Ever wonder how the other half lives? The ABA Journal ran a piece this morning on how BigLaw firms, with massive architectural budgets, are rethinking their office spaces: glass walls, fancy cafeterias, and lounge-braries. It's high class hotel lobbies and lounges meet law offices, and for most of us, it's way, way out of the budget.
But, nestled in to the glamor shots of sinfully decadent décor were a few considerations that any firm, big or small, can weigh when picking or redesigning its office space. What can we learn from our bigger budgeted BigLaw brethren?
Light, Light, and More Natural Light
As someone who has worked in a nearly windowless law office, a windowless basement office, and a cubicle near a window, I can tell you, anecdotally, that the more sunlight there is, the less the day-to-day grind wears on you. But if you want a more scientific take, how about a study that shows that exposure to natural light in the workplace improves office workers' sleep, activity, and quality of life?
Why? Natural light triggers circadian rhythms, our internal clocks that tell us when to wake, sleep, etc. According to Psychology Today, those who weren't exposed to natural light at the office fared significantly worse in sleep (46 fewer minutes per night) and in other quality of life measures than those who had windowed offices.
If you can't up-and-move to brighter, sunnier offices, light boxes for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can provide the same type of light, and same positive effects. The Mayo Clinic has tips for buying one.
Gather Staff Input
One thing we loved was Morrison & Foerster's "lounge-brary," a combination of comfortable couches, technological amenities, and legal research materials. The inspiration for the space came from the firm's associates, who pointed out that a dedicated library space was outdated, and the existing space could be repurposed for a more casual, relaxing space for collaboration.
Maybe a lounge-brary isn't in your budget, or wouldn't help your practice. But if you have a long-term staff, gather their input on office layout -- cubicles or open space, private offices or open glass dividers, etc.
Consider The Clients
This might be the most important consideration: your clientele.
Let's say you run a family law practice with emotionally devastated clients. You'll definitely need some privacy for client meetings, so individual, closed off offices might be best. This doesn't mean you need to go old-school, with uncomfortable chairs and a big mahogany desk between you and the client -- perhaps a pair of comfy chairs and a small end table might suffice. (Think of the prototypical therapist's office.)
However, a practice focused on startups and small businesses might be better served with a more modern, open, collaborative space where clients and your own staff can throw up ideas on a whiteboard or a projector screen.
Do you have a non-traditional office layout? Share your experiences with us on Facebook.
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