The Modern Guide to Your Startup Workplace

Our vision of what an “office” looks like has changed over the decades, from the smoky, burbon-filled Mad Men offices of the 60s to the soul-sucking, flickering-lightbulb workplace of Office Space. But some classic elements of office work are still sticking around: The nine-to-five. The stale coffee. The watercooler gossip.

When you’re trying to establish your own office, or when you’re trying to figure out which one to join yourself, you don’t want to stick with the same old coffee pot. Sure, workplace automation is on the horizon, and remote workers are so popular that I even already wrote them their own guide, but as long as people have human coworkers, they’ll enjoy meeting face-to-face to hash out their work.

Which means you need to know what’s essential to a modern startup workplace. Here’s the list of elements to keep in mind as you get your own workplace off the ground.

The Architecture

The physical space that employees work within can shape their moods or attention spans. Pick a closed-off cubical, and you may promote anti-social behavior. Here are the top three concerns, each linking to an article with more details.

For more info, check out a recent interview I ran with workplace design expert Jonathan Webb, who spoke on why college campuses are a great model for modern office spaces, and how the rise of remote workers factors into your office plans.

The Apps

The modern startup workplace needs apps. Their best use is in getting everyone on the same page as quickly as possible, a goal integral to any workplace and a huge boost to efficiency and the company’s bottom line if done right. For that goal, check out one list of the top efficiency apps here, as well as the classic trio of coworker-wrangling apps: Slack, Basecamp, and Asana.

You’ll also want to offer a way for individuals to work faster at simple tasks. Take a quick look at the selection below, pulled from a larger article covering 17 general productivity apps.

Scanbot — quickly scan documents and keep them together

Dropbox and Google Drive — create and upload files, share them easily.

Newton — collect all your email accounts into one spot and handle them in the most productive way: At once. — this online meeting tool helps with the worst work problem: Lengthy meetings.

Doodle — and when you’re planning out those meetings beforehand, just use this app to make sure everyone gets on the same page as quickly as possible.

Need more? Other ways to streamline a workplace include IFTTT and Buffer. For anything more important, look into cloud infrastructure.

The Stress

Stress management is a big part of the modern office: According to recent research from Insurance Quotes, 50 percent or more workers cite stress as the worst part of their job. And no, your meditation apps aren’t helping. Here are the top tips for beating stress in the modern startup workplace.

  • Take a breath — have a minute? Breathe slowly in, hold it, and then breathe slowly out
  • Walk outside — a change in environment can clear your mind
  • Cut out the drama — establish a personal space at work if dramatic coworkers are bringing you down
  • Get offline — cut out the email and internet access for a designated chunk of time each day
  • Go be a kid — get in touch with your inner kid by swinging on a swing set. Experts say it helps!

Human Resources

One general tip for a 2017 startup workplace hoping to move into the future gracefully? Rethink your HR department, no matter how well it seems to be working now. The advice comes from Carl Fritjofsson of Creandum, who recently covered the ways that workplaces are adapting to the future.

“HR will become more data-driven in its process and decision making. Advanced analytics will help predict future talent demands as well as measure and anticipate retention, burn-out, performance issues, etc. Automation of this will be essential and the field of HR analytics will go mainstream. Talent management made purely on subjective instinct will be long forgotten and no more human bias in the decision making,” Fritjofsson notes.


That wasn’t all Fritjofsson had to say: He also spoke on how quickly talent moves on to the next company nowadays. While office perks like a pool table or a beer fridge are great, the most important factor can’t be added on. An employee must simply enjoy getting up in the morning to go in to their job. Instead of frivolous perks, focus your company’s energy on the details that will retain the employees who already want to stay while helping the others figure out how best to leave. Here’s what to consider for your own startup workplace.

  • Redefine compensation services
  • Marketplaces and digital channels to find contingency talent, across blue and white collar jobs
  • Tools for more efficient talent on- and offboarding
  • Products to facilitate dynamic collaboration within fluid team structures

Health and Environmentalism

And speaking of workplaces that make their employees want to get up in the morning, going green is an increasingly important value. Paperless workplaces are a great way to start, as its the easiest way to care about your environment: Just switch to e-invoices, digital signatures, and PDFs galore. You’ll shore up a few security concerns in the process.

Personal health is another important value: As a Brookings Institute study has found, regular exercise at work “helps increase employees’ happiness and overall productivity in the workplace.” Promote fitness at your startup workplace by offering gym membership discounts, rethinking that whole standing desk thing, adding extra breaks from work, and maybe even coming up with team-building exercises that are literally exercises.

Security Concerns

Cyber security is a huge concern for any startup workplace that’s been keeping in touch with the latest tech news. And over 90 percent of data breaches can be traced to employee negligence. Keeping a tight security protocol in order is a must.

Here’s a quick look at what to focus on — click through to this article for a deeper explanation.

  • Focus on USB Flash Drive Security
  • Don’t Install Unnecessary Software
  • Use Password Safety Measures
  • Create Backups
  • Know What Phishing Attempts Look Like


Above all, stay authentic: Communicate clearly to your employees, trust them to answer intelligently, and learn from those who may have different backgrounds and experiences than you do. Don’t forget the soft skills: teamwork, problem-solving attitudes, and open-mindedness might not show up on a resume, but they’re essential to a properly functioning startup workplace — whether it’s modern or not.


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Written by:
Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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