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


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”……


The pros and cons of using serviced offices

For many companies, once their office appears to be full and they desperately need additional office space, they turn to serviced offices. There are several chains of these ready to move in to offices, and they come ready equipped with furniture, communications and wifi. These offices are a good short term solution, but often the lack of office space in your main office site can become a long term problem. The staff at the serviced offices can often feel disjointed from the rest of the staff, and their accommodation costs tend to be much more expensive than the costs for office based staff. However we have found that in the majority of cases we are able to fit in a considerable number of extra staff at your existing offices through intelligent space planning. This means that the serviced offices are often no longer required and the staff can all be housed together at the one site. We are also able to produce maximum density plans, which let you know the overall capacity of your site, allowing you to plan for the future. If you would like us to plan for your future, drop us a line.

Office area information

One of the most common questions we get asked is what size of area should be allowed per person in an office. The answer depends on many factors such as the size and type of office furniture, the office space available, and even the actual job roles being carried out. However in the UK there is a volume requirement for 11 cubic metres of space per person. There is a restriction on this saying that any ceiling height above 3m is not counted, as otherwise the actual area per person could be very small, but very tall, but going on an average ceiling height the overall office area per person should be at least 4.2 square metres. This may sound fairly generous, but the figure includes all useable space within the office and so also needs to cover all circulation walkways, fire routes, furniture and storage, so in reality unless you have very tiny desks you are generally unlikely to get down to this figure. The best way to work out the area per person however is to space plan the office ensuring that the layout covers all required fire routes, DDA (Disability Discrimination Act), and Health & Safety requirements, and usually after the office has been planned taking these in to account the average office tends to have about 7 square metres per person.

If you would like us to carry out an office space audit and show you exactly where you have wasted space, and how to improve your office design, drop us a line to discuss your requirements.

Office partitions

Much has been written about the benefits of removing your office partitions and going open plan, and it is true that this does increase the space efficiency. However, there are certain job roles and even departments that often need an increased level of confidentially and security, such as HR and Finance roles, and also senior management roles. In these cases there are still some things that you can do to maintain a light and airy office feel, despite the enclosed rooms. There are many excellent office partitioning systems that are mainly glazing, and these can offer excellent sound proofing, whilst still allowing the light through. For occasions when a greater degree of privacy is required you can get partitions with built in venetian blinds that allow you to close off the outside office, or even a system known as electrochromic switching. This is a system that has a very fine layer of liquid crystal suspended within the glass, and when switched on, the usually frosted glass becomes clear. This system is a relatively new technology, and so is still fairly expensive, but it is certainly impressive, perhaps for a company boardroom.

As we are a fully independent company we are not tied to any single supplier and so can recommend the best products for your requirements, and these can include curved partitions, glass partitions, or even moveable office partition systems. Drop us a line to discuss your requirements.

Office chairs

Office chairs are often overlooked when considering the ideal office design, but they are actually a very important tool to the office worker. Every day there are many thousands of people across Britain that are away from work due to bad backs, and often these problems are due to poor office chairs. Many staff remain seated for hours at a time in inadequate office chairs and this leads to poor posture, and eventually back pain. The first way to alleviate this problem is to ensure that staff are aware that they should get up and move around every hour. It is possible to promote this via office space planning by having office storage that is not right next to each member of staff. If you are having to get up and go to a central storage area to collect and replace files, then without realising it, you are exercising your back, and preventing strain. Centralised storage is also sensible to allow you to get the best out of your space planning as it allows you to group staff together, and storage together giving a much more efficient layout.

There are many hundreds of different types of office chair, so how do you know which one is the best for your staff? Basically there is no one chair that will be perfect for everyone has different requirements and body shapes, but as a general rule the more adjustable the chair is, the more likely you are to find a setting that suits the user. As a minimum the office chair needs to be height adjustable, and intensive users would ideally have some level of seat pan tilt and lumbar support. It is actually the responsibility of employers to ensure that all users of PCs have adequate office furniture for their job role (a DSE assessment- Display Screen Equipment), and we are able to send our staff to carry out these risk assessments at your office, and to make recommendations as to the most suitable furniture and office chairs for your staff. Call us to discuss how we can help.

The office desk and its effect on office design

The size and shape of the office desk plays a major part in the final office design. Obviously, the larger the desk, the fewer you can fit in, but also the shape can play a big role is the layout too. The most common office desk type in the UK is still the “L-shaped” desk, also known as a corner (or sometimes crescent) desk. This desk type has a deep corner section, which is designed to house a large CRT monitor. However, the majority of monitors are now flat screens, and so this space is in effect redundant. The large return of the L-shaped desk means that you need to space them further apart in order to allow for adequate access between desks. This is especially important due to the DDA regulations (Disability Discrimination Act), which state that the office should be planned in such a way that it is useable by wheelchair users and the less able bodied. It therefore makes sense when planning an office layout to consider the type of office desk and go for something that allows for adequate surface space, but doesn’t require a huge amount of space between desks. A solution here would be a wave type desk, which has a slightly deeper end at one side, which is usually 200mm deeper than the rest of the desk top (compared with 800mm deeper for most L-shaped desks). In fact due to the ever shrinking size of desktop PCs, many companies are even going for rectangular (straight) desks, or even flexible bench type desking. These can further help to improve your office design by being very space efficient, whilst still useable. There are many other types of office desks available too, such as the double wave, the 120 degree desk, and the call centre pod, so if you would like advice as to what would work best in your office, just give us a call, or drop us an email (see contact page for details).

Planning for an office move – part 2

The best way to ensure that the actual move goes smoothly is to begin with an “as existing” space plan that shows your current office design and layout, and has each item of furniture identified with a code number. This plan can then be printed out at large scale, or emailed to all your staff, allowing them to add the identifying code to each item of furniture (we can recommend companies that can do this also using low-tack adhesive labels that are attached to every item of furniture). Then at the new site, a large printed plan shows the same furniture with identifier codes showing the porters exactly where each item of furniture should be moved to. This simple system ensures that you don’t end up with bits of furniture in the wrong places, and therefore ensures that your new office design will be put in place accurately and in accordance with the proposed plans. If you would like more advice about office moves, give us a call on 0845 166 8381.

Planning for an office move – part 1

When preparing for an office move there are many factors that often get overlooked. The first, and probably most important one is the office design. Often there is an assumption that just because the new office is larger, the will be no problem in fitting in the furniture, but there are many factors that can complicate the layout of office furniture, and often make spaces less useable than they should be. Important things to look out for include- is there a raised floor (as this allows more flexibility in the office layout design); are there pillars / power poles; is the floorplate an unusual shape; is the new office layout open plan, or made up of cellular offices? By starting with a furniture survey we can make sure that your furniture will fit in to your new office, but also we can ensure that it is laid out in the most efficient way. Our space planning service can also include 3d visuals and interior design, and we can even help to future proof your office, planning the layout to allow for potential expansion at a later date. This way our office design service can save you money in the future, and ensure that your staff are happy now. Give us a call to discuss how we can help- 0845 166 8381.

The advantages of maintaining a CAD file of your office layout

One of the first things we usually do as a part of a new project is to create a CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawing file of your office space as it is currently. We are then able to use this to see exactly what is where allowing us to know the locations of your partitions, doors, windows, heating and even your current furniture layout. Through our space planning process we would usually then produce a series of options as to how the new layout could look, and once complete the CAD file can be updated to ensure that it reflects the new current layout. Over time there are often many minor changes within an office layout, and we are able to come back to re-survey these, or often they can be carried out via a phone call. This then allows us to maintain an up to date plan of your office layout, which is useful for many reasons. Should you want changes to the layout in the future, these can then be produced quickly and easily using the source CAD plan, and a whole wealth of additional information can also be added such as staff names and telephone numbers, IT equipment, and even inventory tracking codes. You may also find it useful to give floor plans to new starters, and can show boundaries of different departments and their areas for charging purposes. By spending a small amount of time keeping this information up to date we are able to accurately maintain your office space plans and this will save you money in the long term, whilst also being a very useful information source about your working environment.

Bookable desking systems

You may be surprised to hear that approximately 40% of the time the average office desk is unoccupied during office hours. When you add up the amount of time that desk users are on leave, away due to illness, on courses, in meetings, or even just on lunch, it soon becomes clear that giving every member of staff their own dedicated desk may not be the best use of your valuable office space. There are many bookable systems that allow you to view exactly which desks are occupied at any time, and through using a system such as this you can increase the efficiency of your office space. The system doesn’t just apply to desks either as meeting rooms, training rooms, and manager’s offices are all spaces that could be used as a working environment if managed in a control manner. Through having better control over your desking you are able to free up space for other facilities for staff, such as breakout areas, coffee shops and even gyms; all of which are seen as a great asset to any employee.

We regularly work with companies that carry out time and motion and occupancy studies and we can recommend what would be your best course of action. Give us a call for more information.