Creating an effective office space is an important part of establishing any business. An optimised workspace improves efficiency of all aspects of daily workflows, improving the productivity, satisfaction and health of office workers.
Choosing the right office layout for a business depends on business needs, floor space, budget and building facilities. Generally, office layouts fall into three main types:
- Private offices
- Cubicle offices
- Open plan office spaces
Most businesses require some private office space, accommodating management teams holding private meetings, or employees working with sensitive, confidential information.
Nevertheless, with office space at a premium, private offices are in decline. Since each office requires its own lighting and heating, private offices are generally the most expensive type of office to run.
On the other hand, providing employees with private office spaces can improve productivity, increasing space between workers and reducing interruptions. In addition, private offices facilitate social distancing – essential during the current COVID-19 pandemic – making them safer to work in and run.
Providing a compromise between private offices and open plan, cubicle layouts tap into some of the benefits of each, dividing open plan office spaces with partitions to create privacy. In creating cubicle layouts, office planners must balance the need for natural light with workplace noise, both in terms of choosing the right materials and where partitions should go.
Full partitions reach from floor to ceiling, reducing noise volumes and providing employees with more privacy. A study from Cornell University shows that noisy working environments heighten workplace stress, lowering motivation and triggering long-term health risks.
Half-partitions may be appropriate to improve availability of natural light but result in a much noisier office. During the current pandemic, full partitions offer employees more protection from COVID-19 transmission.
Although open plan has its disadvantages in terms of productivity and distraction, it also confers benefits in terms of building collaboration and communication between employees.
The key to building an effective office space is in its design. Teams can be positioned close to each other, enabling them to collaborate effectively while still keeping foot traffic to a minimum.
To optimise office space, important considerations are the available floorspace and any sources of natural light. Inadequate lighting can trigger fatigue and health problems in employees, particularly those working with visual display units. In the UK, HSE guidelines recommend a luminance of at least 200 lux.
Eye strain, headaches and reduced alertness are common complaints often associated with poor fluorescent lighting. Natural lighting has intrinsic benefits in terms of maintaining employee focus and health, so it is important to make the best use of all sources of natural light.
Noise is an important consideration in planning an open plan office space. Open plan offices are generally much louder, particularly those that accommodate a large number of employees. Large offices with an ambient noise level of 65 decibels can negatively impact worker concentration, making tasks like communicating over the phone difficult. In addition, with COVID-19 presenting a significant risk in shared spaces, additional measures are often necessary to make workplaces safe, such as creating extra space between workstations and implementing stringent health and safety measures such as the wearing of masks in the workplace.
According to a CommercialCafe survey, 43% of respondents identified privacy as the most desirable office perk, selecting the private office as their preferred working environment. In the same survey, just 10% of employees preferred to work in an open plan office.
Furniture At Work offers a comprehensive range of office desks and chairs to create the perfect workspace. Creating a comfortable, pleasant workspace should not be overlooked, with desks available in a variety of shapes, colours and materials to suit individual office styles.
It is important to provide employees with a comfortable, supportive place to sit. Furnishing an office with ergonomic chairs encourages good posture while discouraging slouching and sitting in awkward positions for significant periods of time, which can have poor health implications.
Providing comfortable chairs is a basic tenet of maintaining worker satisfaction, yet office furniture is overlooked surprisingly often. In one study, 86% of participants complained that their office chair made them uncomfortable, with more than half acknowledging that they wished they could change it. A very simple way to reward staff and show them that they are appreciated is by making their comfort and health a priority.
Creating a pleasant working environment by investing in quality furniture, including comfortable chairs, shows employees, clients and the public at large that a company cares, boosting not only employee satisfaction but brand reputation.