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Care about customers? Start at YOUR place!


Several years ago Dev Patniak, a friend and client, wrote a book called Wired to Care. Dev’s thesis is that companies who have a culture of empathy for customers, suppliers and staff are wildly successful. He chronicles the successes and failures of over a dozen companies in businesses ranging from coffee to airline travel. What sets these organizations apart is that they care about the needs of people — whether the person is a customer using their products, or one of their own employees designing, making, selling or servicing the product.

This simple insight may seem obvious but it’s surprising how many companies talk about having great customer service, for example, but their phones are staffed by unhappy employees who work in cramped, antiquated environments. Not only do these spaces fail to attract world-class talent, the dissatisfaction of everyone who does work there seeps into everything they do.

According to a recent report published by Net Impact, a good working environment is not negotiable, it is expected. More than 1,700 college students and working professionals from all generations were surveyed. Surprisingly, 58% percent of the students said they would take a 15% pay cut to work for an organization “whose values are like my own.” These values include flexible schedules, social responsibility, ongoing learning opportunities, AND a vibrant comfortable workplace.

There are many ways an office space can embody your company’s values, especially with regard to employee well-being, but here are my personal top 3:

Let there be light:

All living things crave light; It’s nature’s law, not mine. In my 30-year career in A&D, lack of access to daylight was the #2 complaint from workers about their workspace (poor air quality/temperature was #1). Lowering panels at workstations is one strategy to increase daylight. Utilizing the space under desks for storage can eliminate the need for overhead cabinets that create barriers to windows. Private offices are continuing to disappear but those that remain should use glass fronts and be located off the exterior wall if possible.

Let there be peace:

Collaborative work can be noisy but workers also need places to focus. Some would argue that lowering panels between workspaces is noisier but my experience is that spaces with low dividers are actually quieter than the high cubicles that dominated past decades. The reason is that when I can see my neighbors I’ll know if my behavior is disturbing them. The simple answer is not to build taller but rather to build smarter. This means separating quiet spaces from noisy ones and providing lots of places for people to get away from the fray if they need to concentrate on tasks.

Let freedom reign:

Employees want meaningful choices, period. This includes not only where and when to work but how to work. Most existing workspaces are based on rigid standards comprised of components that are difficult to move. The ability to tailor a workspace to accommodate personal preferences may be difficult to manage but it is highly valued. Using storage that is lighter scale and work surfaces that can be easily moved or reconfigured provide a greater sense of individual ownership and increased efficiency.

Improving your office space can have a dramatic effect not only on employee satisfaction but on customer satisfaction as well. If you don’t believe me, read Dev’s book and start implementing your plan for widespread corporate empathy right in your own backyard.

| By Michael Fazio

One Response to “Care about customers? Start at YOUR place!”

  1. Hey Inscape! I really like your idea about using the space under your desk, as opposed to overhead storage. What are some storage products you can suggest?

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“A mega-trend is sharing instead of ownership of workspaces. We can either all ride in coach or we can share a private jet.”

Chris Blackadder
Principal, Woods Bagot