London Office Interiors – How Do You Balance Me and We?

When looking to plan London office interiors there is often a debate around open office planning vs. “closed” office space which provide privacy and quiet. Trying to find the right balance between private and public workspaces is important.

This is borne out by the way office space has changed dramatically over the years.

In the early days of office design (1900s) office designs “adopted a rigid, regimented office layout with desks evenly spaced in rows, in an open plan office space, similar to the layout on the factory floor.”

In the 1930s more open plan office space was the norm. “During this time the workplace changed to become more spacious and aesthetically pleasing with a mix of private offices and open plan workstations, encouraging more interaction between employees.”

By the 1960s workspace layout stared to change towards the type of office layout we are more familiar with today. “The layout was less rigid and styled more towards social interaction, grouping desks together and using foliage e.g. ferns to create “partitions” to give a little privacy.”

The 1980s saw a shift in office design towards what is known as “cubicle farms”. These cubicle farms “boxed” workers into small areas surrounded on three sides, providing privacy but cutting them off from their adjacent neighbours and reducing collaboration and social interaction.

Today’s office design takes elements from the past and builds on them to try to provide greater flexibility in where and how an employee chooses to work. To do this open plan offices have become the norm and are the dominant form of workplace today.

Balance Between Private and Open Plan Areas in London Office Interiors

The evolving need for more privacy/quiet alongside the ability to work in teams and to collaborate towards business projects and goals has been highlighted in a number of studies. One such study was carried out by Oxford Economics who surveyed more than 600 executives and 600 non-senior employees across industries, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, financial services, and the government sector.

Of those surveyed 74% reported that they worked in open-plan offices, of the remaining 26% a few had private offices and the rest spent their time divided between home offices, travel and co-working spaces. In the survey more than half of the employees complained about noise. Interestingly 69% of supervisors reported that their spaces had been laid out with noise reduction in mind and 64% had engineered the workplace to mute noise intruding from outside of the office.

Are There Private and Open Plan Areas in Your London Office Interior?

In this article we’ll look at how London office interiors design can help foster collaboration towards a strong company culture as well as promoting learning and development and find the right balance between “private and public workspaces” which allow workers to find the right balance between collaborating and working privately.

Open plan offices can increase “staff collaboration, productivity, pride and effectiveness” as it makes it easier for workers to talk to and engage with each other when they’re not “blocked” by office ways and closed doors. However research has shown that there comes a time when staff need to be able to get away from open spaces where noise and distraction may actually prevent them from being productive and effective.

Staff need time to and quiet to digest what they’ve learnt and to start to utilise this information into progressing their project or business goal. It’s at this point there needs to be a balance between open plan collaboration and individual working where privacy and quiet may be required.

How To Incorporate Privacy Into Your London Office Design

When we think of privacy we think in terms of questions like:

  • Are desks separate?
  • Can staff hear each other?
  • Can staff see each other?

Where space is at a premium e.g. in a London office interior, open plan office design needs to be creative to give the feeling of privacy even if that privacy wouldn’t give an answer of ‘Yes’ to our three questions above.

Instead we should look at alternative ideas to provide spaces within the open plan environment where staff can go to work quietly while still being in contact with their colleagues e.g.

  • “Shielded” spaces can be setup using roll out partitions or portable screens which can be easily rearranged to provide different layouts depending on the work being carried out in the office.
  • You can even use storage walls to partition areas and fill them with books to form an effective and low cost solution to defining areas and providing much needed quiet, private work areas.
  • Utilising plants can also help partition an area and help increase the humidity, making it a more comfortable environment.
  • You can create breakout areas through the use of comfortable, relaxing furniture in a small zone or section of your office space e.g. having a comfortable “lounge” chair and a table and placing them on the edge or corner of an office can also define a private space.
  • Booths and furniture designed to “enclose” the person seated can provide acoustic benefits and a feeling of privacy.

Open plan offices, are not intrinsically good or bad. The key to a successful London office interiors workspace is in providing staff with the right spaces to allow them to move from working collaboratively to working individually where and when required. By providing space in an open plan environment where teams can come together or seek privacy and quiet allows for a happy balance resulting in staff that are more likely to be productive and enjoy coming to work.

JBH Refurbishments Can Help

JBH Refurbishments have 25+ years of experience in Kent and London office design and office refurbishment. We will work with you to make the most of your Kent and London office. Contact us on 0333 207 0339 or via our contact form to discuss your project.

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