Office Design — What Works & What Doesn’t

Karl Dusenbery
2 min readOct 17, 2019

What Works

Communal eating areas with long tables to encourage impromptu discussion and the meeting of new people

Tables placed near the coffee and with high chairs encourage employees to get up and walk around, coffee for energy.
Notice how the tables are near windows to boost happiness. The microwaves, coffee machines, and snacks are easily viewable in the back so that employees sitting down can see who is coming and going and say “hello.”
Example of this being done on a larger scale.
(photo taken before breakfast service started).

Comfortable communal lounge spaces keep employees happy by letting them get away from their desks, encourage collaboration, and increases the chances to meet new people

Notice how some employees are talking to each other about work (I was there, it was work-related) because they ran into each other here. Some other employees find solace and comfort sitting alone next to the window, while not feeling lonely because they can see who is coming and going and maybe say “hi.”
Coffee shop-like atmosphere is relaxing to create comfort during any season, rain or sunny. Also gives some people the ability to relax alone away from a desk.

Non-Distracting areas for ultimate focus

Notice the walled-off chair that allows the employee to sit alone, look at the screen, and not be distracted with things around them.

Outdoor areas protected from weather

Notice how it’s placed in the inner courtyard of the building to block the wind, umbrellas for the sun and rain. You can also see the other employees in the windows working. This allowed me to notice that my co-worker was on on the other floor, so I went over to say “hello.”

What Doesn’t Work

Tables with limited seating capacity

Notice how this was designed to have 2 people meet and discuss work together, but instead it ends up being taken up by one person. The 2 people that want to meet and discuss work together end up not wanting to sit down next to the 1 person as to not bother him with their talking.
Notice the two tables designed for 2~6 employees to sit together, but as soon as 1 person sits there the small group of 3~6 employees don’t want to sit there any more. Also, I noticed how some employees would try to get there early to “claim” the table for the entire day by placing their stuff there.
An example of a lounge area that looks nice, but being an “epic fail” because all the chairs are uncomfortable and the tables are not private enough because many people can walk behind you and maybe bump into you. The tables in the middle also have no power outlets to plug laptop power cables into and are a little too small.

Areas that depend on the weather

Nobody can sit outside here for very long because in San Francisco it was too cold often, and in somewhere warmer like in Asia, it would be too hot & humid. It can only really be used for parties.
Tables and chairs on a rooftop. When it rains, the chairs get dirty and have to be tilted up to dry. The wind was too strong to bear at times too. It ended up just becoming a place to take phone calls or take a nice photo when your friends and family visited.