Mar 28, 2014

5 Things You Should Know Before Changing an Office Layout

By Don Catalano


office layout, commercial real estate

New office layouts are both more and less open than layouts of the past. While many of the benefits of modern layouts have been touted widely, they are more complicated than they initially seem. Done right, a new office layout will serve more employees in fewer square feet while creating a physical space that encourages team work and collaboration. Done wrong, it creates an office where employees feel constantly on display and frequently interrupted. Here are some trends to keep in mind as you ponder renovating your office space.


Know Your Headcount

The leading key supporter of office layout trends isn't an expert in organizational psychology or a corporate real estate guru. It's the CFO. They love new office designs because they increase density and allow spaces to be configured with a higher headcount per square foot.

However, one of the key reasons these minimized office layouts work is that they assume a portion of the workforce will be out of the office, working off-site at any given time. After all, if 25% of your workers aren't there on any given day, it's relatively easy to shrink your space by 25%. If your workforce is usually in the office every day, you might not be able to realize the same level of shrinkage.


Know Your Collaborative Needs

Part of creating a more collaborative office layout is to kill the cube farm. While many new offices still have cubes, the walls are low, allowing employees to see each other and communicate and collaborate more effectively. If you can create open workspaces with no walls, you gain even greater collaboration while eliminating the cost of acquiring partitions.

The downside of this is that there's a fine line between collaboration and water cooler chat. For an open office layout to work, management needs to build a culture of productive sharing. At the same time, the office should also offer spaces where people can temporarily hole up to get some uninterrupted work done when they need to.


Know the Right Amenities

It can be easy to mix up the new office design trends with the excesses of the dot-com era. Many offices in the late 90’s were filled with amenities for no other purpose than having amenities. In other words, beanbag chairs don't help collaboration - they also don't help productivity, since it's hard to work in one. A break room with an employee café, a good Wi-Fi signal and comfortable chairs and tables lets workers move around and bring their work with them.


Know Your Space

Given that there is a lot of subtlety behind the design of a good office, having the help of an expert space planner design the space is as important as having help from a tenant representative to find the space. A planner knows how to create an office that strikes the right balance between openness and privacy, and one that nurtures both productivity and culture.


Know Employees’ Needs

Redesigning your office layout can prepare your company to attract Generation Y talent, which was practically born collaborating. However, it may also alienate the Baby Boom and Mature workers that are likely to remain in the workplace for years to come. Creating spaces where they can feel in control of their domain or safe from interruption can be a key part of keeping that important part of your workforce productive and satisfied. Generation X workers are likely to roll with the punches.


Here are a few other articles to check out:

Commercial Office Leasing 101

Space Density and the Office Layout

Workplace Design Tips for Corporate Tenants


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Don Catalano

Don Catalano