wayfinding in an office maze

Office

Why Employees Keep Getting Lost in Offices

And what companies are doing about floor plans and wayfinding.

No one likes finding their way around a new office layout. Whether it’s your first day at a new gig or you’re visiting your company’s office in another city, it’s daunting to map out your route without an office floor plan and avoid getting lost or being late. And social anxiety is at an all-time high in these scenarios. We explore some of the embarrassing and frustrating stories employees have experienced as well as what some companies are doing to help provide a guiding light with an office layout.

The 10 most embarrassing moments: when employees get lost at work

Employee Lost Without Office Floor Plan
First day on the new job! (Image via PDR Group)
  1. “Oh, I’m just doing laps.”
    “One time, I quietly asked a random colleague where to find a certain conference room on a new floor. I ended up doing an entire lap around the floor, unable to find the room I was supposedly directed to. I tried to act normal but of course made eye contact with the colleague I had asked for help from. Pretty sure they thought I was incompetent.”
  2. “Can someone let me out of here?”
    “In our old office building, there was a route to a meeting room that could take you through a weird double door vestibule between the staircase and the hallway. One day, I accidentally took the wrong stairwell and got trapped without my security badge in the antechamber. Luckily I had my cell phone so I could send an emergency alert to some friends!”
  3. “Sorry to interrupt, Ms. CEO and your important business friends.”
    “I had to ask a group of executives for directions when I was completely lost and didn’t see anyone else on the floor. They looked like they were having a very serious conversation — which probably turned into a convo about firing me.”
  4. “Play it cool, play it cool.”
    I wear my heart on my sleeve, or should I say my inner emotion on my facial expression. I couldn’t handle it when I would accidentally take the wrong route to get to a specific room in the office. Internally, I just start panicking, but externally I’m trying to play it cool. People who ran into me were like, ‘Are you okay?’ because my face probably looked contorted and confused.”
  5. “So, what meeting rooms are in the NY office?”
    “It’s always fun hosting important meetings in the office that’s 45 minutes away from our main HQ.  Not only do I not know what room to book because I have no idea what the office layout looks like or what floor they’re on, but on the day of the meeting, I don’t know how to find the room and when I get there I feel like everything’s always different from what I expected. Makes the high-pressure meeting extra stressed.”
  6. I’m past the new guy phase and still lost.”
    I’ve been at my small company for 6 months and I still have no idea where certain rooms are in our office floor plan. Did I mention we have 1 floor?”
  7. “Steve?! Is there Steve here?”
    “I was working for an international company and had to visit the office in NJ, that I’d never been to before. When I arrived I had no idea where to go. It was multiple floors filled with cubes. I just had to go to the floor I *thought* the person worked on, and wander around asking people were Steve sat. Luckily, there was only 1 Steve on that floor.”
  8. “New definition of hangry.”
    “I worked for a large financial corp, and their office is absolutely enormous. My first official day there I planned on buying lunch from their cafeteria. It never crossed my mind that I didn’t know where the cafeteria was, so I got up and left for lunch and wandered around for no less than 1 hour. The cafeteria, which I never found, was in another building and only with the kind help of strangers was I able to settle for a vending machine lunch at my desk that I had to be led back to.”
  9. “Thank you, intranet, for taking me back to the 1980s.”
    I once had to scour the company’s intranet to find office floor plans so I could find my way to an interview room in a new building.”
  10. “Didn’t realize I needed to bring breadcrumbs to find my way back.”
    “One company I worked at had all of its trainings in an off campus location.  During a 5 minute recess I made a break for the bathroom, which had adequate signage. However, the issue was finding your way back from the bathroom, with a labyrinth of hallways and dozens of conference rooms. Nothing worse than having to slink back into a room as a new employee from the front after the presentation already resumed.”

Frustrations from the desk of the guy that everyone asks for directions

Spiderman giving directions throughout the office everyday
Spidey has more important things to do. (Image via Albawaba Entertainment with credit to Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios)

On the other end, it’s not any more fun for the person that happens to sit near an entryway or exit who gives directions all day. Ask anyone in your office who is stationed in that exact scenario. They’ll tell you that giving directions should be written into their job description as it can take up almost half their day. All because there are no visible office floor plans or layouts. One friend at a 10-story building said her title should be CWO — Chief Wayfinding Officer.

Employee relationships can grow sour when the direction giver starts to get snippy since their productivity is dipping, all because no one knows where they’re going. Before you know it, they’ve hung passive aggressive handmade signs outside their workspace so people get the hint when they come up to ask their colleague for help. But what will happen once that resentment continues to brew? And what do those snarky signs look like to visitors — whether partners or clients?

5 things companies do to help show employees the way around the office space

Architectural drawings are too complicated for employees
Welcome to our company. Please find your way using this map. (Image via McAlpine House)
  1. The classic taped up office floor plan
    “My old company had taped up office floor plans in major hallways and near entry and exit ways. I always asked myself if these were legitimate, though. It looked very temporary and unofficial.”
  2. The antiquated office floor plan in a hard-to-nav intranet
    “I would say 5% of my peers knew how to dig through our intranet to find some of the helpful information buried in there. I was one of those people, but for everyone else — wayfinding through the office was up to their natural instincts. Our intranet was so hard to use, I would walk colleagues through it and then 5 minutes later they’d be like, ‘How did you find that again?’”
  3. Designer built office floor plan that only that designer can update and isn’t architecturally accurate
    “We had our graphic designer lead the charge in drawing up the new office space. It was pretty but not sure how functional. Only he could update it if we made changes, it didn’t have seat assignments, and general measurements may have been correct but I’m sure it wasn’t 100% accurate. I also felt like it took him so long to build a 3D space when he could have been working on something more directly related to his role.”
  4. The emergency exit engineering drawing
    “I can’t figure out those complicated drawings when I’m calm and curiously scouting them out. I can’t imagine what I would be like in the event of an actual emergency. Looking at these things, I honestly have no idea where the door is.”
  5. Nothing!
    “I work in a pretty large organization and we have no official office map or floor plan. Yes, some companies leave employees on their own to navigate! We have a ton of turnover right now, too, so it would be such an easy win for our office management team to offer that to all new hires, assuming it was easily updatable.”

But office wayfinding doesn’t have to be that complicated

With a little help from office scheduling tools that have new mapping capabilities, what’s lost will be found for the entire office. Using the new Robin Maps within our scheduling platform, Facilities, IT, and Office Admins can work with our team to upload any format map they have into an easy-to-read office floor plan. Employees can then immediately access an up-to-date, clean office layout using the same tools they use every day to schedule their work.

Add the new Robin Maps to your account today.

 

sources: Office Maze, First Day, Spiderman, Architectural Drawing