Maximising your natural daylight through space planning and office design

We are often asked how can we help to make offices a little less cold and sterile, and a great way to do this is to maximise your natural daylight resources. The colour, feeling and effects of natural daylight just can’t be replicated by artificial light, and yet so many offices have poor layouts that block daylight within the office. A key principal here is to ensure that windows are not blocked by storage cabinets; the simplest way to do this is by putting all storage cabinets against partition walls. Most offices though have more storage cabinets than wall space, so the best way to ensure that natural daylight is maximised is to only ever have cabinets lined up perpendicular (at 90 degrees) to any windows. This may seem obvious, but so many offices have a row of tall cabinets running through the centre of the office space, and so these are actually parallel to the windows. What this then means is that one half of the office gets good natural daylight in the morning, but very poor in the afternoon and the other side vice versa. Through keeping the cabinets at 90 degrees some light is obscured, but you avoid the dark and light extremes. Of course investing in better storage solutions would help further, particularly a system such as a rolling stack (as discussed in earlier blog posts), as this would allow you to keep your storage in one area and so keep the open areas open.

As well as re-organising your storage, you should also look at the positioning of desks. A common mistake is to put a single manager’s desk (which is often unoccupied) next to the windows, with the bulk of the staff deeper in to the office floor plate away from the natural light. By ensuring that the natural light resource is maximised to as many workstations as possible, the overall feeling of the space for the staff will be improved. There are occasions, such as with a very large floor plate, when this can’t be done, and so here you may need to look as specialised lighting solutions, such as daylight simulation bulbs for individual desk lamps, and using as many transparent or translucent materials as possible around the office, such as frosted glass screens on desks rather than heavy fabric ones.

If you would like us to redesign your office to maximise your natural daylight resources, give us a call.

Using storage to divide up open plan offices

There are many benefits to an open plan office design; better airflow, improved natural light, increased flexibility of space and a general feeling of more space. In reality though many offices have teams that require a quieter or more private environment, and rather than building partitions you can use your office storage to divide up open spaces. The advantages of this are numerous; firstly there is plenty of storage close to hand for the team, and most teams would always welcome more storage. The next benefit is that of sound absorption; a storage cabinet full of paper is actually a very good sound buffer; this can aid with the common complaint of open plan being too noisy. The cabinets make an effective barrier between teams, and as they don’t go all the way up to the ceiling, they also don’t restrict airflow. Many buildings that have extremes of temperatures (both hot spots and cold spots) have this problem as the original floorplate is usually designed to be open plan. As soon as you introduce partition walls and cellular offices the airflow is changed, and especially in buildings with air conditioning, this can cause real temperature control problems. To avoid blocking natural light storage cabinets should be placed perpendicular to windows, and it is important to ensure that they are still accessible by all staff, not just those that sit in front of them.

There are many ways that we can help you to improve your office design layout, and so if you would like to discuss how we can help, give us a call.

Office Storage Solutions

The design and layout of your office space can be dictated somewhat by the type and quantity of office storage units that you have, and the more open your space, the better it works. There are several systems available to improve your current office storage, and more and more companies are looking to implement wall storage solutions. These are full height (floor to ceiling) storage cabinets that are usually fitted bespoke to your office space and ceiling height. They make the most of the space that is available, look very smart and can be locked for added security. Usually the top shelves tend to be used for archive storage as they are more difficult to reach, but they are a good way of utilising all the available wall space, leaving the open space in the office to be open. Another alternative is a rolling stack system; this is basically a series of rows of storage cabinets with a single moveable walkway. Through eliminating the need for a walkway between every row of cabinets, a system such as this vastly increases the density of the storage in a space. The walkway is moveable as all the rows of cabinets are attached to a roller system that allows them to slide from side to side, and these can be controlled either by a large crank handle, or an electronic push button system. This can be a particularly useful way to remove the storage from within the open plan parts of an office, allowing for a much more user friendly layout.

There are many other options available, particularly if you are looking to replace the old 4 drawer filing cabinets with a more modern solution, or looking to group together existing storage to improve your office layout; give us a call to discuss your options and see how we can help.

Office storage problems

The one thing that we see time and time again when surveying offices is that most companies claim to be lacking in storage, yet the actual cabinets are often half empty. Effective office storage systems are absolutely critical to an effective office design layout, and the process needs to begin with an assessment of what actually needs to be stored on site. These days there are many office storage companies that offer archiving services that can allow you to store paperwork away from your office, yet be able to retrieve it quickly for a small fee. This can allow you to remove cumbersome storage cabinets from your office space and then open up the space improving both natural light and air circulation. There will always be some things that need to be stored on site, but with effective scanning systems every piece of paperwork can be catalogued and stored on your company servers. Not only will this reduce the need for office storage, but it also usually aids searching and retrieval as the scanned documents can be tagged with a wealth of information. There is also the added benefit that more than one person at a time can have a piece of information open, aiding information sharing, which is much more difficult when the information is held within a single paper folder.

It’s not just filing that takes up office storage though, as we often see large stationery store rooms. However these too are no longer as necessary as most stationery suppliers offer a next day delivery service, meaning that it is not so critical to maintain a large store on site. Even printed material can often be ordered via the internet on a much quicker turnaround than it used to be, meaning less space is required for its storage on site.

Call us to discuss your storage problems and see how we can help improve your overall design layout.

Current trends in office furniture

Office furniture has changed significantly over recent years; whereas a simple desk was sufficient in the pre-IT days of the 1980s, the 1990s saw ever increasing monitor sizes and therefore much bigger desks. As more staff were spending increasing amounts of time at their desks using the IT equipment, ergonomics played a bigger part in office design and the large corner desk became commonplace. However since the flat screen TFT monitor has become the norm, such large desks are less necessary, and with more offices going paper-less the actual workspace is now getting smaller. Most people now order wave type desking (rather than corner type), or even straight desks or benching. The space freed up by smaller desks can then be used to fit in alternative working zones, such as hotdesks and breakout areas. There are also changes to the trends in the furniture finishes, with a sleek minimal look being the current vogue. The shiny white “Ipod” look has become very popular replacing the standard pale wood finishes in many modern offices, and this is often offset with a few designer style chairs to give a contemporary look.

If you would like impartial advice on your office furniture, give us a call. We are fully independent and so not tied to any single supplier or product range and so can recommend the best possible solution for your needs.

Cost effective office design

There are many ways to look to improve your office design without necessarily having to spend a fortune. Removing unnecessary partitions and opening up the space always helps as this can improve natural light, air flow and circulation, and usually helps to make your office look bigger. If your internal partitions are not structural this is relatively easy and inexpensive to do, and can totally transform your space. Often existing furniture can be re-used and it is possible to re-cover chairs and screens to give a new appearance at a reduced cost. It is even possible to replace just the tops of desks giving a new work surface, without needing to replace the whole desk, and as well as saving money, this saves wastage – helping to reduce your carbon footprint.

If you would like our advice as to how to improve your office design without spending a fortune; give us a call for some bright ideas.

Ergonomics and using the correct office chair

The human body was not designed to be seated for eight-plus hours a day, so it is not surprising that so many people have back problems at some time in their lives. There are so many different furniture manufacturers that offer office chairs that range in price from £20 to over £1000, so how do you know what is best for you and your staff? An ideal office chair should be flexible; it should have height adjustability to accommodate taller and shorter staff, an adjustable back rest giving gentle support whilst not pushing too hard against the spine, and ideally have an adjustable base (to allow tilting). Most basic chairs have adjustable height and back support, but few have the base tilt mechanism, however this function allows the pelvis to roll forward, and in the case of a free-float tilt mechanism, actually keeps the pelvis in subtle constant movement, which in turn keeps the spine moving. This helps to prevent the typical office chair slump and prevent the spine from locking up, leading to healthier backs and healthier staff.

If you would like ergonomics and furniture advice, give our staff a call and we can discuss how to keep your staff healthy at work.

Further uses for CAD plans

At the start of each project we carry out we survey your existing space and furniture to produce an accurate CAD plan. Whilst this is essential for accurate space planning, it can also be used for many other purposes. The way a CAD plan works is by having a series of layers of information that can be switched on and off at any time, and this means that you can have a single file with a wealth of information stored upon it. For example, there are a number of companies that we maintain the building and furniture CAD plans for, and amongst these we have information such as team names and areas of office space occupied. This allows us to show exactly which team is located where, how much space they take up, and the square meterage per person for that department. On another layer we then have the actual staff names and telephone extensions; particularly useful for HR purposes and also to give to new starters to help them get to know their colleagues, where they sit and what they do. On a further layer we even have IT information showing whether the desk has a desktop PC or a laptop, if there is a printer, if it is networked etc.

As you can see there is a lot more to a CAD plan than just the furniture layout, and if you would like us to produce and maintain plans of your office, drop us a line!

Reducing your accommodation expenses

With the current uncertain financial situation many companies are looking to tighten their financial belts and reduce wasted money. One of the most expensive office assets is the actual accommodation cost, and through sensible space planning it is often possible to reduce the amount of space you actually need. We recently completed a series of projects for a local government organisation that actually allowed them to accommodate all their existing staff and furniture in a smaller overall area allowing them to actually sell off some of their office sites. This relatively inexpensive exercise freed up millions of pounds worth of property and also reduced property maintenance and running costs. We now maintain sets of plans of all their office accommodation and we are able to help them plan for the future with maximum density space plans and space analysis reports.

If you would like to discuss how we can ensure that you are not wasting money on unnecessary office accommodation, give us a call.

Space planning on a budget

As well as working for large companies, we have also carried out many projects for smaller companies and charities that need their space to be improved, but often don’t have much of a budget. However there is often still a lot that can be done, and we specialise in showing companies on limited budgets how to re-use their existing furniture in a more cost effective way, often allowing for additional desking, or breakout areas that can really benefit the staff. Through rearranging your desking and storage it is often possible to free up additional space, but also it is often possible to do simple things such as removing or changing desk high pedestals for under desk ones giving each desk a smaller footprint. This then gives you options for alternative layouts and through clever space planning you can free up all of that wasted space. We can also show the effects of removing partitions and give you maximum density space plans so that you know what the capacity of your office space is. Through providing a series of options starting with minimum disruption and cost through to maximum efficiency (although at a higher outlay) we can give you all the choices you need to make the most of your workplace.