Have you ever worked in an office that just doesn’t feel right? Perhaps you are not completing certain tasks because they are simply too uncomfortable to perform?  It may be because the office lacks “flow” – the layout is all wrong.

The first step in planning an office is to determine the necessary furniture and storage pieces to allow you to perform the tasks you need to complete. This marries form and function. Once you’ve done that, you need to decide on the appropriate size and shape of each piece, and where they should be placed.  Consider the following for a space that flows:

1. Room size and shape

Take into account the architectural layout of the room including doors and windows, and heating or cooling vents or fixtures.   Measure wall lengths to know what size furniture can be accommodated.  Leaving some space around piece of furniture will preserve “breath” in the office.  Remember to “think up” and make use of vertical space.  Keep walking paths clear for safety and productivity.

When planning out a room draw it out using graph paper or software planning tools. Here is an example of a layout I created for my home office before I committed to buying two rather large bookcases.

Space Planning: Office Floor Plan

To get an even better sense of how the room will feel, use newspapers or boxes to block out the volume each piece will take. Include not only the floor space a chair takes and the area it will move in.  It will help you get a sense of how full the room will feel and give you an idea of how comfortable it will be to move around in.

Planning the room gave me the confidence to know my limited office space could indeed house this inspirational piece which now holds my organizing, productivity, design and business development library.  The second, matching bookcase contains stationery, office supplies, reference and marketing material.

Space Planning: Making sure the bookcase fits

If space is limited, ensure each furniture piece does double duty as a storage solution.  Customized surfaces and storage units may be a worthwhile investment for awkward spaces.

Before committing to a layout, imagine executing each of your daily tasks to uncover unexpected barriers.

2. Natural light

Take advantage of natural light and the benefit of outside views which directly affect productivity. At the same time, you’ll want to make sure you can adjust light flows to avoid glare on computer screens. This may affect where you choose to position workstations.

3. Electrical outlets

Technology and lighting depend on access to a power source so it’s important to keep outlets in mind when positioning furniture. Cable management systems and conduits can help keep cables contained and prevent tripping hazards.

Consider using multi-outlet surge protectors and avoid overloading circuits. If designing a new space, you may wish to add outlets to accommodate a preferred layout. Where possible, consider wireless solutions.

4. Managing noise

Sound levels should also be considered. The addition of soft furnishings such as carpets and drapes will contribute to noise reduction.  Baffle boards or dividers between work stations can reduce sound travel and limit distractions.  For focused work, doors can be your best friend.

Open concept offices are gaining popularity.  In these spaces, it is even more critical to address noise levels to minimize employee distraction and fatigue.  Ceiling treatments can be installed to further absorb sound.

5. Comfort

Maintaining a comfortable office temperature is important to sustainable productivity. Heating and cooling systems that can be adjusted or augmented by the user are best.

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