From the January 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

In the seminal workplace comedy Office Space, the embittered and embattled Milton loses his tenuous grasp on workplace reality when his boss takes away his prized red Swingline stapler and insists on continually moving his cubicle. Milton, regarding the egregious and frequent resettling, says: "I don't care if they lay me off either, because . . . if he moves my desk one more time, then, then I'm, I'm quitting, I'm going to quit . . . because they've moved my desk four times. I used to be by the window, where I could see the squirrels, and they were merry."

Are you harboring any latent Miltons in your sales force? One way to foster happiness in your sales staff is to provide optimal work space for your team. A good office layout goes beyond desks and chairs-you need to consider noise/interruption control, creature comforts and lighting. By placing a premium on the aesthetic environment, you can expect to see "an immediate boost in energy, productivity and well-being-necessary factors for any sales environment and the ultimate investment in your organization's overall success," says Zhanna Drogobetsky, president of Italian Design, an interior furnishings company in Brookline, Massachusetts, that helps companies configure office space. Here are some variables to consider when designing a primo sales office configuration:

  • Open concept or cube world? Open floor plans are increasingly popular because "an open office contributes to greater employee communication and a more cooperative work environment," says Drogobetsky, who uses the open floor plan for her sales staff and believes that "when staff works in close proximity, they're able to instantly collaborate, assess a project and recommend solutions to clients' needs." But an open floor plan may not afford your reps the privacy or peace and quiet they need. One way to meld an open environment with cubicles is to design workstations with glass panels. If total visibility is required, Larry Mufson, design director for The Mufson Partnership, a New York City-based architectural firm specializing in corporate interiors, suggests 42-inch-high glass panels.

Cubicles are favored by Michael Carr, principal for World Design Studio, a Portland, Maine, interior design firm focused on corporate environments. "I recommend cubicles, maybe even shared cubicles, depending on how active the sales staff is," says Carr.

  • Proximity of the manager's office: It's essential that the sales manager's office is not tucked away in some remote corner. The classic spot for the manager's office is, Mufson says, "adjacent [to] and visible by most of the sales staff-approachable by all."

Drogobetsky agrees that an adjacent office suits most companies, adding, "In many cases, the manager works alongside the sales force in an open environment."

  • Natural light: We all need the day's brightness to thrive and to thwart depression-so keep window placement in mind when designing the work space. Mufson champions the need for natural light: "Lighting is an integral part in creating a comfortable work environment, especially when reps are staring at a screen all day." Carr concurs, and says that offices and cubicles should be close to windows to enhance performance. He adds that a company can save on energy costs by maximizing window areas, as lights can be shut off when not needed.
  • Creature comforts: Mufson encourages entrepreneurs to take into account all aspects of human interaction when designing a floor configuration, including storage requirements, adjacent washrooms and food facilities. Keep in mind air-conditioning needs and access to reference materials and conference rooms-any way to make a rep's job a bit easier.

Kimberly L. McCall (aka Marketing Angel) is president of McCall Media & Marketing Inc. and author of Sell It, Baby! Marketing Angel's 37 Down-to-Earth & Practical How-To's on Marketing, Branding & Sales.