Chris Cerrato is President of Little Rock, Arkansas-based Evo Business Environments, a design firm that helps businesses develop office space planning for efficiency. He's a firm believer that "your company's environment communicates a message, whether intended or not. It can validate a customer or prospect's perception of your business, impact employee commitment, mold corporate culture and define brand identity." He spoke with us recently about how he helps companies design better work environments to engage employees and boost productivity.

Q: Why does a workspace's design matter for a business?

Cerrato: "Some of the most obvious answers are about workflow and the efficient use of your real estate. But the higher-level answer centers on the culture the space helps to create in the minds of your employees and customers. Even if you're not a design expert, you can walk into a space and have a feel for whether this is a good environment or a bad one.

"A well-designed workspace gives employees the impression that 'wow, my boss cares about what her employees think, how comfortable they are, and is invested in us being happy.' Employees are more productive."

Q: What's the potential "cost" of having a badly designed workspace?

Cerrato: "If you think about most businesses — certainly for my business — the biggest costs are people and real estate, with people being the larger cost. Think about all the costs of recruiting and keeping good people, and consider the value of workers who feel so proud of working for a business that they ask their friends and people they know to work there too. I can't think of a better thing to invest in than what your space looks like and how it makes your people feel."

Q: How do you work with clients to find a design solution that works for their specific needs?

Cerrato: "We don't just hand someone a catalog and ask them what they want to buy from us. We talk with clients about their workflow, what departments need to be next to each other and other efficiencies. Then we drill down into office layouts. The design depends on your needs, your budget and your tastes. Do you want it contemporary, traditional or something else?"

Q: What are some other workspace trends you're seeing?

Cerrato: "In addition to more open spaces for collaboration, we're needing to create smaller meeting spaces to support privacy. Maybe you need to have a small meeting or speak with your doctor, and these smaller spaces support that. Another trend is height-adjustable workstations. The whole desk comes up and people can work at a standing position and then drop it down for sitting. Standing up can get the blood flowing and help productivity."

What's clear after talking with Chris Cerrato is that workspace design matters, not just in terms of how you operate your business, but in creating positive perceptions among employees and customers to help you grow. Office space planning for efficiency and engagement is essential for any successful business.

Tags: Productivity Efficiency Employee Engagement