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Intended use of all workspaces spaces is clear

This recommendation contributes to improvements in Space Planning

Ease of physical access is pretty much “step one” to being included within an organization. You can’t be included if you cannot access or readily navigate the space. Of course, this functional issue has been addressed by the ADA.

Legibility is another form of access within a workplace. Illegible space can be experienced in several ways, such as a complex floor plan layout with poor visual access that causes stress and confusion when attempting to navigate and access resources, or spaces that do not clearly communicate their intended use – at least not to you. Our research has shown that poor legibility is linked to diminished feelings of inclusion within an organization.

 Thus, if you are an office worker who is not a part of the professional and socio-economic class that typically creates office space, the space design may not be speaking to you. The first person in a family to graduate college with no professional role model, the returning veteran trying to navigate the ambiguity of roles in a business organization, the Black person not seeing others like themselves at the office. Of course, you can still use the spaces, watching carefully for clues on how people are using a space that you do not really understand, so that you fit in and don’t make any “mistakes” in behavior or use of the space.

Thus, legible space can play a role along with other inclusion programs in making everyone at work feel included. The idea is to provide everyone equal access to resources within the organization. These resources can be people, mentors, social and professional networks, specialized spaces, technology and tools. Spaces and areas that everyone feels comfortable using because the design communicates intended use, are a critical aspect especially as the “office” environment overall becomes more complex to understand as hybrid work models emerge.


Design configuration and arrangement of furnishings to reflect or communicate the behaviors and norms and activities the space is intended to support. 


Try not to overly rely on signage to explain the intended use of spaces. Technology (such as room reservation systems) could be used to help explain the norms and activities for a given space (beyond simply stating the number of occupants).


Especially for relatively newer group space types (blended cafe/work/meeting areas) employees should be able to clearly recognize the intended use of different areas within these types of spaces.

Read more

If you want to learn more, we suggest the following resources:

Diane Hoskins. A Workplace Designed for the Innovation Economy. Gensler. 2016. 

De-Stress the work experience with a new language for office design. M. O’Neill, 2021.

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