Your guide to the best office layouts
We spend as much of our day in our place of work as we do at home but often the layout and décor selected for our office is a jumble of outdated styles, selected for utility rather than comfort.
Whether you’re a new start-up or just looking for a change, this guide is designed to spark your inspiration, giving you the tools you need to implement an office floor plan which will work for everyone in your business.
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Where to start?
Get input from your employees
A recent study found that employees were more able to manage and process information and had a better attention to detail if they were involved in the design of their office layout. Of course, it seems obvious that your team should be your first port of call when deciding which layout would work best – after all, it’s them who are going to spend the most time in your new environment.
Ask your team for their must-haves in a new office layout. Would they prefer standing or sit-down desks? What kind of seating and lighting would work well for them? Get everyone’s input – you’ll be amazed at where the good ideas come from.
Meeting rooms or break out spaces?
Your decision to include enclosed meeting rooms or less formal, open-plan, break-out spaces will largely depend on the kind of business you run. If you’re a larger firm or if your business is regulated by an external body, such as the FCA, it may be wise to have some meeting rooms. However, if space allows, there’s no reason why you can’t have both.
Traditional meetings are fast becoming an out-dated concept. They are time-consuming, sometimes irrelevant to attendees and can be unproductive. These days, companies tend to favour a less formal approach, which is where breakout spaces come in handy.
What are break out spaces?
Simply put, a break out space is a seating area in main body of your office, situated away from the workstations. Strictly speaking, these areas aren’t cordoned off, however with a little clever positioning of walls and chairs, you can achieve an element of segregation that’s required for some meetings.
The main draw for break out spaces as opposed to meeting rooms, is the fact that these aren’t spaces you’ll be tempted to linger in. All too often meetings drag on in an enclosed space of a separate room – the office and its responsibilities seem to fade away when a closed door stands between you and it. Break out spaces are more conducive to efficiency; you’ll have your meeting, assign any actions and then return to work without a moment wasted.
There’s a practical benefit to break out spaces also – especially if office space is at a premium. Meeting rooms take up valuable square-footage in any floor plan and their capacity is often limited.
Break out spaces are a great place to hold meetings because, in theory, your whole team can be involved.
To hot-desk, or not to hot-desk…
Hot-desking is a fantastic way to utilise your space. If the number of people in your team is fast eclipsing the space available at your premises, hot-desking can be a nifty solution for this.
It’s very rare for every desk in your office to be occupied on any one day. Absences and holidays mean that more often than not, desks remain empty but, because they’re already assigned to personnel, they can’t be used by freelancers, contractors or any other members of your team.
Hot-desking can put an end to this. Essentially, in a hot-desking office, employees aren’t assigned a single desk or workstation. Instead, they’re given free reign to work at any empty desk they find. Although it’s not strictly necessary, this format works best when your employees use laptops rather than desktop computers so you may want to bear this in mind if you decide it’s for you.
Health and safety considerations
The well-being of your employees is obviously your most important consideration when planning a new office layout. The maximum capacity of your office will depend on the size of the room and how much furniture you have. It might be worth seeking advice from the HSE before you implement your design to find out if you’ve allowed sufficient clearance between workstations.
3 Of The Best Office Layouts
The Collaborative Office
Creative Agencies, Graphic Designers, Magazines
If collaboration between colleagues is one of the main facets of your work, then this newsroom-style layout is for you. Planned meetings can be the enemy of inspiration and if you work in an environment where a constant flow of creativity is often required, this collaborative layout would work well for you.
- A central bank of desks surrounded by small clusters of break out areas
- Open plan setting, with no room dividers or separate rooms
- Lots of seating options – think stools, ottomans and, yes, even bean bags to encourage impromptu ‘huddles’ promoting the free flow of ideas
The Digital-first Office
Start-ups, Digital Agencies, Web Designers
There’s no escaping it. The internet has transformed the way we work today, leading many companies to adopt a digital-first approach with both their offering and infrastructure. Laptops, hot-desking and break-out spaces are par for the course at digital first companies – but what else is there?
- Standing room only – ensure you have an assortment of standing desks dotted around the office. Research has shown that the traditional sitting-at-a-desk business model is literally killing us, leading to a rise in obesity, back problems and depression.
- Wireless Networking solutions – an excess of wires and computer towers is the antithesis to a digital-first work environment. Cloud-based technology, coupled with decent wireless Wi-Fi will provide the infrastructure of this type of office.
- Comfortable seating areas – the home-from-home working concept is popular in Silicon Valley companies which is why couches and comfortable chairs are a must in this kind of office.
The Learning Office
Agencies, Consultants, Start-ups
Start-ups, Digital Agencies, Web Designers
More companies are beginning to realise that there are graduates who are so hungry for the chance to start their career in your company that they’re willing to work for little to no salary. Whether it’s work experience or apprenticeships, the upshot of this is that your office will need to lend itself to learning and training.
- White boards and walls covered with blackboard paint will provide a good canvas upon which your team can explain their ideas to newer employees.
- Folding tables and chairs can facilitate impromptu training sessions around white boards or desks.
- Hot-desking or flexible seating options will encourage your apprentices to sit with a host of different team members, each with an individual skillset, giving them a better all-round knowledge of your industry.