Working in a small work environment can often have its challenges. If your space is bursting at the seams then maybe it’s time to relocate or expand your space – especially if your business strategy is to grow your company. However, if your headcount hasn’t changed but you’re finding you’re tight for space then there are some simple changes you can make. Often you have the space, you just need to know what to do with it.
The smaller the office, the more difficult it can be to imagine an alternative layout, particularly if you have lived with that space for years. That’s where an external perspective can be useful; professional workplace designers offer a fresh perspective. Using their industry knowledge and experience in creating efficient working environments they can review your current workplace and assess what is working and what can be improved. But before you ask the experts, here are some questions to guide you in starting your own assessment.
Your office layout is the most basic considerations and you’ve probably looked at this before, but look again and in more detail. Can you make small changes to your current layout? Are you working in a cellular environment but find most of your activities are collaborative? Do you need to think about making your space more open plan? Does your current furniture support your way of working? Are you making use of each piece of furniture? These are key considerations you must make to get the most out of a small office space.
Working practices and use of technology and space
Look at your current working practices and how utilising your space will allow you to assess what improvements you need to make. Asking questions like: What storage do you need? How do you use equipment? Does everybody need their own printer? Do you need the photocopier at all? Should everyone have their own bin or would a central recycling point save space as well as the environment? Who could work more efficiently? Is hot desking a viable way of working? How often is the meeting room really used and what could it be used for? Could your paper storage be archived off-site? Did that document really need to be printed? Which team members need to interact visually and collaborate side by side?
These are just a handful of the questions that can determine:
● What office furniture you actually need
● How and where staff, furniture and equipment should be located
● Whether your big investment should actually be in new technology
● Whether you need to relocate offices
Walls, doors and the open plan office debate
It’s an undeniable fact that walls and doors take up usable office space and limit your office layout options. Before getting into the open plan office debate – whether it suits your business, helps or hinders communication etc – are your walls load-bearing? Do the terms of your office lease allow you to go beyond redecoration and into reconfiguration and refurbishment? Does the boss need a big, private office or is that a barrier to good workplace communication and boosted team morale?
If you can remove walls (and even put them up in a different place) you can open up a world of possibilities. There’s no doubt that there are implications for privacy, sound transmission and even visual distraction, but by analysing your working practices and investigating the right office furniture, technology and materials such as acoustic ceiling tiles, you’ll discover benefits from increased office space to more productive ways of working.
No, not smaller desks – or not necessarily. Cramming furniture in doesn’t suddenly create the best small office design. Remember, furniture can limit or enable your options. If you’re storing drawer upon drawer of hard copy filing when it could be archived, you’re limiting the office footprint. But if you need to store paperwork on-premises, then there are plenty of office furniture solutions which could enable you to store even more, on a smaller footprint. Or even create storage walls to break that open office space into cleverly designed zones.
How about a mezzanine floor if you have the ceiling height? With imagination, working practice analysis, the willingness to consider bespoke office furniture and the insight of a furniture consultant rather than relying on an office supply catalogue, you could come up with some big small office design ideas