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Is the Modern Office Space the Next Recruitment Tool?

Robin Reshwan

If you're over 40, you most likely equate a closed-door, corner office as a sign of professional success. However, if you entered the workforce more recently, your dream workspace probably involves a way to log in from anywhere (ideally the beach), another place to meet easily with a few co-workers and the ability to find a quiet corner to get some thinking done.

The idea of what makes a productive office has changed dramatically over the past decade. The good news is that a modern work environment can both attract your next generation of employees while increasing the efforts of your current employees. Here's what today's employers need to know.

According to John Michael, vice president and general manager at Business Interiors by Staples, "the right physical space brings together people, projects and technology." Previously, offices were designed to allow standardization among roles and levels. This equated to rows of closed door offices for executives and cubicles for everyone else. That standard is no longer the most productive. Michael says that given today's "work anywhere, anytime pace," an employer needs to provide a setting to meet different kinds of work and work styles. An ideal office should offer areas for both project collaboration and quiet thinking with a flexibility to address the varied tasks required within every position.

Does your office cater to collaboration, focus and innovation? Newer concepts, such as environmental stewardship, wellness spaces and ease of use of technology, have an impact on workplace productivity and the relative desirability of your business to prospective and current employees. It comes as no surprise that leading global enterprises and cutting-edge technology firms quickly adopt forward-thinking advancements to their physical environments, but how can small- to mid-sized businesses apply these ideas?

First, think of incorporating mobile collaboration settings and tools. For example, you can add several desks that allow employees and visitors to plug in and get to work. Other ideas include setting up a quiet area that facilitates web conferences and insuring your employees have access to natural light and charging stations. Finally, purchase some mobile storage lockers or rolling (and locking) file cabinets. This can be a great way to bridge an age-old need to store certain printed information with a contemporary desire to change seating locations based on projects or just plain changing preferences. (Consider Milton from "Office Space.")

Second, keep an eye toward physical wellness and insurance issues. Modern office setups must factor in the basic principles to maintain safe working habits. To achieve ideal ergonomic setup, consider intensity and time spent on tasks when setting up spaces. Often, your older furniture may not be up to current standards for supporting the needs brought about by laptops and cellphones. New furniture can have a high return on investment if it encourages proper posture, positioning and movement in the workspace.

Finally, if you're worried about a hodge-podge-looking office, consider bringing in an expert. Interior designers, often accessible via your office furniture store, can assist you in pulling multiple "looks" together. Staples, for example, has designers on staff to assist with coordination. These professionals look at finishes, size, scale and overall functionality. Costs may range from $50 to $125 per hour for a designer, which may be well worth it to complete a refreshing and functional face-lift for your space.

There are many benefits that result from a workplace face-lift. At its best, an office update can leverage today's mobile technology employed by nimble workers and foster more intense productivity while minimizing ergonomic issues. But even if you just take on a few modernizing projects, it is highly likely your firm will reap big returns for the investment. Conveying commitment to creating an ideal physical space for your team can increase retention of current staff, impress customers and aid in hiring new employees. As the job market continues to strengthen and competition rises for the best employees, use your environment to set your business apart. It is a perk that your staff, your clients and you can enjoy.

Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.

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