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Form Meets Function: Designing an Office with Efficiency in Mind

By: Jake Taylor, leasing and brokerage associate

Many factors contribute to an employee’s productivity. Work-life balance, career satisfaction, and overall health and well-being are just a few areas that influence an employee’s ability to perform at his or her highest potential. And yet, one area often overlooked by company decision-makers when it comes to bringing out the best in their employees is the layout of the office.

Office design plays a critical role in an employee’s experience at work, and can prove to be a defining factor in how well they complete tasks and interact with co-workers. When considering your next office redesign, take into account the following points to ensure that your entire office is set up for success.

Providing for space and flexibility

Whether you have 2,000 or 20,000 square feet of office space, it is extremely important to develop a space plan that meshes well with how your employees work and how your business operates. Flexible work models improve business efficiency and reduce the square footage needed to conduct business successfully. Providing ample space for meetings and other collaborative efforts can help spur engagement and foster new ideas, but when those brainstorming sessions get noisy, it’s important to provide employees who require lower noise levels with individual offices or conference rooms where they can take important calls.

Employees who are usually out of the office might not need a permanent desk. Work stations and small conference rooms can accommodate these employees when they are in the office without dedicating space that will seldom be used. Creating versatile space and saving square footage can be as simple as installing modular tables and mobilized furniture. If you can turn a large conference room into a lunch room, and a lunch room into a class room, you just turned three rooms into one. If that reduces your space requirements by 500 square feet, you just saved several thousand dollars per year. Modular furniture also allows for growth as it allows companies to add, remove or reconfigure desks within minutes.  Striking the right balance of space and flexibility tailored to your work atmosphere lays the foundation for a highly efficient office.

Designing for efficiency

In today’s business landscape, executives are focusing less on how much time their employees are working and more emphasis on how to make employee’s hours more “lean”. Efficiency is not only achieved through new technology, automation and modern software, but also from designing an office environment that maximizes the efficient use of time and movement of employees and visiting clients. Businesses should want to eliminate as much dedicated circulation space as possible. This can be accomplished by locating departments or teams in close proximity, and eliminating unnecessary hallways and corridors. If possible, high-traffic rooms such as print rooms should be in a central location with good circulation and ample standing room. Conference room location should be decided based on the user. A conference room with access from the reception area is convenient for clients and should typically be of higher finish and visibility. Private conference rooms are typically located away from high traffic areas or near the employees who typically utilize the space.

Noise and privacy should always be considered during build-out, especially when frequent phone calls and personal interaction is expected in the space. Certain interior finishes can help with acoustics and reduce sound bleed. Carpet, acoustical panels, and padded work stations are all common ways to reduce sound travel and audible distractions. Tile and other non-porous surfaces can provide a clean, professional look to a space, but should only be used in areas where noise level is not a priority. These areas include reception and common areas, certain conference rooms, restrooms, and areas separated from open work stations and private areas. Demising walls often leak sound through the ceiling and window line. This can be overlooked because people tend to automatically associate walls with privacy. Rooms that require privacy should be located and designed with acoustics in mind.

Investing in technology

There is no doubt that technology is driving the business sector. Decision-makers have an endless line-up of software options and technology tools to choose from to improve productivity. One way technology can help achieve productivity goals is through eliminating redundancy. Why have a copier, scanner and printer taking up valuable space when today you can get all three in one machine? Fiber internet and faster Wi-Fi is a coveted amenity by any business, especially those who require large servers, and connect with customers, records, and other data via online channels. Although many businesses expect wireless networking, not all office buildings have it. A building’s density of tenants, security concerns, and the service provider in the building are all factors that affect the availability of wireless. If wireless computing is a necessity, make sure you consult with your landlord before you commit to a space. Laptops, tablets and smartphones allow employees to stay plugged in on-the-go as they move from one meeting to the next. Getting feedback from employees is a great tactic in selecting the right technology for your business.