In late 2020, during the pandemic, we designed and moved into our new office space. This is a modified version of our office design case study, found here. The case study focused on the design. This list focuses on the lessons during and after the design.


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1. There is no playbook.


The gurus and the SEO-optimized articles will have you believe that there's a way to design offices during a global pandemic. Social-distancing built into the floor plan. Expensive custom-built booths and partitions. Touch-less technology (okay this actually cool if you can afford it). They forget some buildings have elevators and narrow staircases where people are squeezed like sardines. They forget people need to sit next to each other to point at stuff they're working on. To laugh, play cards, share food.


2. Don't listen to gurus, listen to your people.


What do they want out of a space? What would take their work to the next level? Our designers asked for a model-making room. Our producers asked for a material library. We didn't ask our photographers so now we have to retrofit a photo studio. Don't make our mistake.


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3. Listen, but decide.


Listen to feedback about function. Decide when it comes to form. Our 30 team members all have different fashion sense. We can't expect them to agree on what the office should look like.


4. Design with behaviors in mind.


We put most of the workspaces on the 2nd floor and the sink on the 3rd floor. Guess where people wash their cups? The toilet on the 2nd floor. We have 8 balcony table sets. People hardly use them. Why? Because it's hot in Vietnam. Don't idealize how people will use your space. Most people will revert to the state of least resistance and highest comfort.


5. Workspace as a signal.


People pick up unspoken cues in their work environment. Design the environment to reflect the work force you want. A sloppy office will breed sloppy behaviors. An office that blatantly rips off Pinterest will give tacit permission for staff to take the easy route. Meaningless corporate communication and posters "keep calm and something something" will breed unimaginative corporate sheeps. We don't have evidence for this. We just have evidence of the contrary. We design a bespoke comfortable, clean, functional space for relaxed, professional, and productive teams.


6. The office as a public space.


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Have regular scheduled clean-ups to build camaraderie and shared ownership. But let people make the space their home. Throw parties. Host concerts (see this video >> Our Labtop #1). Bring OUTSIDE people in. Most companies treat the office as prison. The office should be rethink as a public-private space. People shouldn't give up their friends and family (and pets) when they go to the office.


7. There's never enough storage!


Enough said.


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We hope this is a useful list. If you'd like to go deeper into our office design, visit our case study here. For any other inquiries, please email team@thelabsaigon.com


To know more about The Lab and what we do, visit our Life@Lab page.