Planning a new office is exciting. You may be opening a new business or upgrading your current one, but either way making a new space for yourself is something to celebrate.
To create a space that is easy to work in, accommodating and comfortable to employees, and pleasant to be in is hard. Whether you’re new to designing an office space or you’ve been through the experience at least once, there are likely some things you haven’t considered, but should. To ensure your space lives up to its potential, consider the following critical elements:
1. The people who use the office
Ultimately, an office space plan should revolve around people, not just aesthetics. It’s easy to get caught up in the joy of designing and lose sight of boring things like function, but try to stay focused and work with a designer who recognizes what’s really important and isn’t designing just for looks (or to cater to your whims and heart’s desires). Ask yourself:
- Who are your employees?
- What do they do and how do they work?
- Do you have teams? Will they need individual as well as group spaces?
- How much privacy do employees need vs collaboration across teams?
- Will people be stationary most of the day? Would it be valuable to provide space that offers physical flexibility?
- Do you need / should you have accommodations for special needs?
- What are the dynamics of the office?
- Other than employees, who else uses the office?
- How do you want people to use the space?
- How do you want clients to feel when they enter the space?
- What type of atmosphere do you want to project? How does this space represent your brand?
- What type of behavior would you like to encourage?
Speak to your employees directly and have them weigh in on some of these questions. Empower them by letting them have say in the type of environment they will be working in. The answers to these questions will help you shape a more practical and productive workspace.
2. The future
The ultimate goal of any business, regardless of the type, is growth. To that end, you must consider the future and the flexibility of your office space if you plan to stay there long-term. Is there room for you to expand? You should build in a little extra room for you to add in new desks or offices if needed, and make sure there is other possible office space in the building that you could spread into if things really take off. Be realistic—don’t acquire too much space if your growth is not ensured, or if remote employees are an increasing part of your workforce.
TSI TIP: Don’t fall victim to the allure of an open office plan! It is not well-suited to every situation and it may not be right for your office. If employees are telling you this type of open space isn’t conducive to getting their work done, listen to them. Studies have shown that open office plans can:
It’s tempting to design a space that encompasses all of the latest trends and newest tech, but it’s important to select options that are also going to be useful and practical. Any design selections or new additions to the office should simplify tasks, not frustrate and hinder employees. Remember to ensure you have:
- Easy to traverse walkways
- Accessible washrooms
- Appliances and equipment that aren’t overly challenging to figure out—no one wants to have to ask for help just to open the fridge
- Workspaces where people can focus
One thing that open office spaces usually get right is lighting. Thanks to their lack of walls, the amount of natural light is often quite high, which has proven to be beneficial to workers.
Whether an open space office is in the cards or not, lighting is one of the most important and useful tools at your disposal when designing a new office. Good lighting can increase productivity and motivation, reduce eye strain and fatigue, and help keep employees alert and focused.
If you don’t have access to walls of windows, there are other ways you can create a comfortable, productive atmosphere with artificial lighting:
- Select lighting with a high Colour Rendering Index (CRI)—above 80—for the most accurate colour. The sun has a CRI of 100. Light bulbs with a high CRI show colors more accurately. This is most important in offices that deal with color matching.
- Select lighting with a Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT) close to daylight—the package should say 5000-6500k or “daylight”. Light bulbs with warm color temperatures (3000k and under) can be used in employee lounges or meeting rooms and other creative areas; warm, dimmable lighting typically encourages creativity.
- Bright, diffused lighting that doesn’t cause glare on computer screens should be used overhead for general lighting. Use bright directional light that can be adjusted in work areas where employees will be performing tasks.
- Give employees control over their desk lighting. Simple things like dimming options and the ability to turn their own lamp on and off goes a long way in making workers feel more empowered.
- Choose lamps that have a high refresh rate to keep eyes from getting fatigued.
Everyone loves the unfinished look these days—unfinished ceilings, exposed brick, and concrete walls abound. While they may hit all the right notes aesthetically, these types of materials can be difficult to work with acoustically (they are usually partially responsible for the increased decibel level you may have noticed during your last dinner out). Make an effort to create a space with lower volume levels by adding:
- Noise deadening materials in and outside of the walls and ceilings, such as sound dampening foam, soundproof drywall, sound barriers, acoustic mineral wool insulation, soundproof curtains, etc.
- Offices and other closed spaces for people who want to have discussions or work in a quiet room
Ergonomics are a vital part of any workspace. Planning your office so that it addresses ergonomic concerns from the start will save you some time and effort later.
This is another opportunity to allow your employees to weigh in on what they need to be the most comfortable at work. When looking at ergonomics, it’s important to consider:
- Chairs - comfort, adjustability, and height
- Alternative seating options - yoga balls and balance boards can make employees feel more energized and less stationary
- Desks - height and functionality
- Lighting - limit glare on screens as much as possible
- Computers - keyboards, screens, and mouses all need to be at the right height so employees aren’t setting their arms in the wrong place, sitting incorrectly, or craning their necks unnaturally.
7. Biophilic elements
If you have the light for it, incorporating living plants or natural materials into your office plan can help make your office space more calming. Adding plants around the office will help with air filtration, reducing CO2 levels, and even stress levels.
Choose plants suited to the space, considering their size and the level of light they need to thrive. Popular office plants include:
- Sansevieria (Snake plants)
- Air plants
- ZZ plants
- Spider plants
- Peace lily
- Chinese evergreen
- Parlor palm
If live plants aren’t for you, water features, sand or pebble zen gardens, natural woods, and rocks are natural materials that you can build into your space to bring the outdoors in.
TSI TIP: Living walls are very popular now, but they can be difficult to maintain without the proper infrastructure, so only incorporate them into your design if you will be able to take care of them.
Creating a functional and attractive office space with room to expand and make changes when you need it is a difficult task. There are a lot of aspects that need to be balanced, but a good designer will reign you in if you lean too far in one direction. The most important things for you to consider when planning a new office are:
- The people who use the office
- The future
- The functionality of the space
- The lighting
- The volume level and acoustics
- The ergonomics
- Natural elements
Remember to listen to your employees when they tell you what they need to work more effectively, and don’t be afraid to spend a bit more money to make that happen. Investing in this space and creating a beautiful environment conducive to productivity will be worth it.
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