People in a work environment

Designing An Open Plan Office

When floor area is at a premium, especially in prime locations such as Central London and the other major cities in the UK, an open plan office layout is definitely the most efficient solution as individual offices take up more space. However the result is often a crowded or cramped design that pays little attention to staff well-being or productivity. This means there may be problems for employees who become distracted by noise levels and passing foot traffic. For many an open plan office design is not their ideal working environment, particularly if they need to be able to concentrate or to hold private conversations.

On the other hand, flexible working practices are increasingly common as organisations recognise that open plan offices can also have a positive impact on employee job satisfaction and productivity. Employers strive to find a solution that will increase information flow and encourage team spirit. This may not always be achieved by introducing dividers to form cubicles; instead, with a touch of creativity and a little imagination, an open plan office layout can be subtly altered and softened by including lower level, comfortable seating options and discrete breakout areas.

Design philosophy

Designing an office that works specifically for an organisation and its employees should be based on organisational culture and priorities as well as the needs of the business. It is important to also take time to understand the building in which the office is housed so as to make best use of light, space, services and materials.   Specialist property professionals such as K2 Space work with other professionals like company owners, directors and office managers to deliver inspirational work environments.

Offices are a business asset as well as a place in which employees work; therefore, they must communicate and engage. Additionally, they have the potential to express the way in which the company values its employees and to make a statement about and establish an image of the organisation as a whole. Good office design that really works can exceed employer and employee expectations.

Seating options

Installing the right office furniture is essential when it come to designing an open plan office. For example, the generic term ‘task seating’ refers to well-designed swivel chairs that take account of sound ergonomics for employee comfort and health. Therefore design schemes should aim to incorporate seating made from suitable materials that blend well and are from sustainable sources.

Similarly, desk systems should be flexible enough to accommodate the ever-changing demands of IT hardware and cabling. People need to have a degree of flexibility so they can share desks if needed without undue disruption. Of course, the size and shape of the workspace required will vary according to the individual and the task; a minimalist bench system may suit many while a larger format workstation cluster may be preferable for others.

Storage spaces are always in short supply so making the most of the options available is essential, as is choosing good quality furniture with strong, clean lines that will look good for a long time. Keeping colours neutral or muted is generally a good idea as not everyone will react well to very vibrant, strong tones, although these can be effective in spaces used for short-term activities, such as in meeting rooms.