What Type Of Office Design Would Best Suit Your Business?

Office design will never be “one size fits all”. There’s no one type of office design that can be applied to every business. Businesses are unique, and as such your office design company needs to spend time understanding your business needs and your processes and the space available to you in order to be able to produce an office design that makes the most efficient use of your office space while ensuring it also works within your organisation to streamline your processes, encourages collaboration in teams, allows for privacy where privacy is required and gives you the best ROI.

Essentially your office design should be tailored towards your business, your processes and your staff. Ultimately, the best design will depend on the specific needs and goals of your business.

Types of Office Design

There are numerous ways to approach the design of your office. This article outlines some of the more well-known types of office design including their pros and cons and ways any issues can be mitigated.

Individual

Throughout the years offices have been designed with individual/private office spaces, typically enclosed and separate from other workspaces. This type of design allows for a greater degree of privacy and is perfect for businesses where the work carried out requires confidentiality and discretion and where staff tend to work independently.

Pros

  • Individual offices tend to be quieter providing a space where staff have privacy to carry out their work.
  • There are fewer distractions in private office spaces.
  • Staff have their own “personal space”.
  • Private offices can provide a sense of status or employee value.

Cons

  • Having individual office space is more expensive as it takes up more space.
  • Just by its nature a private office space cuts off its occupants from others around them so there is less chance for collaboration or communication with other staff.

What Can You Do To Mitigate Individual Office Design Issues?

By combining a mixture of both private office space and open plan you can help to reduce the drawbacks of only having individual offices, this then allows for both private work and collaborative work. Introducing common areas such as break out areas, kitchen or tea points can allow staff to come together to meet and socialise.

Open Plan

One of the best-known office design layouts is open plan. To create an open plan office the partitioning and walls which create separate offices are removed in preference for a larger “open” space. The overall goal of an open plan office is to enable staff to come together to communicate and collaborate more easily.

Open plan office design is particularly good for businesses that mainly work in teams. Typically, open plan offices are made up of workstations or larger desks that allow staff to come together to work.

Pros

  • Opening up office space tends to increase access to natural light.
  • Without walls and partitioning the space will feel more spacious.
  • Open plan offices remove “barriers” and encourage communication and collaboration making it easier for teams to work together to share ideas. Staff are more likely to have “ad hoc” conversations rather than having to plan to come together for formal meetings.  
  • Open plan offices tend to be more flexible and agile allowing change to happen more quickly in response to changes in circumstances.
  • There is typically less cost involved as less space is required per person.

Cons

  • Open plan doesn’t suit every work type, especially where the work being done requires privacy. This can be mitigated by providing some individual office space where required.
  • Noise can be a major problem in open plan spaces. If noise levels are too high staff will find it very difficult to concentrate and focus on their work. This can lead to a drop in productivity and may impact health and well-being resulting in ill health due to stress.

What Can You Do To Mitigate Open Plan Office Design Issues?

Areas can be designated as “quiet areas”. Noise levels can be tackled by utilising sound absorbing materials such as suspended or drop ceilings which will reduce reverberation and prevent sound from travelling to adjacent areas. Using carpet on floors, rather than tiles can reduce ‘footfall’ noise. Where noise is high acoustic screens, dividers and panels can be used to act as noise barriers which will absorb unwanted noise. Features can be integrated that promote calm such as plant walls, cabinet plants, containers and hanging plants to reduce stress.

Activity Based Working

An Activity Based Working (ABW) office design usually utilises an open plan design but creates spaces or zones which are specifically designed to support work tasks (different settings for different tasks) according to the businesses work processes.

Pros

  • Staff can choose the most appropriate space to work in according to their specific task which should allow them to be at their most productive.
  • ABW encourages staff to move around the office which in turn is good for health and well-being.
  • Depending on the task, staff can choose to work alone or in groups allowing for both quiet and collaborative work, as required enabling the best of both worlds.
  • An ABW office tends to be more dynamic.

Cons

  • ABW can be difficult to implement as it requires planning to ensure all work processes can be carried out easily and efficiently and that staff can be accommodated within the available office space for any given task.
  • A significant investment in technology such as booking systems is required to help manage and optimise the use of the different zones.

What Can You Do To Mitigate ABW Office Design Issues?

Given ABW is different maybe a change to the majority of staff it can be difficult to adapt to this new way of working as a consequence it’s important to provide guidance. An investment in staff training can help to ensure the technology required for ABW is used effectively.

Biophilic

Biophilic office design is defined as office space which is designed to incorporate elements of the “outside”, inside. Biophilia, which is an innate tendency to seek connections with nature or the “natural”, has been shown in science and surveys to play an important role in human nature. We are “hard-wired” to feel and perform better when we are closer to nature. By bringing the outdoors into the office our need for nature can be somewhat assuaged by creating a connection between the office space and the natural environment.

Elements of biophilic design include:

  • Utilising natural light wherever possible.
  • Including plant and moss walls, plants in cabinets and containers and hanging plants.
  • The use of natural materials in furniture and flooring such as wood and stone.
  • Incorporating natural shapes and forms in the design, such as curved walls and organic shapes.

Pros

  • Biophilic design has been shown to improve staff health, well-being and productivity.
  • Office designs which utilise plants and planting are more likely to be liked by staff as they help to establish a connection to nature.

Cons

  • Incorporating plants into the office isn’t as easy as it sounds. The right plants must be sourced.
  • Having sourced the plants, they then require natural light and the correct temperature and humidity. Maintaining plants also requires expertise and care.

What Can You Do To Mitigate Biophilic Office Design Issues?

Consulting with a designer who has experience in biophilic design can guarantee the right plants are sourced and incorporated. Hiring a maintenance company which specialises in taking care of plants will ensure plants remain healthy and at their best.

Sustainable

A sustainable office is an office that minimises the impact on the environment and embraces the use of materials that promote environmental balance while ensuring the minimal amount of materials are used. It also avoids the generation of pollution and waste and the depletion of natural resources. Any resources used need to be renewable and recycled or properly disposed at the end of their natural life.

Pros

  • A sustainable office reduces energy and resource consumption.
  • It can also help businesses reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Cons

  • It can be more expensive than other types of office design as it requires a commitment to make practice and process changes.

What Can You Do To Mitigate Sustainable Office Design Issues?

A sustainable office is likley to be more expensive in the shorter term, however in the longer term there are savings to be made as energy consumption is reduced. It’s also important to commit to changes and make sustainability a normal part of your working environment so that those savings are continued.

Hot Desking

Hot desking is the practice of having unassigned desks within the workspace. It allows staff to use a single workstation or desk at different times or on a rota system, rather than giving each member of staff their own desk.

Pros

  • Hot desking works well where staff are not always in the office e.g., they may occasionally work from home or from other company offices.
  • Hot desking allows the office space to be used more efficiently as desk space doesn’t go unused when staff are unlikely to be in the office for periods of time.

Cons

  • In order for hot desking to work there must be an investment in technology such as booking systems to help manage the booking of desks.

What Can You Do To Mitigate Hot Desking Office Design Issues?

Like ABW, hot desking requires staff guidance and training in the technology required for hot desking to be used effectively.

Agile

An agile office is one in which the office space is designed for maximum flexibility and which can be arranged, organised and changed on demand, as and when required. The agile office can easily and simply adapt to any given circumstance so it can cater to business needs both now and into the future.

Pros

  • An agile office can change the way it’s used and maximise the space available to provide a working environment that adapts as required.
  • By adapting to the needs of staff and their job requirements the “perfect” working environment can be provided leading to increased efficiency and productivity.

Cons

  • An agile office requires a great deal of planning which takes time. It’s not something that can happen overnight with a few quick changes to office layout.
  • It can be difficult to design an office to ensure business processes can be efficiently carried out, while at the same time making sure that staff have all the facilities required to do their work.
  • A shift in company culture is also required. Staff may find it difficult to adapt.

What Can You Do To Mitigate Agile Office Design Issues?

It’s important to ensure adequate planning is carried out and to take the time to do it right. Don’t rush or try to put something in place if you feel you’re not ready. Involve staff and get their feedback on any new potential design. Communication is key. Make sure any changes are effectively communicated throughout the design process.

Smart

Smart offices are designed to make the best use of existing technology to optimise the use of the available office space to create an efficient and productive working environment. A smart office typically uses a range of technology and software including occupancy sensors to automate lighting, temperature, ventilation and air conditioning; booking systems, Virtual or Augmented Reality (VR/AR) technology, conference equipment, furniture (smart desks) and security. Ideally a smart office should adapt to the occupants rather than the occupants having to adapt to the office.  

Pros

  • A smart office can result in a reduction in costs as lighting, temperature and air conditioning can be used more efficiently, as and when required rather than being on even when offices are unoccupied.
  • Efficiency and productivity can be streamlined by ensuring meeting rooms and other facilities are not overbooked.
  • Smart offices are more likely to improve staff satisfaction as they adapt to the occupant.

Cons

  • Technology can be expensive and may require staff to maintain it in the event of breakdowns.
  • Technology can go wrong and in the case of a smart office that relies on it to maintain lighting, temperature, air conditioning as well as the booking of desks or rooms it can have a significant impact until issues are resolved.

What Can You Do To Mitigate Smart Office Design Issues?

Start on a small scale and gradually expand the use of smart technology to iron out any issues. Partner with specialists in smart office technology and set up ongoing support and maintenance to ensure the right technology is used and that support is on hand when required.

Is There A “Best” Office Design Type?

At the start of this article, we mentioned that there will never be “one size fits all” office design type for all businesses. The best type of design (or combination of various types) will depend on a company’s unique needs, processes, goals, company culture and budget. As an example, an open plan office would be suitable for a company that values collaboration and teamwork, whereas a business that needs flexibility in its office arrangement so that it can change its layout quickly would be better suited to an agile office design.

It’s therefore vital that before the design process starts that a thorough assessment is carried out to define business needs. It’s also a good idea to involve an office design company with expertise in evaluating what design type would work best for your business.

JBH Refurbishments, Experts In Office Design and Office Refurbishment

JBH Refurbishments have over 30+ years experience in office design  and office refurbishment and can advise on all aspects of your Kent or London office refurbishment. We understand what’s required to design an office space and carry out a refurbishment to the highest standards. We can provide the right expertise for your project. Contact us via our contact form or by calling us on 0333 207 0339.


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