A heuristic approach means allowing people to learn or discover things for themselves. As such, heuristic-based workplace design is about enabling staff to learn on the job and come up with new ideas themselves. This is why leading tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google spend billions on their headquarters and call them “campuses”; they’re spaces for study and play that workers often don’t want to leave. The modern heuristic office should be designed to encourage creativity and facilitate learning and innovation around the clock. Here are 8 ways to do just that …
1. Art That Inspires
Art is a great way to inspire creativity at work. Having good artwork on the walls can change the way staff look at the world and inspire them. So can videos playing on flatscreens, or a good Spotify playlist. It’s also productive to encourage staff to work on their own art and design projects. And in order to do so they’ll need…
2. Creative Spaces
Facebook employs lots of engineers that like to build things with their hands as well as with code, so their campus features a complete woodworking shop for staff to play around in. They also have an art studio and a print shop, and even a music studio and rehearsal spaces. Furthermore, their offices are full of art made by their own employees.
It’s useful also to offer free classes and workshops for employees to learn new skills. Facebook holds regular hackathons, and Google encourages its staff to spend a day a week working on their own passion projects, some of which are developed into new features and products.
Having a library at work really helps with finding new ideas and approaches, and having the latest technology and software helps to inspire as well. All of these things help transform a workplace into a creative space of ideas and imagination.
3. Spaces for Play
Sometimes people just want to play around. Many offices now have ping pong tables. Facebook has its own video games arcade. Google has a bowling alley and a sandy beach volleyball court. Google also has a slide; as does Prada, though theirs is made by artist Carsten Holler. But having a working slide in the office is about more than just play; it’s about inspiring joy and creativity.
4. Wellness Spaces
Apple is just one of many companies that has its own fitness centre to help employees keep fit and let off some steam. Working out, or playing some sport, or just going for a jog, are all great ways to clear one’s mind and get the ideas flowing.
5. Calm Spaces
Recently there’s been a trend of making part of the office into a calm sanctuary: a relaxing, distraction-free environment in which to unwind, clear your mind and refresh. It’s all in keeping with a growing emphasis on wellbeing and mindfulness, which has led to many workplaces now offering meditation classes for staff.
We’ve written more about this idea of a serene sanctuary in a previous blog.
6. Natural Spaces
Office plants have a beneficial effect on our moods, but some companies like to go further. When he first started dreaming of his new Apple Park headquarters, Steve Jobs decided he wanted it to look like a nature reserve. Good views are important, so all of the walls are made out of glass to encourage, quite literally, blue-sky thinking.
Looking out from the ring-shaped building, employees see rolling Californian countryside. Looking in, they see a 30-acre park featuring a pond, fruit trees and winding paths designed to conjure up the feel of a Californian fruit orchards. So whenever they’re short of inspiration, they can go for a walk in their very own garden and take in some fresh air.
Likewise, Google has its own organic gardens, where many of the vegetables served in its onsite restaurants are grown. Speaking of which …
7. Food for Thought
Eating well is another great way to stay healthy and stimulate the mind. On the Google Campus, meals are free, staff are offered group cooking classes, coffee-tasting sessions and more, and there are well stocked micro-kitchens for when you’d like to make a snack of your own. At Facebook, all the food is homemade; even the bread is baked onsite.
And while you may not want to open a bakery in your office, a free bowl of communal fruit helps encourage healthy eating and sharing. The places where we eat are the places where we mingle. Which brings us neatly onto …
8. Collaborative Spaces
The best open-plan offices have spaces designed to encourage chance meetings, conversations and friendships between employees from different teams and departments; kitchens, water coolers, breakout areas and more. These kinds of places are where the cross-pollination of ideas happens and collaboration begins—and they’re often the most important and effective heuristic spaces of all.