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)…
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few simple pieces of furniture can transform you office design – don’t overlook breakout areas and soft seating!
Here is part 5 in our guide to improving your office
The most important thing when space planning your office is to begin with an accurate plan of the office as it is currently. This will allow you to know exactly what you have currently (a furniture inventory), the dimensions of each item of furniture, and the size, shape and any obstructions within your office space. Once you have an “as existing” plan you can quickly see where there is wasted space to allow you to produce a much more effective office design. If your office is already bulging at the seams then it would be worth using space planning layouts to try out different furniture sizes or shapes, and this allows you to quickly establish the overall capacity of your office and ensure the most effective design.
An efficient office design has to include space for the minimum required fire escape routes, wheelchair accessibility and there is also a requirement for a minimum of 11 cubic metres of air space per person (the height is not counted if the ceiling height is over 3m). For most offices this equates to at least 4 square metres per person, but this figure is the total space including corridors etc.
For most offices there is usually something that can be done to improve the efficiency of the layout without the need for removing partition walls. We usually produce a series of space plans starting with the minimal cost option, going through to options that change the furniture and finally options that change the partitioning. The layouts can then be costed up to give you a clear cost versus output figure, allowing you to factor office design in to your future business costs.