The importance of your office layout*

How do you attract and keep good staff members? According to a new report from property consultants Knight Frank, the office environment has a part to play and if you want the very best team you’ll need to create “an inspiring and enjoyable place to work”. If you’re in the midst of an office move or planning out your new premises, read on to help inform your layout planning.

Open plan

The open plan office is often favoured for costs purposes – it’s cheaper to have one open space with shared connections but should cost be your number one priority in office planning? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this type of communal working has a negative impact on concentration levels and can seriously impede the comfort of co-workers too. Talking to the BBC back in 2013, sound expert Julian Treasure points out that being in close proximity to those around you stops you from being able to process your own thoughts: “Nobody can understand two people talking at the same time,” he explains, continuing:

“Now that’s key when we’re talking about open-plan offices, because if I’m trying to do work, it requires me to listen to a voice in my head to organise symbols, to organise a flow of words and put them down on paper.”

With this in mind, working in an open plan office puts workers at somewhat of a disadvantage and while it’s theoretically easier for staff to discuss ideas or issues more easily, they may be prevented from doing so by the noise around them. It’s possible they may be less likely to interact because they feel exposed too, which could impact on team bonding. If you use companies like Cleaners of London, an open plan can make it much more convenient for your cleaning purposes.

If you’re committed to open plan workspace because you like the light and all-inclusive areas it provides, you may want to consider providing some areas that are separated off – perhaps with bi-fold doors like these, which Vufold fit the width of your office to allow flow of light while reducing spread of noise.

Cubicles

In the US cubicle working is very popular as it is perceived as providing workers with some privacy while making best use of the space available. Some experts think this set up is still less than ideal though and point out that the cubicles, which are usually around 5ft high, block out natural daylight which can impact on mood. In addition, workers tend to be very close together and research conducted by the University of California, Irvine found that employers in cubicles have 29 per cent more interruptions to their work than those who have private offices. It’s also worth noting that those who are interrupted frequently report exhaustion rates that are 9 per cent higher.

Table nests

Another options table nesting, which is reportedly the layout favoured by Google. Instead of being laid out in cubicle grids, tables are grouped together so that between six and eight workers sit together. The science behind this, as explained in this Forbes article is that we’re used to functioning in familial groups of seven plus or minus two. With this in mind, this layout allows for interaction and also promotes strong bonding within a team without the need for a leader, which could help productivity and support a positive work culture.

Individual offices

You might presume that it’s only introverts who want to work in their own individual offices away from prying eyes, general chitchat and other distractions. However, according to a Swedish study published in 2009, those who inhabit private offices are happiest overall. This is without a doubt the most expensive option and doesn’t really factor in group working, which may have to be accommodated elsewhere on the premises. This is often achieved by creating group work zones that are laid out informally.  However, in theory there’s nothing stopping co-workers stopping by individual’s offices for a chat, apart from secretaries who are frequently positioned outside offices as gatekeepers.

There’s clearly no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to deciding on the layout of your office and the type of business and the culture and environment you are trying to create should drive your decision making. All too often the main factor in design decisions in cost, so it’s important to consider that lower productivity could cost you money in the long term and as the Knight Frank research points out, if staff are unhappy in their working environment a bad office layout could cause you to lose staff too.

*PR Collaboration

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