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7 Tips for Getting Office Space Right for Each Worker

group_discussionHow do team dynamics, collaboration and personalities factor into your office design?

If they don’t, you may consider them in your next space-planning session. Because despite the fact that office-space gurus say you need 150 to 350 square feet of space for each employee, a simple A*B=C formula alone may not make the space right for your workers.

How to Determine What Type of Space Will Benefit Your Workforce

Start by answering the following questions:

  1. What constraints exist in your current building that you won’t be able to change? Jot these down first because regardless of other decisions, you’ll have to work around certain obstacles.

  2. What are the team-driven physical space requirements? For example, does your IT or Finance team need desks that accommodate multiple monitors for viewing flow charts or spreadsheets? Take requirements one team at a time rather than looking at the organization as a whole.

  3. Is there a specific design or a mixture of space types (cubes, enclosed offices, an open floor plan, shared space or telecommuting) that will best support company objectives? What about team objectives?

  4. Are certain teams most productive when they have the ability to get a bit “rowdy”? Do other teams require considerable focus time?

  5. Will you need desks assigned to each employee? Consider desk sharing for employees on different shifts, or office hoteling for telecommuters who occasionally come into the office.

  6. What are the company’s growth expectations? Is the entire company in hiring mode and in need of space for future employees – or just specific teams?

  7. When asked, what space requests do individual teams have? A survey may be in order.

Take Individual Personalities into Consideration

It’s also a good idea to assess space types relative to employee personalities.

For example, Fast Company recently noted that although introverts may naturally prefer closed offices over open floor plans, closed offices could discourage them from asking other team members for help. When colleagues and managers sit nearby or walk past regularly, introverts engage.

Meanwhile, extraverts thrive on social interaction – so the open office works well for them.

Task-Based Planning

Day-to-day schedules and tasks also play a role. An executive who spends most of her days in 1-on-1 meetings may benefit from a private office space or a meeting room next to her workspace, so she’s not geographically too far from her team and can be available between meetings.

Other examples of role-specific needs:

  • A collaborative team with a high percentage of telecommuters can probably survive with fewer desks but could benefit from a little soundproofing to allow for at-desk teleconferencing.
  • A group of project managers with a standup meeting at 9 a.m. every day, rain or shine, might be even more productive with a meeting space and white board or projector inside their work area.
  • An onsite research editor could use some quiet space for concentration and bright lights for reading print documents, but his video-editing counterpart might require an oversized workspace for a wide-screen monitor and dim lighting to reduce glare.

Team function also is also a factor. Do the Legal or HR teams require more offices for added privacy? If the Creative team is requesting no walls at all, should you also add a space for them to brainstorm in smaller groups without disturbing others?

Encouraging Collaboration and Convenience

Finally, it can help to ensure spaces encourage collaboration – even without a full redesign. For example, you may be able to shift existing workspaces slightly to create a new walkway that causes key teams to “collide” (but not literally). Or it might help to relocate teams or team members temporarily so they sit with other people working on the same long-term project.

The best office planning lets each employee feel comfortable in his or her space, keeps much-needed tools within reach and also accommodates task-driven needs. Together, this makes diversity a very important consideration. Rather than a full-office makeover where all spaces look and feel alike, develop spaces that embrace and encourage diverse personalities, goals and activities.

Want to learn more about office design and planning? Download our whitepaper, “Making Workspace Work: 5 Trends in Workspace Design Changing the Way Work Happens."


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