5 Law Office Design Strategies To M...


HIGHLIGHTS

 

  • Thoughtful space reduction can increase collaboration and socialization
  • Third Spaces facilitate casual interaction, collaborative meetings, and relationship building
  • Increase natural light and air quality improve workplace wellbeing and productivity
  • Designing your office to have a low environmental impact to align with employee expectations
  • Use colour psychology to strategically enhance employee positivity
  • Consider biophilic office designs that incorporate more greenery into the office


 

Did you know that millennials make up more than 22% of Canada’s total population? It’s time to face the facts–the millennials generations now significantly outnumber Baby Boomers in the workplace. 

The inevitable growth of the millennial workforce has generated some novel concerns for the modern employer that are important to address–especially when it comes to employee retention. Unlike the generations before them, millennials have different motivations and aspirations when it comes to employment. 

Millennials aren’t satisfied with the traditional “9-to-5” and often businesses that perpetuate these models of work. Instead, they place a higher value on experiences seek out careers that will provide them with a sense of meaning, self-fulfillment, opportunities for personal growth, and work-life balance. In many ways, these new motivations have important implications for the design of modern offices, as well. 

Research suggests that millennials would rather take a pay cut than have to work in an office environment that doesn’t meet their expectations. Tech companies were ahead of the curve in adapting to these changes but many traditional employers, including those in law, finance and legal sectors, are struggling to keep up. 

At Aura, we don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. The office designs that Tech companies pursue won’t necessarily work for those in Law offices. Still, there are ways that Law offices can adapt to meet the needs of the modern millennial workforce while still retaining a sense of traditional professionalism. With that, here are 5 proven law office design strategies that will help you remain competitive and maximize millennial employee retention. 

Balance

Attracting top talent requires balance–something that can be easily incorporated in a law office environment. Many firms have found that millennial age employees favour non-conventional workspaces that are accessible, open and allow for impromptu social meetings through their casual design. 

Unlike most of the millennial population, young law talents aren’t as averse to brick and mortar private office structures. In fact, these private offices may even be seen as a reward for the position. With this in mind, we can safely assume that young legal talent requires balance–not an abrupt change to all office traditions. Rather than ushering in a sweeping culture of remote lawyers, law offices and legal firms can achieve through thoughtful space reduction. Legal libraries can be digitized to create smaller, more compact office spaces to facilitate collaboration and socialization; other firms are experimenting with “we” spaces to promote a sense of community in the office, as well as investing in more open-concept law office spaces. 

The “Third Space”

The dreaded cubicle of the mid-20th-century was an invention meant to increase productivity but actually did the opposite over time. Most modern law employees now prefer what’s often called a Third Space, an open space for where employees can gather in an informal setting. These spaces are meant to provide a platform for casual interaction, collaborative meetings, and relationship building—and they’re particularly important for companies looking to boost retention. When the office is viewed by employees as a place to get together with people they enjoy, they usually end up staying for longer. The Third Space offers change of scenery for employees to liven up their routine while still enabling independent, focused work time when it’s needed. All of these features improve productivity, employee satisfaction, and engagement.

The concept of the Third Space is well-executed within the realm of law offices as a café-type setting. An interview with Doug Zucker, a leader of Gensler’s Professional Service Firm Practice Area, suggests law firm cafés emphasize informal meeting locations and a place for casual work. “Some law firms have designed their lunchroom café to be the largest meeting space in their facility able to hold ‘all hands’ meetings,” says Zucker. Every generation wears a different hat and has its own culture–millennial culture involves enjoying their workspace as part of embedding meaning in their lives. 

Ergonomics & Environment

Millennial employees appreciate ergonomic furnishings like standing desks, swivel-chairs with memory foam, and even exercise balls in place of traditional seating. 

Ergonomics may not be a recent invention, but its popularity and inclusion in modern workspaces is part and parcel to millennial inclusion in the office landscape. Aside from a comfortable chair, ergonomics also pertains to flooring materials, lighting, access to natural light, air quality, and even soundproofing. 

Poor air quality can have a negative effect on workplace productivity. In fact, researchers have found that air quality can impact efficiency and productivity on average by as much as 3-5%. The problem in office buildings is usually caused by an excess of particulate matter but this can be addressed simply by installing systems that control indoor climates.

It’s also important to consider how natural light affects the level of perceived happiness within the office. Exposure to natural light in the workplace has been known to improve sleep, vitality, and overall quality of life. In short, law offices should increase the amount of natural light in the office to promote workplace wellbeing and increase employee productivity. 

Sustainability

Generally speaking, millennials are socially conscious and care about their impact on the world around them. This trend was reflected in Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial survey which showed millennials want businesses to focus more on people and sustainability and less on profits.

There are a number of ways that businesses can poise themselves as leaders in sustainability. For one, using sustainable materials and ethical building practices can help usher in feelings of respect and admiration for an organization.

Likewise, designing your law firm to have a low environmental impact is also a surefire way to signify that you’re listening and adapting to meet the expectations of its employees. Explore the eco-friendly potential of harvesting rainwater for flushing toilets and washing hands. Consider the installation of solar panels to not only satisfy the desires of your young talent pool but to offset and reduce the costs associated with electricity. Source sustainable, and/or recycled/upcycled wood and building materials to give your space character that warms the hearts of your employees and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to them.

Colour

Interior designers know all too well the effects of colour on human psychology. Use of colour theory can be used to overhaul the visual aesthetic of your new office design strategy but also to motivate employee behaviour.

For example, a recent study by the University of Texas found that gray, beige, and white offices inspire and induce emotions of sadness and depression, specifically in women. On the other hand, men tend to feel the same with overpowering colours like orange and purple. Meanwhile, low-wavelength colours like green and blue have been shown to improve efficiency and focus and inspire overall feelings of well-being.

Yellow is known as the shade of optimism because it prompts energy and freshness from employees. It’s believed to trigger innovative ideas, therefore making yellow an ideal colour for collaborative areas, like Third Spaces, within your workspace design. Comparatively, red is a high-wavelength colour said to increase blood flow and heart rate, helping fast-paced offices meet deadlines and maintain a level of urgency.

Views of Nature

According to a study from the Human Spaces Report, employees who work in office spaces that feature views of greenery or nature report 13% higher levels of well-being and are 8% more productive. The NCBI reports a significant correlation between nature contact and stress and general health complaints in modern office spaces. As workday nature contact increased, perceived stress, health and well-being complaints decreased over time. The report suggests that incorporating nature into an office design strategy is a healthy workplace exposure and offers a “simple population-based approach to enhance workplace health promotion efforts.”

In this regard, law offices should design a biophilic office that connects to the natural environment. Incorporate more plants and green space into the office, or simply Installing more windows to showcase views of nature.


If you’re hoping to attract more millennial talent to your firm, adapt your office design strategy to embrace the ideals of sustainability, flexibility, ergonomics, and community. At Aura, our interior designers are experts at designing leading-edge law offices and legal firms that attract young talent. Get in touch if you’re ready to push the envelope with innovative new office design.