Flexible work spaces…. and sheep

Offices are changing, the way we work is changing and it’s happening very fast. Gone are the days of sitting in the same desk every day, large corner workstations – one per person, a couple of storage cabinets each, the MD in his private office, the PA as the gate-keeper… Things have moved on. The office now is about communication, collaboration and adaptability. Offices now are fun; inspirational and exciting places to be – well at least they can be. Changes in technology mean we no longer need paper copies of everything; I can’t even remember the last time I hand wrote something. We don’t need massive desks, in fact the desk could even be a bar counter, treadmill, or bike (I kid you not – these are reality now)…  treadmill-desk

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They might seem extremely silly, but they’re not really designed to be sat at by one person all day, in the same way that standard workstations are no longer really designed to be sat at all day. Modern office design includes soft seating for informal meetings, touchdown areas for staff that are just looking for a space to check their emails prior to “the big meeting”, private skype booths, brainstorm rooms with walls you write on, in fact different working environments for different activities, which when you think about it makes perfect sense.

You can even get “meeting sheep”……

ewe-rangeBaaa-rilliant…..

The Touchdown Bar

The touchdown bar is best described as a bar counter with stools. It is particularly useful in an office where you have many travelling staff, or staff that come in and out for meetings. The touchdown bar give you a workspace that allows staff to sit, connect up a laptop, do a bit of work before going into their meeting without claiming a desk space for the entire day. By using stools rather than standard task chairs you are less likely to drape your coat over the chair and thereby claim it (even when you might be out of the room for several hours). Also the stools aren’t quite as comfortable to sit at for hours on end, so anyone needing to work for several hours would be more likely to choose a hotdesk or an empty desk. This means that these chairs are great for a high turnover of people and get used in a very efficient way. They can also double as a coffee point, are perfect for informal one to one meetings, or even somewhere to eat you lunch away from your desk.

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The plan above shows one of our space plans that incorporates a touchdown area near the entrance of an office we planned for a client in London. Although there is limited space and an odd shaped area available we still managed to fit in several different working environments (reception, touchdown, soft seating, cafe tables, meeting table with flexi-screen, fixed staff desks and a meeting room). This gave the client flexibility allowing staff to pick a working environment suited to their particular task.

Below are some additional images of touchown areas to show how these areas work in a modern office environment.

spaceoasisBruce C Bolling Municipal Building at Dudley Squareb12-touchdowns

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Alternative working environments

When making the most of your office space it is worth considering more than just desks. By including several alternative working environments you can give your staff a choice of how to work for different tasks and this can help encourage effective communication, better task allocation and staff management, helping to spread sales leads, encouraging creativity and  thereby improving productivity and saving the world (probably)…..

This is the first in a series of blog posts showing examples of alternative working environments for the most effective office design. Today we are looking at “The business class lounge”.

510d0f535df5b_P1010990(1)  The “business class lounge” takes its name and in fact its design directly from the airport business lounge. By giving a dedicated area that has large comfortable armchairs with plenty of space around you can create a space that can accommodate visiting staff (working as a waiting area), travelling staff that need an area to connect to the internet, do some emails or work on a presentation, or be used by your regular office staff as an area to get away from their desks for quiet work, or even as a lunch area.

 

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The key with this type of workspace is that it shouldn’t be used as a meeting area. By spacing the chairs out, and keeping them large and heavy they should remain in their location and therefore be used as an individual oasis in a busy office. To ensure this works obviously you do need to include enough meeting areas, but they can be a real multifunction space – doing away with the need for a waiting area for example, allowing you more space for other functions.

 

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Chairs could be in your corporate colours, traditional leather for an old school gentlemen’s club look, or for a more relaxed environment bright contrasting colours, or even neons. The side table units in between each chair allow plenty of space for each user, as well as useful charge points for phones and laptops and ethernet points. Overall the business class lounge is a useful addition to the modern office. Give a shout for more information about how we can integrate ideas such as this into your space plans and office layout design

The use of soft seating in an office.

These days with rising office rentals the main request we get is for an office maximisation exercise, in other words we are asked to produce space plans that show the maximum number of workstations above all else. However, when designing an office layout it is also important to include soft seating and breakout areas too. This is not just as it is nice to have comfy seating; they act an as important tool in encouraging communication.

In an office design where there are just desks the staff would tend to have casual conversations only with the staff that they sit opposite or adjacent to, meaning that the sales staff chat with the sales staff and the marketing staff chat with the marketing staff. However by introducing breakout areas with comfy seating and perhaps a coffee machine you are encouraging staff to remain in the office during their breaks and are much more likely to sit and chat with someone from another department. This could mean that that important sales lead could be picked up from a chat between someone from sales and marketing.

Soft seating also helps you to put more desking into an office design without it looking like a chicken run. It visually breaks up the space and that in turn allows you to make the desk areas denser. They also help with keeping noise levels down both by breaking up the runs of desks, and also by giving staff a space to chat (rather than shouting over desks). They can be used for informal meetings, which can free up a meeting room, and can make meetings feel less formal (it’s a lot less threatening to be called for a chat on a sofa, than to be called into a meeting room).

Finally soft seating is often the one point that you can make a design statement in a modern rented office. Often the majority of walls are glazed or covered with full height storage cabinets, meaning that you only have the flooring (which you may not want to change), the columns (if there are any) and the furniture to play with design-wise. Most desks tend to be fairly functional  and although you can choose a funky fabric for the chairs, most offices would again choose functionality over form. However a piece of soft seating can be like a sculpture in a large open plan office, and a statement piece such as the Egg Chair (see below) can make an ordinary office look like a funky modern office.

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A few simple pieces of furniture can transform you office design – don’t overlook breakout areas and soft seating!

So you’ve been asked to sort out your office – part 4

Here is part 4 in our guide to improving your office accommodation

Efficiency of your furniture.

The first thing to decide when looking at your office furniture is are you looking to keep all, some, or none of it? If you are looking to re-use your existing furniture is it used in the most efficient layout, or do you have pockets of wasted space? Is it possible to re-use old furniture in a new way; for example , the big old corner (L-shaped) desks that were the standard 20 years ago often used a desk high pedestal drawer unit to make up the return.  This gave the desk a very large, and very deep footprint, but with some pedestals you can remove the wheels to re-use as under desk pedestals. This then gives you a reduced footprint allowing you to fit in more desks at no extra expense.

The latest trend in office design is for bench desking, where you have a run of straight desks together that can be used by more people when required (as no-one has a fixed amount of that bench space). On a quiet day the bench could be used by 6 staff (3 down each side), but then on a busy day it could be used by 10 (5 each side).  The key to getting bench desking that works is ensuring that there aren’t desk legs or fixed pedestals that  limit where people can sit. If you have old straight desks that are all at the same height and have recessed legs then you may be able to put together as a cut price bench system.

Office storage is another area where you can look to improve your efficiency. You will tend to find that staff will expand to fill whatever storage is available and often will store paper for years without accessing it. Wherever possible we advise scanning and remote storage; this maximises the amount of space in the office for staff. If you do have a lot of storage cabinets see if you can use them instead of screening, they make excellent sound barriers due to the density of the paper within.

The first step however should always be an audit of what you have and where it is; we would recommend producing an “as existing” CAD plan so you know exactly what you have and then you can determine how efficient your layout and furniture is.

So you’ve been asked to sort out your office – part 3

Here is part 3 in our guide to improving your office accommodation

Assessing current requirements and future proofing.

In order to produce an effective and efficient office layout it is first important to understand what your requirements for the space actually are. As discussed last week, getting a grasp of your head count figures is a vital start point, but equally it is important to know how the staff need to use the space. A typical call centre will often have a density of about 4-5 square metres per person, whereas a standard office is usually closer to 8-9 square metres per person. This is due to differences in the requirements of the staff; generally most call centres have relatively little paper storage (the majority of stored information being on the computer rather than in a filing cabinet). As everything that they need tends to be stored on the computer this allows for smaller desks, and a higher overall density. Equally a solicitors’ office that relies heavily on paper filing, tends to have much larger desks and often even individual cellular offices. Office design and space planning is clearly linked to job role, and staff requirements. It is worth analysing your current storage – staff tend to expand to fill whatever space is available, whether they need it or not, so a storage audit can be a good idea, this can identify what quantity of storage you have, how much of it is free, and who it belongs to.

 

Future proofing can be much more tricky, it can be hard to predict if your business is going to expand or contract and yet you need to build in some contingency without being wasteful when designing your office. We would always recommend building in some flexible space when designing an office. This could be a training room, that could become a hot desk room, or a call centre office and adapt to changes in your working requirements, or an open plan area with breakout seating that could be converted into standard desking should you require it. It is important to look at head count figures for the last couple of years and estimated growth figures to factor in possible changes, but also it is worth looking at trends in workplace ergonomics; the introduction of the flat screen monitor had a huge impact on office design as it allowed for desks without the deep corner required by CRT monitors. Moving forward expect to see more and more paperless offices as more tasks are done electronically, and an increase in sharing information, where several users can collaborate on one document at the same time. This can mean smaller desks, but a greater need for collaboration spaces, such as breakout chairs, meeting tables and coffee areas.

Next week we’ll look at office furniture and how it can impact on your office design

Furniture design trends

Furniture design evolves both with fashion and function changes, and in particular recently there has been a return to smaller office desks mainly due to technological changes. The average PC and monitor is now much smaller than it was a few years ago and this means that desks no longer need to be as large to accommodate them. Gradually more and more of the day to day office tasks are being done solely over the computer, and so there is less need for storage and desk space for dealing with paperwork. The current economic climate also means that people are wanting to get the best out of their space, and so furniture design is reflecting this with more smaller desk systems, and also more dual purpose, flexible furniture. With more offices using wifi wireless technology, and the potential for wireless electricity transmission not far away, the offices of tomorrow are likely to change further, moving away from the standard stationary desk per person to a more fluid and flexible office with furniture that can be adapted to suit the task in hand.

The current furniture design trends are for a very minimalist neat approach; there has been a huge amount of influence from the “Apple effect” with white gloss desks and cupboards being very trendy at the moment; giving a very clean effect. To add a bit of colour and life to the office a few items of classic designer furniture, such as a Jacobsen Egg chair, or a group of Verner Panton chairs can be added making the office look very contemporary. It is worth noting that whilst desks and storage are evolving, the design classics still look modern today, and there is more and more of a cross over from domestic designer furniture to the office.

If you would like advice as what furniture would suit your office design, give us a call on 0845 166 8381.

Office furniture

There are many companies that can recommend and supply office furniture, so what makes us different. Well, we are a fully independent space planning company, which means that we are not tied to any supplier or product range, and therefore we only recommend the products that will suit you best, rather than what would suit us best. This means that you get unbiased advice and we can suggest furniture companies that will supply you with the best office furniture for your needs. Every office is different and not all will need top-end expensive furniture, and we are able to give you details for companies that specialise in simple effective furniture, as well as companies that have very solid, hardwearing furniture that is designed to stand up to many office moves. We can even advise on furniture recycling and disposal if you are considering a total revamp. Additionally we are able to carry out furniture condition surveys, these are accurate colour coded plans that show your existing layout and the state of each office desk, office chair and item of storage. This can be particularly useful for larger companies that have a large amount of furniture and know that some of it is past its best, but other parts are perfectly serviceable. We would test each chair, each drawer etc, and then rate each item of furniture as to whether it should be replaced, or is in good working order. The plans are then marked up with coloured hatching so it is very simple to see exactly what is where and its condition.

If you would like our advice about your office furniture, give us a call to discuss.