easy (or inexpensive) to match the trendy office design popularized by tech start-ups, most companies can take simple steps to improve the comfort and effectiveness of their workspaces.

For most small businesses, the nature of what they do will be a key consideration in deciding where they do it. A solo consultant, architect or other professional who spends a decent chunk of their time at client sites may be well-served with a home office, while a growing firm will likely need a dedicated workspace.

If you are setting up a whole office, it's important to make sure the space is only used for business purposes. Tax considerations aside, having a space reserved for working helps you maintain a distinction between "office hours" and off-duty time. In addition, having to put away or take out office equipment or files as your work day begins or ends will soon become a productivity-draining pain.

Lighting Matters

One of the first, and most important, considerations in setting up a workspace is lighting. Natural sunlight has been shown to increase energy and improve creativity, so it's a good idea to place desks near windows (as long as sun glare doesn't wash out your computer screens).

Adding windows is rarely an option, but you can receive similar benefits by making sure windows are clean and aren't blocked by other furniture.

If you are using a commercial space, LED lighting will offer similar benefits to natural sunlight, while reducing the washed-out pallor and energy drain that can result from working under florescent lighting.

Reducing Sitting

With more ergonomics experts suggesting that sitting for extended periods can result in a variety of unwanted health effects, a number of clients are exploring the use of standing desks. Typing or talking on the phone in an upright position can be healthier than sitting all day, and many people say they think more effectively on their feet.

Balancing Space

A tricky workspace design balance that many small businesses are wrestling with is balancing the benefits of maintaining an open, collaborative environment, while also offering enough quiet spaces and privacy for workers to complete important tasks.

The high cubicle walls that have characterized office design for decades are largely being replaced with open floor plans that are supposed to inspire greater interaction, or with shorter dividers that help delineate team members' working areas.

If you have room, it's a good idea to include some informal meeting areas near parts of the workspace where team members are likely to congregate, such as a coffee area. An empty table and a white board, or some comfortable chairs, can provide an area for people to get together to discuss ideas informally.

You may also wish to have a couple of designated "quiet rooms," where workers can make private phone calls or bring in their laptops for some uninterrupted work time.

Taking time to study, and potentially revamp, the design of your workspace can be a worthwhile investment in improving team members' productivity and job satisfaction.

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