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The To-Do List

Best Practice for Office Design

The To-Do List

If you’re starting a company and looking for the To Do List as far as office design is concerned, the world is full of advice – trendy this, cool that, integrated the other.

Fundamentally, it’s important to think of your office as a box where people will spend the majority of their working lives. You want it to do a number of key things – be welcoming, be comfortable, dissuade them from wanting to run out the door, and, while they’re there, encourage them to do as much work, of as high a quality, as possible. That after all is how you end up with happy clients, happy staff, and happy accountants when your bottom line is ready to show off.

One Size Doesn’t Really Fit All

When it comes to filling the people-box, opinion is equally divided. Rule 1 – listen to your staff if you can. Assess the type of work that will be done in each area – creative work, number crunching etc, and assess your balance of extroverted and introverted staff. Balance is the key all down the line.
With that in mind, it’s probably fair to say that open plan office design is not the one-size-fits-all teambuilding solution it was once thought to be. It’s easy, absolutely, and with its minimum physical footprint, it’s probably among your cheaper options too – but is it worth it? With increasing noise floor issues, the ease of communicating common illnesses and perhaps most of all, an impersonal, creativity-quashing and privacy-stealing nature, the great expanse of an open-plan office probably doesn’t give you the range of environments you’re looking for – increasingly, designers are offering a combination of quiet spaces for focused working and more open areas for creative teamwork.

Hot Stuff

While not an active design factor, the temperature of your office can have a strong impact on the efficiency of your workforce. Human beings are a potentially cantankerous crew – too cold and they won’t stick around any longer than is strictly necessary; too hot and they’ll get soporific and unproductive. Think about temperature not only in your actual heating and air-con options, but in terms of how many bodies are in how much space, air flow around the office space, window placements and so on.

Looking Out, Working Harder

Speaking of window placements, studies have been done in call centres that showed a 6% efficiency boost in call handling times when staff had a view to the outside world. Similar boosts have been recorded when the ‘outside comes in’ – use of greenery in the office helps boost staff endorphin levels, by essentially tricking the brain into disassociating the environment from more chore-like elements of the job, and reminding staff of the world outside. Equally, and for similar reasons, the inclusion of natural light in the office has been proven to enhance productivity.

The Noise Factor

Try moving your desk to Piccadilly Circus and see how much work you get done.
Not really, but the point is valid – if the noise floor is high, it acts as an irritant and a disturbing factor in human concentration. That said, unless you work in a library, dead, stony silence is for androids only. A healthy, unobtrusive buzz will suffice – but again, think about noise flows, people-crowding and the like at the design stage, so you’re not forced to think about costly redevelopment work down the line, when your office is full of grumpy staff.

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