Best Practices in Office Design

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We're going to take a look at best practices in designing your virtual office. We'll consider how to use different areas and what objects might be best to place within them. By the end of this article, you'll understand more about the power of Gather for remote teams and what plans you'll make for your staff to thrive in your virtual office. 

Throughout the article are screenshots of the Office Complex template, though the advice and design of the Space can be applied to any office layout. The end of the article includes a list of helpful KnowledgeBase articles if you'd like more in-depth instructions on how to implement any of the suggestions.

Overall Best Practices

The following is a brief list of best practices to consider as you customize your office.

  • Overemphasize the obvious - Not everyone is tech-savvy or a mind reader.
    • Make it obvious where you can and can't walk (doors, walls, floors).
    • Make it obvious when you can and can't interact with an object.
    • Make it obvious when you're entering a Private Area.
  • Provide a variety of areas that encourage different types of interaction.
  • Visually and spatially encourage smaller group gatherings using tables, chairs, walls, carpets.
  • Be aware of the audio/video connection radius when creating individual work stations and meeting spaces. 
    • You can connect with and communicate with someone who is roughly 5 tiles away from you in any direction.
    • Audio and video is most clear when you are 2 or less tiles away from another person. A/V gradually fades so that at a distance of 6 tiles, you are no longer connected.

A zoomed out view of the fancy office template with decorated desk areas and themed conference rooms.A bird's eye view of the Office Complex template, which includes a welcome area, desks, multiple co-working and conference areas, a break room, and a lunch room (lunch room not pictured in Mini Map).

Planning Common Areas

Lobby

Just like a physical office, each day in a remote office can start by walking through the front door. Creating a welcome area in your office provides a space for staff to begin each day, as well as a spot for guests to meet in your online office. A lobby typically includes a front desk or kiosk for greeting guests, as well as formal and informal seating for staff and clients to talk. 

A view of the lobby in the Office Complex template. Riley, the Gather character, is standing in front of an L-shaped desk. Sam is behind the desk. The room has five seating areas: two with antique parlor chairs, two with mod chairs, and one with a long table and antique chairs. There are plants around the edges of the office. There is also a coffee pot with mugs on a table, a flatscreen tv, a bulletin board, and a calendar as decoration.Use a Welcome Area for staff to enter the office each day. It's also a great place to meet guests and clients. 

Lobby Tips

  • Consider whether you need a separate lobby area or just a front desk. This depends in part on how many guests you anticipate visiting your office at one time.
  • Use Spawn tiles to control where people enter the map when they visit your office's URL. By default, most of our templates have Spawn tiles at the entryway into the office, like a lobby or front door.
  • Use familiar lobby furniture and decor. Some of the objects pictured in the lobby above include: the reception desk (bar), plants (bird of paradise and banana leaf), bulletin board, calendar, flatscreen tv, coffee pot and mugs, antique parlor chairs, mod chairs, and rugs (3x3 and 4x5).
    • Make the flatscreen an interactive object and add a slideshow or YouTube video about your company, product, or services.
  • Make a few Private Areas in the lobby so that staff can meet visitors and have private conversations as needed.
  • (Beta: Coming Soon!) Use a password-protected door to prevent guests from entering your office on their own.

Desks

Desks are the perfect spot for staff to create their own personal spaces. They're great for getting some head's down work done, but also for replicating natural interactions in a physical office. If want to say hi or ask someone a quick question, you can Wave or use the Emotes in the Bottom Action Bar. You can also stop by to leave a note on their desk if they're out. 

Riley stands in the center of a group of desks, all of which have custom rugs, lamps, and decorationsEncourage staff to customize their desks and organize seating by teams. Walking to and from your desk creates natural interactions, like Waving  or stopping by to chat.

Desk Tips

  • Set up the desks in rows or in quads and/or organize desks by teams. 
    • Use custom text or specific colors and patterns of rugs to indicate different teams. 
  • Show staff how to decorate their desks
  • Use Private tiles in each desk area so that staff can only see and talk with the person at their desk without disturbing others seated nearby.
  • Make sure you indicate the Private areas for desks are flagged as Desk areas. 
  • Encourage employees to leave Gather open in their browser as they work so that people can stop by for quick questions—just like in physical offices!

Co-Working and Meeting Spaces

One of the best features of using Gather is the opportunity to effortlessly collaborate. Instead of scheduling a video conference call or rounding everyone up in one channel, you can head to a co-working spot in your Space. Our office templates include formal and informal meeting spaces, and you can always add rooms if you want more variety. 

Riley stands in the cyberpunk themed meeting room, which is between a nautical themed and jungle themed meeting roomsUse formal or informal co-working areas for staff to collaborate. Include interactive objects like a whiteboard for brainstorming.

All-Hands Room

If you have regular all-staff meetings, you may need a spot to accommodate all your staff with a special focus on the facilitator(s). The Office Complex doesn't have an all-hands room by default, so we added one for this article by creating a door and adding a new room in the Mapmaker. 

Riley stands in the middle of the all hands room, which has multiple seating areas and two spotlighted podiumsAdd an all-hands room for staff meetings. Use smaller Private Areas within the room so Gather can be most efficient in streaming audio and video.

Co-Working Tips

  • Use Spotlight tiles in larger meeting areas so that facilitators can easily share their audio, video, and screen with everyone in that area.
  • For larger meetings, create several private areas for staff to sit together within the room. They can chat to those nearby, and it's easier to connect to the streams of people in a private area instead of the streams of everyone in the room. This also reduces the load on individual computers, improving performance.
    • Encourage a Q&A session with Spotlight tiles for employees to easily ask questions during meetings. 
    • Encourage the use of sending chat messages to Current Room so staff can comment in real-time about meeting topics.
  • Add interactive objects that encourage collaboration:
    • Whiteboard: Brainstorm together using collaborative whiteboards powered by tryeraser.com.
    • Projector screen or TV: Embed media such as pictures, slides, videos, or embeddable websites.
  • Add a door that can be open or closed to indicate "Do not disturb" for that conference room.

Break Rooms

Another key feature in Gather are social areas. Our office templates include at least one break room to encourage staff to engage in "water cooler" chats and casual conversation. The larger office templates include several social areas, and you can always add more in the Mapmaker, like a speakeasy, rooftop lounge, diner, or game room. Below is the coffee shop break room in the Office Complex template. 

Riley stands in the center of the coffee break room, which has a bar and a pastry counter and several carpeted seating areas.

Break Room Tips

  • Add a few of our integrated games to your break room(s), like Draw Battle or One Night Werewolf. 
  • Use the TVs or projector screens to embed popular or relaxing livestream videos, like a 24-hour kitten cam.
  • Make the area visually inviting and engaging with plenty of room to wander or to sit alone or with a group. This is a break from working and should be a time to relax and have conversations. 

Resources

Need some help applying these tips to your Space? Check out the following related articles:

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