Having worked in a number of architect’s practices and seen many workspaces throughout my career in design, I can safely say that they are a number of office interiors than can really make you feel uninspired, depressed, lack originality and are nothing more than a space with desks, PC’s and printers. There is either too much noise (bad acoustics) or deathly silence; too much paperwork, lever arch files on view and bland colour schemes or too much conflicting colour in the furniture, walls and fabric desk partitions.
So how do we plan an office that is an equal balance, that encourages staff moral by being a productive place to work, that is an effective use of space without people sitting on top of each other or too far apart? Considering how much time we spend in the office or ‘at work’ surely it is a priority within your company’s manifesto to spend time designing and planning the way your office works?
I don’t claim to know all the answers but these are a few pointers that I work towards when designing office environments for my clients.
Who are you?
So your client arrives for a meeting and has climbed the stairs or exited the lift within an office block. How do they know they have arrived at their destination? How do they know that it’s the right company’s door? Oh that’s right there is a small sign on the door that states the name! Of course that doesn’t quite cut the mustard.
Make a statement with your company logo and branding. This is where you really need to make an impression. Upon initial entrance to your offices, whether it be on the street or in an office complex, state who you are, what you do and don’t be afraid to make it big!
Branding in interiors is highly important and should have continuity throughout a scheme. It is present on stationary, on websites and on company vehicles so why not within interiors. That is not to say that it should be everywhere but clever introductions of company colours and graphics on screens, walls, doors or floors, just allow visitors to know where they are and reaffirms a strong brand identity. Don’t be guilty of overkill but ensure that you say it loud and proud!
A warm reception
Not all offices have a manned reception and it’s not to say that it should always be the case but a meet and greet area, where visitors can sit and wait is advisable. I personally always make my mind up about a company by the reception; it can say a lot about what an organisation is trying to say. Some can say,’We are formal, professional, so don’t crack your jokes with us‘.
Others can reflect ‘We are wacky, outgoing and a little off-the-cuff, so you probably won’t get our high-brow jokes‘
Then there is ‘ We are friendly, approachable and we’ll tell you some good ones once the deal is done’.
Having a reception desk is worthwhile when there is a receptionist sat manning it, but if the office is small, make an area for visitors that allows them to sit down and wait and read through company brochures. This is also a great space to allow for informal team meetings or breakout spaces.
The Timeout Corner
In every office I have worked in, I have always had lunch at my desk so heavens knows how many crumbs I have in my keyboard! I certainly know that this seems to be the norm, when you are up against a heavy deadline or there is lack of options to sit elsewhere. Well this is where I advise on creating a space otherwise known as a ‘Breakout’ Area.
It serves to have many functions, a place for colleagues to meet and chat, a place for a coffee and a break from looking at the screen, an area that isn’t a formal meeting room.
It is advised by health officials that staring at a computer monitor causes strain to your eyes, therefore, having a break and ‘exercising’ your eyes by looking into the distance, will reduce damage. For further ways to reduce eye strain check out Computer Active website.
Each square foot of office space is to be considered, as it’s normally per square foot or square metre that you will be paying for. This is not just the spaces that employees/the team inhabit but also the spaces they don’t, where there is nothing but open space.
Many companies will buy furniture or acquire it and place it with not much consideration for a team’s needs, an individual’s requirements or the company’s image. Bad space planning can affect staff moral and create ineffective workspace management. This is an important process to an office design; ensuring you understand about team relationships, the resources they need within their working space and also understanding the way they work is essential. For instance, if you are working with a sales team, you can guarantee there will be a lot of noise from talking on the telephone to chatting to each other. This means the acoustics between individuals and also in the open space need to be addressed. There is nothing worse than the sound you get on the other end of the line that makes it sound like they are in a call centre. For teams that need space to think, create or solve, how do you create an effective environment to encourage and assist them to so?
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
It may sound as through I have just made this one up, but believe me, it is very much a real condition and one that should be taken seriously and preventative measures can be taken to ensure that you don’t have anyone phoning in claiming to be suffering from SBS.
Such causes can be:
- Poor lighting
- Inadequate ergonomic seating and desk configuration
- Chemicals or polluntants in the air
- Poor ventilation
- Poor heating/cooling systems
This is to list but a few, but all of these can be resolved by taking steps to ensure that everyone in your company has a working environment that doesn’t affect their health.
For further information on SBS visit the NHS website.
Pleased to meet you
Meeting rooms should serve their purpose but also should provide comfort for their visitors. This is where deals can be done, people can be interviewed, problems are solved and information is acquired. So having equipment that can assist with all of these tasks is essential. Take time to carefully consider flexibility and a comfortable viewing distance from a screen if this is to serve as a seminar room, not to mention ergonomic meeting chairs that are comfortable.
There are many issues that need to be considered in this space such as lighting, air temperature, ventilation and also the acoustics, all of which can be factored in by the designer. It isn’t just a room with a table.
So there we have it. Office design or Space planning is not as simple as moving a few desks into the space. There is numerous things to consider. As designers we are able to factor in both the functionality of the space not to mention the aesthetics. Just for the record it’s not all colour swatches and furniture images, there is far more to consider that can enable your company to have a happy, healthy working environment.
For more information on our services please check out our website www.spatialdesigners.com
Check out a short guide on Health & Safety in the workplace.