The job of a good office design is to ensure maximum productivity from your staff while also keeping them comfortable and happy as they work.
This does not mean going back to the 90s and organizing your employees into grey cubicles. Rather, it means striking a balance between privacy and light, while thinking about the best ways to keep them focussed and to create an environment conducive to creativity and great work.
Very often, the devil is in the detail. In this post, we’ll take a look at some simple changes you can make to your office layout that will improve workflow and output.
Air quality is something that a lot of managers and CEOs will overlook but that is absolutely fundamental to the health and effectiveness of your workforce. Here in the UK, we are considerably less likely to have air conditioning installed but that doesn’t mean we can’t consider things like air fresheners and humidifiers – aim to keep the humidity at around 30-50 percent to reduce dust and mold – as well as just keeping the windows a jar. Keeping the office generally clean will also make a big difference as it means less dust will circulate in the atmosphere.
If you do have air conditioning meanwhile, then make sure that your systems are well-maintained and regularly cleaned. This is just one way that you can improve the health of your staff by improving the layout and cleanliness of your office.
Plants not only further contribute to better air quality but may even encourage creativity! Studies show us that the color green helps to make us more relaxed and therefore more creative and this is felt most strongly by adding plants to desks and windowsills.
It is thought that this effect is to do with our evolutionary psychology. In the wild, the color green would have signified that we were in an environment rich with natural resources and this would therefore have helped us to enter a ‘rest and digest’ state. Today, the effect is still felt and can help us stay calmer under pressure while also thinking in a more ‘out the box’ manner.
In fact, this Daily Mail article suggests that houseplants can make workers 40% more productive. So there you go!
It’s not necessarily a requirement that your office adhere to a minimalist design philosophy… but it usually is a good idea!
Minimal office layouts are advantageous in a number of different ways. For starters, they tend to feel larger and more spacious, which most people find more comforting and relaxing. At the same time, an absence of clutter will make it easier to stay organized and keep track of files, materials and tools. Apart from anything else, minimal layouts are easier to keep clean and tidy, which means that your staff will spend less time working in chaotic and disorganized environments. Don’t just think about the office design that looks the best when you first have it fitted: think about what will be the easiest to maintain and work in over time.
Although your office is obviously a place of work, you shouldn’t neglect to provide your staff with some quality, comfortable and stylish Office furniture to ensure not only are your staff able to work in comfort but you’re also jazzing the place up!
The recently launched Office Furniture London specialise in providing businesses with modern and vintage designer furniture, perfect for fitting out Offices. If you’re unable to find the right furniture for your office then you’ll likely want to call in the help of some experts, who will not only be able to source some high-quality, stylish items, but they’ll also know exactly how you should incorporate them into your current office design without affecting it’s atmosphere.
Articles on kitchen remodelling will often discuss ‘work zones’. A work zone is a space in the kitchen where you’ll be in easy reach of multiple countertops, perhaps a utility such as the stove and maybe the sink. This means you can stand in one place and multitask without having to keep traipsing up and down the room.
The same thing can work well in an office too. Chances are that you will have clusters of employees from each department working together so think about what they need and make sure it’s in easy reach. Rather than having one printer and scanner in the middle of the room, give each group access to one that they can reach without walking far. The same goes for stationary and a filing system.
Likewise, if you’re creating workspaces that different members of staff can use, then you again need to ensure that they include all the essentials within easy reach.
You might think that adding places for your staff to hang out and chat would be counterproductive and lead to procrastination and people standing around shooting the breeze rather than working. In fact though, giving your staff places where they can interact is an important way to encourage collaboration between departments and even foster good ideas. In his excellent TED talk on ideation, Steven Johnson suggested that ideas don’t come in a flash but rather gestate over time – and that conversation and discussion is a crucial part of this process.
Apart from anything else, letting members of your team occasionally cross path is a good way to keep everyone on the same side and avoid convergence and divergence amongst departments and in-groups.
While these hacks can help to boost morale, creativity and productivity, it is important to recognize the individual differences within your team as well. Everyone is different and so what helps one person to work well will not necessarily help someone else.
This is why it’s important not to think in terms of simple ‘tricks’ that will help everyone to work better but rather to sit down and have discussions with your individual team members. What you will likely learn is that some of those team members prefer working privately, while others will prefer working in larger groups. Some members of staff will like their workspaces to be bright and spacious, while others will prefer to be in their own little bubble. Make sure you treat your team as individuals and design your office accordingly as far as possible. A great office design is often one that is designed democratically!
Over the past few decades, the average office has come a long way and become generally more spacious, more comfortable and less depressing. The old corporate vision of rows of people sitting in grey cubicles has been exposed for the bad idea that it so clearly always was and instead we now tend to favour offices that are light, spacious, comfortable and open plan.
At the end of the day, this boils down to treating team members like people rather than some kind of faceless resource.
But before you pat yourself on the back, ask yourself whether you’re treating them like individuals. This is what you truly need to do if you’re going to take care of your staff and get the most from them!
Let’s say that you want to make the desks more comfortable for your team. You might do this by investing in a better office chair, or by making sure that the monitors are at the right height so your staff don’t need to crane their necks.
But have you considered just how different everyone is physically?
The perfect height for one member of your team is not likely to be the perfect height for another. Likewise, some people who work for you might struggle with health complaints such as back pain or neck pain that will need accommodating.The simple way to cater for this, is to make sure that everything in your office – as far as possible – is adjustable. Your staff should be able to adjust the heights of their seats but they also need to be able to adjust the height of their monitors.
Likewise, you also need to ensure that your staff have enough space to spread out in the way that is most comfortable for them. A large desk will mean they can slide the keyboard forward and back for example and they should also be able to move their chairs around.
Finally, make sure that you are listening to the requests of your staff. Invite members of your team to come to you with any special requirements and then do what you can to cater for them.
Another thing to consider is how each member of your team works best.
For instance, some people believe that changing their keys around to use a ‘DVORAK’ keyboard layout can help them to type more quickly and efficiently. Others would hate the idea of switching from QWERTY!
Likewise, some people might work better with an ultrawide monitor. Some people might like using a noticeboard. Some might want to bring in their own mouse.
If you can possibly accommodate these requests, then it is a good idea to do so. We all have our own preferred workflow and most of us are at a point in our lives where we know what will be conducive to good work and what won’t be. Don’t stubbornly make your team conform to one way of working because it is ‘statistically’ more productive. Listen to what they’re telling you and learn to make the most of each person’s unique quirks. Likewise, be open to requests for flexitime and other alternative work arrangements where appropriate – a happy worker is a productive one!
It’s also important to allow your staff to express themselves a little in their workspace. Precisely how much your employees should be allowed to clutter their area is up for debate and of course you need to avoid anything that will be potentially offensive to others.
But that said, being able to decorate your own workspace is known to have psychological benefits. Not only does bringing your own decoration make you feel at ease by acting like an anchor to home, but it also makes the space feel more like your own private work environment. This means you can feel less distracted by what’s going on around you and thereby better able to focus on work.
These are just a few ways that should consider the individual requirements of your team while designing your office and workflow. Don’t create an office and then try to force your staff to be comfortable there – let it evolve around them and become a place that they feel comfortable and productive.
If you’re considering renovating your current offices, or need help when it comes to redesigning them, don’t hesitate to get in touch with London Fit Out, the office fit out specialists.
It’s highly important that a business think hard about its office design and make the investment where necessary to keep it up-to-date. A good office should be functional, spacious, tidy and representative of the business and team that works there. When you get all this right, it will greatly help to motivate and support your workforce.
But it’s not only important to be motivated by what a great office can achieve; you also need to think about what a bad office can inflict. If you don’t take the time to carefully consider your office décor or spend the money to maintain it, then the consequences can be dire…
Danger #1 – Causing Permanently Health Damage
Simply put: a bad workspace can pose severe health risks for your staff.
Yes, this can include obvious dangers like trip hazards or fire hazards; but the more dangerous stuff is often much more subtle and harder to spot. Take for instance the serious damage that sitting in a bad chair for long periods of time can cause.
For starters, we now know that your lifespan actually gets shorter for all the time you spend sitting. And if that wasn’t enough, this can also lead to serious short-term aches, pains, as well as limiting your movements. When we sit, our hamstrings become tight and short, while our quadriceps become stretched and weak. This alone can cause an anterior pelvic tilt, resulting in severe back pain and even making you look shorter! Similar things happen in your shoulders and chest if you stretch your arms forward while you type.
You can carry on neglecting the need to replace your office chairs or to provide alternate seating options for your team but know that you might be gradually shortening their lives and permanently damaging their spines. The good news is that there are chairs out there that are able to mitigate these concerns.
All that’s before we’ve even touched on things like hygiene, allergens and dust. Don’t forget that dust is mainly made up of dead skin cells and if your office is covered in a thick coating of that… well it’s not very hygienic. And if nothing else, sick leave hurts your profits.
Then there’s screen glare, RSI and the countless other potential health hazards to be aware of. Fortunately, a modern office update will take care of most of these issues without you needing to worry about them.
Danger #2 – Wasting Time
A poorly organized office will end up wasting time and leading to error. If you have to search through multiple filing cabinets to find important documents, or if you have to walk halfway across the room to locate the one and only cupboard where the staplers are kept… well then you aren’t working during that time. This then means you’re wasting company time, which of course means you’re wasting money.
This only gets much worse if the document you’re trying to locate turns out to be missing, meaning that you now need to email and let your client know that their work is delayed. In some cases, it might mean that you can’t complete an assignment at all.
The same goes for computers that take 20 minutes to load up. Sure, this might come under the IT department’s jurisdiction but it’s all part and parcel of the same thing. An effective office is one that’s clean, quick, organised and modern. It makes all the difference.
Danger #3 – Poor Security and Privacy
This brings us to our next concern: privacy and security.
A good office should look spacious and open but it that doesn’t mean it should be easy to get in and out of. To ensure that your trade secrets and client data are kept safe and secure, you need to have at least some security measures in place; and you need to consider all the ways that a poor office design can undermine that.
For example: if you have a window that’s overlooked, then you might not want to handle sensitive data at the adjacent desk. If you publicly share your company’s address, then it’s important you have some form of intercom system for the safety of your team. If your office has considered security properly, then you should always be able to state confidently exactly who is on the premises at any given time.
Danger #4 – Dampening Productivity
A poorly organized office is one example of bad office design that can potentially hurt productivity. But there are many others – such as an office that hasn’t considered noise pollution.
There are lots of ways that you can deal with ambient noise: from having more insulating materials around the space, to attaching chair slippers to your furniture. Either way though, failure to take this into account can result in a space that is noisy and difficult to work in and this can make life very difficult when a member of staff is trying to concentrate.
The same goes for putting someone on a desk where their team are constantly going to be brushing past every two minutes. Or setting up the phones so that only one person answers all the calls. And this is before we even get into how damaging hot desking can be!
Danger #5 – Destroying Morale
A badly designed office will do terrible things for your team’s morale, which can very quickly lead to less productivity and even more serious issues.
Imagine spending every single day in a cramped, untidy and noisy office where you can never find what you’re looking for and your screen is constantly covered in glare. You’re going to find it very hard to feel motivated coming into work every day and you’re hardly going to feel compelled to do your very best.
The best case scenario is that your team continues to work but doesn’t achieve quite what it might otherwise be capable of. Another outcome is that your best staff leave and go to work for the competition where they have a ping pong table and an outdoor section. The worst case scenario is that it can lead to genuine mental health issues, such as depression.
Danger #6 – Damaging Your Reputation
Let’s say you are trying to secure an important client, or a new business partner. They come into the office to look around and discuss the terms of your arrangement and they’re greeted by piles of paper and a noisy, cluttered workspace. What do you think this does for their impression of your business? Because they know everything we’ve covered here. They know that you’re going to find it harder to locate their important documents, that your team aren’t going to be happy and that productivity is going to be hurt.
Not only that but they’re going ask themselves what it suggests about your priorities and capabilities: if you can’t get your own house in order, are you really the right business to be handling their affairs?
Ultimately, the objective of any office is to provide a comfortable space that will be conducive to work. The aim is to help your staff feel at ease, while also giving them easy access to all of the resources they need to be productive.
Offices can vary greatly from business to business but this objective is universal. What’s different, is the way that companies try and go about this, or how much attention they pay to specific aspects of their office design. In this post, we’ll look at some universal truths that can help any office to be more productive and comfortable.
A good office should be stimulating, which is to say that it should help to promote enthusiasm and creativity among the workforce. This is something that businesses have taken a long time to get right. Traditionally, the word ‘office’ has been something that we associate with small, grey cubicles and a distinct lack of colour.
Today, psychologists tell us that a ‘rich environment’ can help to trigger a highly productive flow state. A colourful and rich surrounding causes the brain to wake up and this helps to improve focus and attention while we’re working. Meanwhile, more varied stimulation is very positive for creative problem solving… and for helping staff to not hate coming into work!
Of course this doesn’t mean you should hang Disney themed wallpaper around the office. There’s a thin line between stimulating and distracting and an equally blurry line between creative and unprofessional. Just don’t be afraid to include a little colour and consider investing in décor that you’d be happy to stare at for 8 hours a day…
Another form of stimulation is social stimulation. There are few things that aid with the formation and development of ideas as well as chewing them over in a group. As the now-famous TED talk from Steven Johnson explains, ideas need a gestation period and the best way to coax them out from hiding is by discussing them with a group and having someone to bounce them off of.
Likewise, there’s often a big benefit to letting different departments work together to achieve greater synergy and share their knowledge. We all know the story of how Steve Jobs changed Pixar’s office layout to encourage more communication between animators and script writers. (Oh, you don’t? Then check out this post!)
Steve’s approach was to create an office that would facilitate ‘unplanned encounters’. Generally, a more open space can be a good strategy too though and this also has other benefits – making the space appear larger and lighter for instance.
Again, you don’t want your team to spend all day chatting and no time working. But segregation is not the answer. Encourage your staff to mingle and it will help to bring a livelier energy to the office.
Try writing an essay while someone stamps on your foot. Harder isn’t it? This is a great example of why comfort is so important. If your team aren’t comfortable where they’re working, then this is going to make it much harder for them to hold their attention for long periods of time.
What’s more is that allowing your staff to recline might also be good for creativity! This is because creativity is closely linked to a more relaxed state of mind – and it’s only when we allow our minds to wander that we can combine disparate concepts to come up with something truly new.
Again, you don’t want to take this to ridiculous extremes. Reclining lazy boys are not the answer here. But buying comfortable chairs and even creating the option for staff to unplug and take their laptops onto the couch can make a big difference.
It goes without saying as well that an office needs to provide adequate support and to benefit the long-term health of your workers. Don’t be that manager who puts off replacing old office chairs because you don’t want to spend the money. Not only is it a moral obligation, it’s also an investment with a particularly high return. Desk jockeys who are crippled over in pain are not good workers!
All this talk of openness and collaboration is not to say that all traditional notions of the productive office have been thrown out the window. Organisation is still very important and this ultimately comes down to ensuring that your team can quickly and easily find the documents, tools and supplies they need, when they need them. Time spent digging through filing drawers is not time spent well – and especially if it means things end up getting lost permanently.
And good organisation comes down to a lot more than just giving every employee their own desk caddy. It also means ensuring that there are enough work surfaces for the number of people who are likely to need somewhere to lean at any given time. And it means ensuring that workers can move freely around the office without bumping into each other. It means opening up those traffic lanes and keeping things within arm’s reach.
This relates closely to stimulation but deserves its own heading. A good office should be aesthetic, meaning that it should look pleasant and it should look the part. This is important not only for the morale of staff but also for the image you project when staff come to visit, or when you upload team photos to Instagram.
A good office is open, spacious, light, modern and well decorated. It should also be appropriate for the impression that you’re trying to give off about your business – whether that’s ‘hip, young startup’ or ‘trusted, corporate firm’. If you can find ways to make your office memorable (with a giant t-rex perhaps?), then it can even end up becoming a form of marketing in its own right.
Finally, make sure that your office is unique to you. While these universal rules apply to all businesses, the finer details are all down to you. Ultimately, the best office is one that helps you to achieve your goals – which means it needs to be different from the office of other companies, with different goals. Sometimes this is going to mean thinking outside the box and scrapping the rule book.
When everything works perfectly, an office will be a reflection of the company that owns it. That makes it a form of expression and gives it a personality even. And when your office décor is aligned with the values of your business, the requirements of your work and the ethos of your team – that’s when amazing things happen.
Ogilvy & Mathers UK have appointed London Fit Out to carry out 2 floors of office fit out alterations in their London Headquarters at Sea Containers house. The works will involve the relocation of existing tenants to allow two further WPP group companies to occupy the space on the 3rd floor following the fit out over the next 3 months.
Following the successful completion of two separate fit out project s at the London Fire Brigade Headquarters in Union Street, London, LFO successfully secured under tender the third phase of fit out works within the headquarter building to allow the offices to be segregated into additional spaces for other government departments such as London Ambulance service, London Travel Watch, London Pension Funds. The remaining works will carry on until April completion, all carried out in fully occupied offices.
After becoming an approved contractor for the Transport of London, the London Fit Out team have won a 2 stage tender to refurbish 2 new control centres at both TFL offices – Palestra in Southwark and Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria. Working alongside the TFL 24 hour live centre will be a challenge our site team are looking forward to delivering.
London Fit Out has secured the second fit out of the expanding Pall Mall Barbers chain in Liverpool Street, following the successful completion of the Westminster barber shop. Due to the high level of quality work delivered the chain has partnered with London Fit Out to work with them in delivering their roll out of barber shops around the London region over the next couple of years. We look forward to our continued working relationship.
London Fit Out have been awarded the CAT B fit out of 3 floors in Shoreditch for Hugo & Cat a leading digital agency who mix strategy, creativity and technology to build measurable customer engagement across web, mobile and social. The offices are being designed by HUT architects to a high standard and Bollingbrook are Project Managing the works while the landlord is still completing the office refurbishment of the whole building. Works are due for completion at end of March.