How do you go about designing an office layout? It’s not something you have to do every day, after all, and when you start to consider what’s involved there’s a lot to consider. The type of business you are in will dictate the design of the office, as will the number of staff you need to house. Then there’s such as the integration of different departments – covered later in the article – and the various computer and telephony requirements.
We had a look at ideas behind office layouts. We concluded that there is no right or wrong way to layout an office, but there are some factors and ideas that work better than others. Let’s start by talking about what constitutes a classic office design and why that layout might still work.
Classic Office Design Trends
Interior design for an office differs to that for a retail unit, for example or a home. Yet there are many aspects that can be carried over from each. The office is a place that needs to provide a comfortable and practical working environment. It also needs to give a good impression for visitors. The classic office design is one that is separate from the reception area of the business. Visitors are presented with a clean, uncluttered reception as their first impression, then if they require a visit to the office, are shown around one that is well-presented and orderly. However, an office need not be clinical.
One look at these classic Herman Miller office designs is enough to remind you that a professional approach may be best when designing an office layout. What you – as the manager or director, for example – may consider practical may not be in real terms. Let’s talk about some of the factors that influence the office design.
Factors that Influence Office Design
There has been a strong trend for open-plan offices in recent decades, but are they really the way forward? Much research has been done on the subject and the jury remains out with many saying the open plan adds to productivity, others that it does the opposite. It is, of course, dependent upon the type of work that is undertaken.
For example, an employee handling sensitive data will not want to be overlooked by others. He or she is best in a room with fellow employees who are involved in the same work. However, one who needs to communicate regularly with others to complete their role will appreciate them being across the desk or a few steps away. Following are a few factors that you need to consider in the early stages of office planning.
Number of Employees
How many people do you need to accommodate? Let’s take the example of a call handling centre. This will usually be open plan but with operatives housed in noise-reducing compartments. There may be many dozen operatives in the room. In such an environment, it is obvious that noise is an essential consideration, and it becomes more so the greater number of people you need to house in one room.
For smaller outfits this is not such a problem, and in fact a large room with a handful of people in it can be a hindrance with echoing being a problem. So, the first consideration is that of how many people you need in one room, and is that going to be problematic in terms of noise and also space? You may wish, for example, to put your sales team in one office, and your customer service team in another, which brings us to the next section.
The ideal office set up makes it easy for one department to pass information to another. In a smaller business you may have different departments working in groups from the same office. For example, your customer management team, sales and purchasing may be integrated into the same space. This way, they can follow the order through each stage and see where it is at. This is one reason why open plan offices have become more popular with growing businesses.
Of course, departmental integration can also be done via your computer network, and this is a vital part of the planning process. As every office will use a computer and telephone of some sort it is essential these are designed into the layout at an early stage. It is all too easy to set out a seating pattern, for example, and overlook potential problems that may present in installing a computer network. The first rule is to decide where the servers will go – in their own space, naturally – and then how many workstations and peripheral hardware will be needed, then plan the office furnishings around that.
Once again, we suggest talking to a professional about this part of office design and layout as they will be able to suggest the most efficient solutions. Our final section talks about how your customers perceive the office and your business as a whole, and why this is important in design and layout terms.
Reception and Working Areas
The traditional layout of having a reception area with someone to meet and greet visitors and take calls works. It works because it is simple, and it allows you to present a pleasant first impression to people new to your premises. For this reason, we would suggest the bare layout of your office space includes a separate reception and working area, and you may wish to add a meeting room or two in the reception area. One thing we will say is that you may want to take on board any suggestions from those who have recently been working remotely as this may have an influence on office designs for the future.
Providing this division between where people enter and where the office teams go about their business allows for fewer interruptions and also offers a chance for visitors to meet the people they need to see in a quiet environment. In many ways, the first area you need to layout is a reception, and the office will follow. Take the time to ensure you have included everything you need and don’t be afraid to ask professionals for advice.