If you were to update an office for today, I would make the following recommendations for your floor to make it more flexible and efficient:
- There's been a lot of talk about hoteling, where an office environment doesn’t have assigned seating. Employees can drop in when they’re available and sit at whichever desk is available. Depending on your particular workspace and the people involved, this might be beneficial for you. It gives employees freedom to change things up and collaborate with people they might not have considered interacting with in the past.
- If you’re going the hoteling route, there are mobile office accessories like portable file cabinets and carts that can be moved from desk to desk. They can be parked at the perimeter of an office space like a grammar school coat room, then pulled out during the day. Some of them can serve as a chair or stool with an upholstered cushion on top. This can be handy when workers are mobile throughout the day and have to meet with different people in the office.
- In our office, we use boomerang desks. Our experience has shown they consolidate space and are more ergonomic for desk work. Each one has dual monitors that can be easily connected to a laptop, giving employees more digital space to create a workflow.
- Standing desks can be beneficial as well, but keep in mind that your feet might take a beating. A fatigue mat is recommended, especially if you’re working in a fast-paced environment. Chefs are on their feet all day and don’t move all over the place, but still get fatigued. A mat can make a big difference (as can ergonomic shoes).
- If you have Wifi, make sure the bandwidth is robust. If you have 100 Mbps, then no one’s going to complain.
- The quality of your phone calls is important, so invest in proper equipment. Purchase high-quality noise-cancelling headsets so background noise will be at a minimum. For conference calls, I would recommend a Polycom or Jawbone Jambox, which can be hard wired or wireless. Both can be connected and accessed through your smartphone, so making a professional conference call will be much simpler. You can set one up just about anywhere.
- Partitions are important as well, especially concerning sound dampening. We prefer using glass so you can create a sense of personal space and acoustic privacy for meetings and phone calls without too much visual obstruction. If sound is still an issue I’d recommending using floor carpet tiles, or perhaps even Auralex sound-canceling foam tiles for the walls.
- Make sure there are enough private spaces for people to collaborate. One of our clients recently built a state-of-the-art headquarters facility where they have “huddle rooms,” which are actually large upholstered cubes with one side cut out. They’re like diner booths and give a small meeting some privacy and focus.
I have read articles about how the open office plan is a completely failed design. People aren’t as efficient when there is a lack of personal space and constant visual distractions. It’s important to have your own area without depriving yourself of daylight, fresh air and some peace of mind.
Designing the office that works best for you and your team isn’t a perfect science and will most likely change with the times; however, sometimes change is a good thing. Like everything else in the business world, there is always room for exploration and improvement.