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Program Your Office To The Changing Workplace

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Have you ever wondered why an office space is designed the way it is? Some are filled with endless clusters of workstations while others are open and casual.  With the many offices I’ve visited, I started to wonder why the workstations and common spaces were designed like that, and what were the issues that brought the company to seek space planning? After a few observations, I started to learn about their office culture and understand why.

Office planning starts with programming.  Programming is a part of the design process in any project whether big or small. It is when designers learn about the company, how they work, and what they need. In return, the design team presents a plan to improve its present workplace and set it up for the future. Nowadays, it is common for a company to reorganize and re asses their staff.  On the other hand, small businesses emerge and are optimistic about their future and possible expansion.  Change for better or worse can equate to costs – rent, building maintenance, furniture and employees. So how do we make our office adjust to changes without breaking the bank?  

Evaluate your office

Programming starts with gathering data. Here are few items that a designer would ask when programming.

  1. List existing types of spaces: private, semi private and open and their current sq ft. and position hierarchy.  List common areas like break rooms and reception area and existing sq. ft and their relationship to other departments. List how much files you currently have and all other existing furniture you need reused.
  2. Evaluate your past growth and look into your forecasted revenue and growth for each department.
  3. Compare the space that you currently have vs. the space that you will need. Do you think you have enough to meet your space requirements in say, 5 years?

Once you collected this data, you will begin to see your space more clearly.  In this fickle market, it is not uncommon to be conservative, rework the existing space and incorporate new furniture to go with existing ones. However, to be able to have that flexibility you need good space analysis and more planning that a design team can help you evaluate.  One great resource for companies with 25 or less employees is Turnstone space planning service.  They will give you a free assessment for your space.  

Plan for the bright future

Furniture that can reconfigure easily is a good feature when reorganizing. Look for desk systems that can be easily modified to accommodate expansion of staff. You can also plan common areas like break rooms to be an alternate space for meeting areas or a conference room to be converted into a private office if the need arises. Allot a desk for equipment now and use it as a workstation tomorrow. But there are other components besides furniture that need adjustment.  Power, voice and data go hand in hand with furniture planning. Reconfiguring a workstation is a little bit more complex than just moving a chair over. But it is possible and it just needs smart planning.

Improve your space efficiency

There are different types of spaces for different types of workers in one office.  I worked in a sales office where almost half of the staff traveled all the time. At times, it was like a ghost town and maybe for a brief moment, someone would show up, work, and then take off. Do you think they need a 6x6 panel based workstation? Desks with power, phone and storage is all they need. Why allot a big chunk of space if it will only be used a few times a week? Use it for spaces intended for collaboration or common areas where all employees can enjoy.

 Know your future employees

While the baby boomers are retiring, the next big wave is the Generation Y.  Generation Y are those who were born in the mid 80’s. According to a study conducted by Steelcase, Generation Y’s ideal workplace is active and flexible. They do not want to be isolated into a workstation as long as they produce results. They prefer collaborative and technology friendly space and are multi tasking. Flexibility also means being able to personalize their workspaces. They prefer workspaces that can provide privacy and still have social connections. Generation Y are environmentally and socially conscious and have a good work-life balance.

Change is inevitable, whether it’s driven by economy or people. We have the tools to adjust to change, we just have to plan smart and be progressive.
 

Carla Turk a licensed Interior Designer, has worked in the design industry with a Chicago based Architecture and Design firm as a designer and a resource librarian. Besides creating constructions drawings, she worked with clients in interior remodeling, space planning, finish and furniture selection.  

Her experience in the industry gave her a look inside the conceptualization of the space, production of drawings to experiencing the finished space. She created Finishboard.com to share design concepts and images of new products, materials and brilliantly designed interior spaces by talented designers and architects to the world. 

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