Offices are places of business with formalities and rules that govern them. Often, the formality associated with them is what keeps their designs uptight and unfriendly. Some employers hold the opinion that if you make employees too comfortable they would slack at their jobs. Research and studies show the complete opposite.
When considering office plans and decor, as an employer or designer, aim to provide more than just infrastructure. Try and deliver a more wholesome work environment. Where the budget is restrictive, mitigate costs. Buying directly from suppliers as opposed to shops. You could get discounts for bulk orders on things like desks and cabinets and even find wholesale drawer slides that will be enough for all of them.
Here are a few aspects to consider for a great workspace:
Office space is the physical representation of a company’s brand. Granted, you need the space to be highly functional but it should also represent the firm well.
Good design in regard to branding is subjective to the company in question. It should reflect the values and work culture of the company. Some industries, such as law firms, are highly formal and require that kind of setting to go with it. On the other hand, Silicon Valley has been at the forefront in demonstrating how to give creatives relaxed work environments.
Branding is more than just the signage at the door, it is an inanimate expression using decor. It can range from bright colors and quirky chairs to muted shades and formal seating. Either way, what qualifies it as a good design is if it properly represents the brand of the business.
Division of Workspace
There are two main kinds of office plans: closed and open-plan offices. The type of office plan required will determine how the partition is to be done. Regardless of what kind of office plan you intend to have, partitioning ought not to result in segregation.
For the best productivity, an office needs to be a collaborative workspace. Good partitioning can be used to provide spaces of privacy for events such as meetings and designated workspaces. However, there should be access and ease of movement between sections of the office space.
When choosing an office layout, the foremost concern other than functionality should be inclusiveness. If staff feel excluded and separated, it breeds a lack of cohesion and cooperation.
Occasional breaks allow employees to come back to their work with fresh, less exhausted eyes. Recreational spaces allow staff to do this without leaving the premises. A well-planned office design should have a provision for such spaces. Some of them are:
Employees should not have to walk across the street for a drink of water. An office kitchen allows members of staff to have soft drinks and even warm lunches. It works to the advantage of the firm by saving work hours that would be shaved off by food errands.
It is often a concept used in more relaxed workplaces but can be adapted for any office. Indoor games such as darts, board games, cards among others can be placed in a room that is accessible during certain times.
Besides recreation, it provides an opportunity for employees to interact which improves team spirit.
Child care can be unbelievably expensive and a source of great anxiety for parents. Including a creche in an office space, allows parents to focus on their work knowing their child is taken care of.
Accessibility refers to the level of ease needed to get into a building. For instance, if your office is on the twelfth floor and there are no elevators to get there, access is diminished. Further, most commercial places are not properly accessible to people with special needs. Factors such as narrow doors and lack of ramps make entry difficult for them.
As a business, you can not discriminate against physically-challenged clients or employees. It is not just bad for profitability, it is illegal. Suitable office space should thus make provisions that cater to everyone. A few of these could include:
- Use of double-doors in the decor to allow space for wheelchair users
- Elevator access
- Suitable lavatory facilities
There is a difference between a rigid plan and a formal one. The latter is completely acceptable but a rigid plan lacks softness and nuance. An apt example of this is hospitals where everything is very sterile and minimalist. An appealing office decor serves both clients and members of staff. Warmer welcoming spaces have been proven to improve mood and human interaction.
The idea here is not to get carried away and throw glitter onto office walls but rather a few tasteful additions. So, what are soft touches? Consider:
- Potted plants or flowers in walkways and side office tables respectively
- Elegant art pieces and murals on walls
- Tasteful cutlery in boardrooms
- A few pieces of cozy furniture
Visibility is important for productivity, employees can obviously not work in the dark. The structure of a workspace should be such that it allows as much natural light as possible. Glass partitioning is a great way to achieve this. Additionally, besides natural light being absolutely free, it has been proven to be healthier than artificial light.
A salient effect of lighting that is often not considered is its effects on eyesight. Gone are the days that typewriters and handwritten documents were the norms. The modern office is heavily reliant on computer systems. Employees spend their days in front of lit screens. Over a period of time, a combination of harsh lighting and computer screens can result in eyesight problems.
It is essential that lighting is well installed such that it provides brightness for visibility but does not cause harm. Solutions such as recessed lighting and dimming features would provide a comfortable work environment.
A distinct characteristic of good office design is that it is anticipatory; it considers how space will be used and the needs of the people who will use it. It defeats the purpose to build while only considering stringent ideas of what an office should look like.