10 Key considerations in modern day office planning

by Ofentse Sefolo
10 Key considerations in modern day office planning

The lack of rigorous preparation and thorough execution can turn office space planning into a lengthy, expensive and utterly exhausting process. Oftentimes, looking at workers’ productivity and performance levels is the easiest way to tell whether the office layout facilitates or encumbers worker efficiency.

Modern office managers have quite a few challenges on their hands. Their overall goal may sound simple: design the office space in accordance with their workspace, but what this really means is create a workable space that matches the company’s profile while successfully meeting the needs of all occupants. The hardest part is to reach the conclusion that there is not any generic “one-size-fits-all” solution, especially when it comes to the increasingly mobile, tech-savvy employee of today.

Modern Office, New Rules
The constant spatial and organisational distribution of companies, the prevalence of enabling technologies and collaboration tools, and the increased demand for more work flexibility are dramatically changing work and the workplace. The transformation is already visible: technology and ergonomics have simplified office design, have solved problems of physical connectivity and have reduced the size and weight of office hardware.

For many companies, the shift to open-office floor plans has allowed more of the workforce to be accommodated in the same space. Blurring walls and building the organisation around communication rather than hierarchy have worked excellently to facilitate collaboration and improve teamwork, benefiting especially work that involves problem-solving and joint analysis.

And yet it would be wrong to assume that all workers have the same work style and are motivated by the same things. Extroverts may find it easy – and even pleasant – to solve problems amid a sea of distractions, but introverts will function at their best away from neighbours’ phone conversations.

The goal then is to strike a balance between open and private by creating a multi-space for both collaborative work and focused work. This involves two different sets of furnishing solutions – on the one hand, creating communal spaces that encourage groupthink and teamwork, and on the other, including acoustically-sealed spaces where individuals can focus, clear their minds or just have a moment of privacy in the middle of all the openness.

Aside from these new requirements, an effective space layout still needs to take into consideration:
• The profile of the company
• The type of work conducted by each department in the company
• The needs of clients that visit the office
• The extent to which furniture can facilitate interaction and the exchange of information between managers, employees and clients

What Matters Most for the Modern Employee?
Retaining a positive and motivated workforce is crucial for a company’s success. Aside from workers’ preference for an animated or a quiet workspace, office managers have many other aspects to consider in arriving at a layout that encourages workflow. Here are ten important factors that shape the environment and determine people’s satisfaction with their workspace.

1. Thermal Comfort
The air temperature in the office has a tremendous impact on worker productivity, and it is not only a comfort thing. Indeed, for workers to be able to focus on their work, they should neither sweat nor freeze. The values of air temperature, humidity and air movement must be set within the range commonly defined as the “comfort zone”. Most studies have concluded that the optimal office temperature should be set between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius, with even minor deviations affecting performance, mood and safety. Uncomfortable conditions have an even greater impact on already-stressed employees, who will do less work and make more mistakes when they experience thermal discomfort.

2. Air quality
Indoor air quality continues to be a source of complaints and illness for many workers in modern offices. The quality of air inside offices is important not only for employees’ productivity, but also for their overall health and well-being. An ineffective ventilation system will allow the build-up of pollutants that could cause employees to develop allergies and respiratory diseases, in turn leading to higher absenteeism and low staff productivity. Focusing on improvements in ventilation, air filtration and the elimination of pollutant sources should increase air quality and lower worker dissatisfaction.

Exxaro – photo by Tristan Mclaren

3. Lighting
Natural light is perhaps one of the most overlooked factors in office design that can directly impact productivity and office performance. As experts explain, the human eye is designed to work with the shifting light levels of sunlight, as opposed to the harsh fluorescent light in offices. With plenty of natural light in task areas, workers can perform tasks more efficiently and with greater accuracy; however, the benefits of good lighting extend much further. Studies have shown that exposure to natural light improves sleep, reduces eye fatigue and headaches and has a positive impact on health and well-being.

4. Ease of interaction
As work changes, so do office design and space planning. Companies are shifting towards a more complex, innovative and network-driven way of working, while moving towards increasingly flexible, collaborative spaces. Break rooms are becoming more than just places where employees can eat their lunch, they facilitate interaction, aid creativity and encourage spontaneity. The goal is to create casual meeting or lounge areas where workers can have some time out if they feel exhausted, but can also exchange thoughts with co-workers if they feel inspired. Well-designed communal areas are, in most cases, the space where company culture is built day by day.

5. Workspace cleanliness
When it comes to small offices, especially those with an open office floor plan, individual workspaces become part of the design. It is, therefore, crucial to keep the space free of clutter, clean and organised, for both clients who judge your business by how your headquarters look and employees to better focus on their tasks. By devising a filing system that stores information in a way in which it can be profitably utilised, office managers can increase overall profitability, reduce mental overload and stress, save time and keep information secure.


6. Amount of space
No company will ever complain about having too much space. Despite this fact, studies have shown that only 55% of offices utilise their space to a satisfactory level. In their pursuit of space optimisation and cost savings, few managers ask themselves whether the present layout is preventing workers from doing their job in a streamlined and effective manner. If too much time is wasted moving around the office between the printer and the conference room, if collaboration is hindered by furniture placement, or if some spaces are always empty and others always overcrowded, then the office layout is creating, not solving problems.

7. Comfort of furnishings
For modern workers who spend more time at the office than at home, their workstations become an extension of themselves and should provide the required level of comfort and mobility. Ensuring a “fit” between people and their work means equipping workstations with enough leg room, adequate task lighting, an anatomically-correct task chair that sustains a natural posture, and a work surface fitted to the worker’s body size and weight, where frequently used items are within comfortable reach. Applying ergonomics to the workplace can reduce the potential for injury, accidents and ill health. In time, the lower injury rate translates into decreased absenteeism, improved morale, better job performance and lower replacement worker costs.

8. Noise level
Unwanted sound is the most frequent complaint among workers in wall-less offices. Telephones, printers, air conditioning systems and conversations of co-workers may become a distraction for office workers and reduce their ability to concentrate on a given task. In the long run, exposure to noise has negative effects on productivity, mood and overall health, leading to increased illness, lower morale, stress, fatigue and lower job satisfaction. Semi-private meeting spaces, sound-absorbing furniture, noise-cancelling wall panels and other acoustical products may serve to limit noise distractions’ drain on office productivity.


9. Adjustability of furniture
As portable devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones become ubiquitous in our lives, the workplace conceived for the desktop computer is becoming obsolete. Bulky stationary furniture can no longer respond to the evolving communication needs and work styles of people. Employees are interacting differently with their surroundings and their new postures should be sustained by modular furniture that provides an endless variety of configurations and forms.

10. Colours and textures
For people who find work a dreary experience, colour may be used to inspire creative thinking, improve mood and have a calming – or on the contrary – a stimulating effect. All the large corporations are adding colour and it seems to have a positive impact on people’s mood and productivity levels. Use blue and green to spark confidence, red to increase attention to detail, black and white to achieve distinctiveness and bright yellow or orange to create a cheery, energetic space.

Deloitte Waterfall City

In conclusion then, good office design solves basic problems, but truly effective office space planning goes even further. By promoting interaction without excluding privacy, furnishing the office in a way that sustains the workers’ style and needs, and making sure basic requirements of temperature, air quality and natural light are met, you can have workers actually excited about being in your office.

Thanks and acknowledgement are given to https://www.2020spaces.com/blog-office-design-trends/ for the information contained in this article.

Main image: Deloitte Waterfall City

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