Seeking to identify the most common “office design crimes” companies make when creating new office space, the Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation team spoke with Robert Benson about some of the most common mistakes he’s seen organizations make. Blue Sky published portions of the discussion in a new piece, “Office design crimes: What goes wrong when companies upgrade” that touches on mistakes related to lighting, space allocation, realistic budgeting and more.

Below are excerpts from the piece and the full article can be read online.

On branding workplaces as offices

I would call this a misdemeanor: calling it an office, just right off the bat, is problematic. I think when you hear “office,” you think of the movie “Office Space,” you think of “The Office” television show. Nobody ever says, “Hey, let’s hang out at the office,” or “I can’t wait to get in the office.”

A lot of times we will take the company name, and say, “We’re working with Echo Global Logistics right now, we’ll call it Echo architecture.” And so a lot of what we noticed, they say, “We’re going to have a beer at Echo.” Maybe it’s just a company name rather than “office.”

We use the term “workplace,” and I don’t even think that’s right, because work and life are very fluid. A lot of companies don’t care if you’re in at 8:30 a.m. and you leave at 5 if you’re answering your emails and you’re doing work. If you need to knock off in the middle of the day to deal with a doctor’s appointment or go get a manicure, nobody cares, as long as the performance is there. I think “office” is just not the right term.

On leadership commitment to the design

Clients need to commit to being present for the design. They may not understand how much time they actually have to commit to understanding the anatomy of what goes on in all the decisions that have to be made. If the client gets involved, and gets excited, then the design firms designs something that means something to that company – not just plastering their logo on it. If they understand why it’s being done, they have a different attitude in how they use it.

We really think of it as designing a culture as opposed to just designing an office or a workspace. We can’t do the whole thing, because the behavior of the leadership has a huge impact on the culture. IF you find the leadership is engaged and knows why everything was done, then the people coming in know too, because it’s part of the conversation.

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