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6 Concepts for Designing an Office

The importance of an office design that helps to cultivate the utmost wellbeing and productivity in the users of such spaces can barely be overstated.

After all, with one recent study by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) having found that British workers will each spend an average of 3,515 full days at work over the course of their lifetimes, it’s fair to say that the office of the future is one in which a significant proportion of people will spend a significant proportion of their time.

However, it isn’t only the most intricate and arcane aspects of an office’s layout, decor, and technology that will greatly influence how rewarding space it is in which to work. That’s because, if the next office design that your organisation creates is to align well with its values, priorities, and needs, there should also be a sense of a grand, informing theme or concept.

Deciding on the most suitable such concept for your company could be a process fraught with deep discussion, debate and difficulty; there is certainly no ‘one-size-fits-all’ office template that will work well for every organisation. Nonetheless, below are just some of the office design themes that have received especially favourable notice, and which may help to spark some of your own ideas.

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1. The Flexible Workspace

In an age in which more and more of us are working in various flexible ways, it makes sense to consider an office layout that embraces such a spirit. The traditional office plan, after all, tends to be characterised by the locations of the desks, chairs, tables and other elements being fixed and unchanging.

By contrast, a flexible office design is all about these resources being easy to move and even resize. It’s the kind of design that tends to use modular components for its furniture, perhaps on wheels to make them especially straightforward to rearrange within mere seconds.

But the flexible workspace doesn’t just come down to employees being able to immediately add a modular component to a table to make it bigger for those spontaneous meetings between the whole team. Such is the commitment to flexibility, in fact, that these spaces often work on the basis of unassigned seating arrangements, with staff able to just walk in and get on with their jobs at any workstation or desk on a given day.

After all, we are increasingly in the age of the ‘paperless office’, in which a worker’s essential tools may be little more than a desk, chair and computer. Even many leading companies’ data is now stored on remote networks rather than local computers these days.

As reported by ITProPortal, almost a fifth of offices have gone paperless thus far. Furthermore, with the potential benefits of a paperless office ranging from heightened productivity to reduced costs, there has arguably never been a better or more urgent time for your own business to follow suit.

2. The Artist’s Loft

The UK’s creative industries are one of the country’s far-too-often-unsung success stories. Only recently, the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) revealed that the UK creative industries’ value surpassed the £100 billion mark in 2017 – showing that those working in such sectors as film, TV, radio, photography, museums and galleries know what they’re doing.

Furthermore, you can bet that office layouts conductive to creativity have helped such businesses to their astounding levels of success. If then, your own firm does any kind of creative work at all – and let’s face it, we all have to draw upon our inventiveness in our work lives from time to time – you might consider taking some cues from the ‘artist’s loft’ aesthetic.

By this, we mean considering such touches as pushing individual desks together to form long horizontal rows, and lining the perimeter of the office with whiteboards, to help your workers to get their ideas flowing.

Effectively creating a massive single whiteboard from several whiteboards, and a single long desk from multiple ones, will encourage staff to not only generate ideas but also derive inspiration from – and see the possible connections with – other projects being worked on in the office.

To finish off the artistic vibe of such a layout, why not inject some pops of colour through the placement of framed and printed graphics around the space as further sources of inspiration?

3. The Light-Filled Office

It’s easy to think of an overarching office concept as a cue, or even excuse, to spend excessive amounts of money on a self-indulgent and possibly ineffective renovation of your spaces. But that doesn’t need to be the case at all.

Consider, for example, an office layout that is simply based on making the most of natural light. If your space has large windows already, you can be sure of a good start on this one. However, even the most seemingly unpromising offices tend to offer untapped light sources and opportunities to maximise available light, which helps to make this a great aesthetic to aim for on a budget.

Indeed, it might actually be an especially wise office redesign theme to go for if you have a smaller office space for which an airy ‘open plan’ look may otherwise seem unfeasible.

Get started with creating this aesthetic by exchanging your office’s current overhead bulbs for brighter models and introducing some lamps. Make the most of the daylight potential of your windows by taking down the blinds in favour of window films, which will help you to control solar heat gain and glare without blocking the sun too much.

Finally, experiment with the placement of mirrors around the space, including directly across from windows wherever possible. Don’t be afraid to allow your workers to catch sight of themselves in these mirrors during the day – after all, your employees are a natural light themselves!

4. The Biophilic Approach

Biophilia is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world”, which was put forward as a hypothesis by biologist Edward O. Wilson in his book Biophilia in 1984.

This has helped to spawn a whole school of thought in contemporary design – namely, that humans enjoy improved health, creativity, concentration and all-round performance at work when their surroundings enable them to feel closely connected to nature.

An office space designed around biophilic principles, then, is one that embraces such ‘natural’ elements as plentiful daylight, flowing water, plants, natural materials and natural views.

There may be no better expression of biophilic design in a single space anywhere around the world today than the Central Atrium of the Federal Center South Building 1202 in Seattle, Washington. As explained on the ArchDaily website, the project was a “redevelopment” of an existing warehouse, and resulted from the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence program “which focuses on selecting design teams that will push boundaries and generate innovation in design of our nation’s federal buildings.”

It’s difficult to argue that such boundaries haven’t been pushed by a Central Atrium design that incorporates such touches as an extensive level of natural light through high glass ceilings, the use of reclaimed timber for the walls, stairs and handrails, and gardens comprising flowing waterways, trees, dirt and rocks.

But you don’t necessarily have to be anywhere near as extravagant as this to give your own office a biophilic refresh – indeed, literal waterfalls and streams might be rather overdoing it in a modestly-sized office. There’s little to stop you, though, from placing a greater number of plants around your workplace to purify the air of toxicity, or rearranging furniture so that everyone in the office can enjoy the same stunning view of the natural landscape outside as you do.

5. The Fitness-Oriented Space

Here’s an intriguing idea for those of you with offices full of active and energetic people who may be prone to restlessness if they’re expected to sit down at an office desk for long periods.

This office design philosophy is centered on getting just the right balance between open and private spaces, while also – of course – playing to the tendency for many office workers to wish to get up, move and stretch from time to time.

You might insert privacy screens next to employee desks, for example, but leave sufficient room for a yoga mat. Those otherwise neglected and awkward office corners, meanwhile, could be transformed into open CrossFit-style gym spaces. Whether you go as far as actually providing equipment for use in these spaces is up to you as long as they aren’t strictly needed, but if you include a sign and some fitness posters, your employees should soon get the message.

It may be a good idea, too, to invest in some brightly coloured duct tape for marking off the ‘fitness zones’ from the ‘work areas’. You don’t want any ambiguity about where these sections start and end to pose any health and safety risks, after all – especially when there may be fitness equipment otherwise haphazardly placed around the office.

6. A Zone for Activity-Based Working

Looking back through this list, you might be wondering why we haven’t so far mentioned the open-plan office – the many-decades-old layout that removes almost all of the barriers associated with the even older and more traditional system of cubicles and private offices.

Well, there’s a good reason for that – after such a long period of popularisation, open-plan offices have come to suffer from a few of their own problems. More specifically, we’re talking about the tendency for the removal of all barriers in an office to leave workers exposed to noises and distractions from colleagues, which can be a particular issue when concentration is required.

In truth, there are times in an office when an employee needs solitude so that they can focus on a task, and other times when a more social environment may best help them to flourish – especially when they are overseeing a project that calls for some collaboration.

This issue has given rise to the activity-based working design philosophy, which enables individuals to choose the type of work setting that best suits them at a given time. An office arranged in accordance with these principles, then, may offer all manner of combinations of open office areas, privacy areas, quiet focus areas, meeting areas, lounge spaces and even cafe areas.

Is the current design of your own brand’s office a good match to your mission, values and how your employees actually work? Whatever the current situation for your workplace, the Maris team can assist you in delivering powerful new solutions for your office layout; simply get in touch with our experts in workspace design today for an in-depth discussion.