Your office may have plenty of desks, chairs and computers but, as you’ll agree, that doesn’t mean the layout and floor plan are designed for the greatest possible level of productivity.
A productive office layout that helps everyone get their jobs done isn’t something you just pick up at an office supply store like Staples or Office Max. A well-planned office space isn’t a commodity—it’s unique to your work environment and what you want to achieve.
Before looking at the elements that create a favorable place to work, consider why you want to plan your office layout.
Here’s an easy hint.
- Question: Who comes into work each day?
- Answer: The people.
Your office layout’s goal is to support people so they can function at their optimal level.
Photo: OFS Staks Workstations
Talking about an office layout and furnishings to help us work efficiently seems old school. Most chatter focuses on digital smart tools and the Internet of Things.
Offices have been so taken for granted that we forget that workstations, partitions, and even the break room are intended to support people and the outcomes they’re trying to achieve.
So what has to change to make your office more than just a functional space? Before jumping into the solutions, let’s first get an understanding of what is an office layout.
Defining an Office Layout
A write-up by Rivier University noted the importance of taking a holistic approach to designing a work environment. Most layouts will only consider how the furniture and equipment like printers and copiers are arranged.
Here’s something else you need to include: space.
Adequate space for employees to work and take breaks can reduce stress and help them to focus.
Photo: Nevins Leaf Living Walls
Make the office appealing. Aesthetics play a key role in how pleasing the environment is for employees. Use soothing colors and let as much natural light as possible flow in. Indoor plants are attractive and they can freshen air and are proven to boost morale.
Types of Office Layouts
Planning and designing the office workspace will depend on the type of work needing done and the physical space limitations. Here are three main types of offices:
- Open plan offices
- Offices with private rooms
- Hybrid office layouts
Photo: OFS Range Open-Plan Benching
An open plan office works well with fast-paced organizations where groups need close collaboration. Start-up tech companies made the concept popular. This layout is seen as budget-friendly since there are no or few walls to re-configure as space needs change.
Offices with private rooms benefit companies where individuals like attorneys and healthcare professionals have confidential client meetings in person or over the phone. This plan is associated with hierarchical companies where the president is known for having the large, stereotypical private office.
Hybrid office layouts have both open floor space and areas that are partitioned. A mostly open space is divided by modular cubicles or workstation pods that are grouped together. This layout is popular in companies like call centers or banks where some privacy is needed.
Photo: Trendway Volo Walls
3 Basic Tips for Designing a Productive Office
Keep the following principles in mind if you’re wondering how to plan a new office layout.
- Communication is Key
Create an office layout that works well by understanding how much inter-employee communication needs to take place and how often departments need to collaborate.
Who does most of the communication? Does a project manager handle assignments from various teams? If so, this person, or small team, can be in a central location and act as a hub.
Do managers from different departments frequently share information in-person?
Create a central location where they can meet without interrupting those doing their work.
- Break Areas are Essential
People need to step back from their daily tasks and take a breather. In an open office setting, workers still need quiet places to think, do some work privately or take phone calls.
Photo: OFS Coact Modular Lounge
Designate break areas that can be temporary work-free zones.
- Keep Open Spaces
Don’t cram and pack people together. Provide space between workstations so workers don’t feel cramped. It’s like white space on a page.
If you see a printed page or webpage that’s jam packed with words, your eyes will glaze over and you won’t want to keep reading. White space is inviting and lets the reader skim the text. Open spaces inside an office are also inviting and welcoming.
Crowded spaces backfire, even in open office settings. People block each other out instead of collaborating. Architects and interior decorators won’t guide you through the layout process so you need to customize your space.
The lack of personal space is the biggest threat to a productive office, according to design publication Dezeen.com, as described in an article Open-plan office design is preventing workers from concentrating, study finds.
A well-designed office space creates enough privacy for employees to focus on the challenges in front of them and allows for collaboration.
This give-and-take approach to space planning is the 2010 Space Planning Strategy.
- Ask Employees for Input
Create employee engagement by asking people to give input on what works well in their personal workspace. Get their feedback on their personal experience of what works well and what improvements can be made.
If you don’t want to overhaul a layout, but improve it then see which of the typical problems your office is experiencing.
Office Layout Problems to Correct
Do you recognize the following list of challenges in your office?
- Distracting Noise
- No personal space
- Increased risk of catching colds, illness
- Regular interruptions
- Reduced job satisfaction with higher risk of talent turnover
Critics blame the open office. However, offices with thick cement walls can create a bunker mentality and make people feel blocked off and left out.
The office space itself is neutral. It’s how you plan the layout that impacts workers. Both introverts and extroverts can function in an open office plan, as noted in an article on the website of Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM).
The most satisfying office layout for workers is one where people have a choice in where and how they manage their work. An effective office plan can have a variety of private and open spaces.
Strategies to Tackle Office Layout Issues
Make an office as appealing and productive as possible by balancing the need for privacy with the need for collaboration.
This is challenging since there are seating arrangements that are communal like open plan benching. Open plan benching is a long work surface. Desking solutions like the ODS Artiv Open Plan Benching can have attractive privacy screens attached to create personal workspace.
When employees in an open benching situation need extra privacy, let them use the offices of those who are on vacation or family leave.
Reduce noise in an open-plan benching arrangement by installing cubicle-like partitions or bookcases holding plants and fabrics between seating areas. Use plenty of indoor plants to bring nature inside. Certain plants will absorb sound waves and refresh the air.
Install architectural walls or cubicle pods to create a conference room or designated conversation zone away from workstations. The interiors can have white boards and projectors to maximize interaction.
Create a small library or fun room as a break area.
If someone has a cold but is well enough to come to work, let them work in an area that’s away from other employees.
Develop a protocol for employees to let others know when they can’t be disturbed and need extended time to focus on a project.
An office layout that’s designed for as much productivity as possible will go beyond the placement of workstations and equipment. Other elements, like lighting, keep people alert and productive.
Photo: Humanscale Vessel Lighting
Lighting Design in an Office Layout
Natural light is the most important lighting system for office productivity. Open office designs allow as much natural light as possible to flow through the space.
Does your office design let workers share the light? Desks should be within twenty-five feet of windows. For those farther away, install solar tubes or office skylights if possible.
Keep artificial light at levels that are bright enough without creating glare. Offer screen protectors to shield people’s eyes if they spend long hours on their laptops or desktops.
Install lighting controls or task lighting solutions at individual workstations so employees can use the amount of light that works best for them.
Photo: Humanscale Element 790, Horizon 2.0 & Infinity Lighting
Plan to Use Quality Workstations and Ergonomic Chairs
A workstation is not just a workstation. A manager will need a cubicle layout that accommodates two or three people to have more personal meetings than a programmer or graphic designer who needs extended time alone.
The best desking solutions are modular and are designed to let people work together well.
The Desk Makers Teamworx Open Plan Desking can accommodate a few people without making them feel crowded.
Photo: DeskMakers TeamWorx Open-Plan Benching
Use benching solutions that define personal work areas such as the ODS Lift Table Height Adjustable Workstation. This is especially useful for shared workstations since each employee can adjust the surface to a comfortable height.
Photo: ODS (Office Design Studio) Lift Height Adjustable Tables
Ergonomic furniture isn’t just a passing fad. Quality chairs promote good posture and support the body’s natural movements. Armrests support the shoulders and upper back while the back of the chair should complement the body’s natural curve and provide lumbar support.
Workers stay comfortable and reduce the risk of strains in the lower back muscles, the elbows and knees.
Adjust the height of a chair so a person’s feet are comfortably flat on the floor and they can look at the computer screen without having to tilt their head forward and lean down.
Planning on what products to use and where to place them makes the most of your available space.
Photo: OFS Obeya Architectural Structures
Get the Expertise You Need
The 2010 Space Planning Strategy can show you how to accommodate your workstations and your break area so that spaces are well-defined and laid out in a logical fashion.
Make the office work for the whole person. Maximizing productivity doesn’t mean just churning through a to-do list. Instead, it’s a strategic process to provide solutions for your customers.
Invest in people by designing a layout that supports their skill set and you’ll boost the overall work environment.
Get input from 2010 Office Furniture on your space planning needs. Call or submit your questions.
Our team has more than 45 years of experience serving corporations, universities and small businesses throughout Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.
Read Also: Choosing the Best Benching or Desking Workstations in Los Angeles
Main Photo by: OFS
Resources & Special Thanks to: Rivier University, Dezeen, SHRM & Respective Product Manufacturers: OFS, DeskMakers, Humanscale, Nevins, ODS & Trendway