6 Ways to Design the Right Office For Your Company
If you have a new employee starting soon and the only available space is in the gap beside the fridge, it may be time to seek out new premises. If there are more people making phone calls in the hallway than the office, or your staff leaving parties are resembling the Exodus of Egypt, it’s for sure time to call an estate agent. But what are you looking for? And what should you do with it when you find it? Worry not, we’re here to help you into your dream office – one where people aren’t dropping like overly air conditioned flies.
1. Get site-specific.
How many people do you need to house during daylight hours; in what manner are you going to house them and what do you want this house, sorry, office, to say about your business? All these things need to be considered. But first, start with the basics – the bare basics. “An ideal site has no walls and large open spaces between columns,” says interior architect Kelly Holland. “If you have a column every two metres it’s difficult to lay out workable spaces.” Lots of natural light is also good, Kelly reckons. Good for what? “Sanity.”
2. Get approval.
Leasing office space is very different from renting a house – you can typically do what you want with it, within reason. But best check your potential landlord is reasonable. Work out any major work you may need to do, perhaps with the help of an interior architect, then get approval before getting the sledgehammer out. Speaking of interior architects, if you’re going to engage one, you may want to do so early on. “Getting a feasibility study on a site you’re thinking about leasing could save you money down the track,” Kelly says. “It lets you know what can and can’t be done before you commit to something you can’t get out of.”
3. Personal space vs public space.
Do you need more space, more conference rooms, more moreishness? Well, get out your ruler. Kelly says she usually allows 1500mm per workstation in a call centre type of office, through to 2400mm for creative workspaces. To the latter, she recommends adding a communal table in the centre of each pod of desks for group work. But groups don’t only congregate over designs and spreadsheets. “Creating a lunch hub is imperative to company culture,” Kelly says. “It needs to be spacious so many people can prep food at once, with an island for socialising. A variety of seating options – stools, chairs and couches – also add to the ‘hanging out’ feel you want to create here.”
4. Open plan, except…
While most offices now have low workstations, allowing for friendly eye contact throughout the office, sometimes you need all eyes on someone else. Breakout rooms provide somewhere quiet and private to make a call or meet a pressing deadline. Kelly recommends one for every six to eight staff. “There are creative ways to do this,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be a boxed-in room. You can add padded booths, or curved couches covered in acoustic material which surround you like an egg.” Aka: the closest you can get to the fetal position between 9 and 5.
5. Fit-out fun.
Office furniture is no longer static. With standing desks and ABW (Activity Based Working) trends, movable and reconfigurable furniture is literally on the rise. And don’t forget your colour pallette. “Colour is a major thing in terms of creating mood,” Kelly says, “For a formal feel, go for more muted tones, if you want your company to feel casual lean more towards primary colours.”
6. Healthy balance.
Work/life blah, blah, no. If you want to keep your people you have to care. Or at least install a shower so people can get some exercise and care for themselves. In a recent study of over 2000 knowledge workers, choice over how and where to work, together with an environment that mimics life outside the office, was shown to closely correlate with workplace satisfaction. So let people choose where they work as much as possible. Then buy a ping pong table – but not before you buy out the plant shop. “Living plants are so important in an office,” Kelly says, “because offices don’t usually have opening windows and plants recycle the air.” Remember we promised you in your new office your workers will no longer be dropping in their tracks like overly air conditioned flies? There you go.