Considerations for an Office Refit – Part 2: Structure & Layout
In the previous article we looked at how to establish the parameters for an office refurb/fit-out project and how to get the right people involved to ensure the project is a success. In this article we turn our attention to the refit itself and focus on the structural changes available that can be made within your existing workplace to deliver the workspace your business needs.
One of the frequent drivers for and office refurbishment, or indeed an office relocation and fit-out, is one of space: more staff, more equipment, more stock etc increases the demand for greater space.
A commonly used method of achieving more storage space in warehousing is the deployment of a mezzanine floor within the existing structure. This takes the form of an additional floor-level being added within the confines of the current warehouse to provide, effectively, a new floor to be used for storage. It should also be borne in mind that mezzanine floors come in all shapes and sizes and may cover half of the square footage of the warehouse, run along one particular side etc.
So what about office space? Well, the same principle from warehousing can be used for office and related workspace too! A mezzanine floor is an incredibly flexible space and can be used to house offices, washrooms, breakout areas, store rooms etc just as the existing floor-space of your workplace does.
If space considerations are the primary driver for considering a workplace fit-out, we’d strongly urge considering the incorporation of a mezzanine floor.
In recent years we’ve moved away from the gloomy, ‘rabbit-warren’ type office spaces of corridors and individual office – and indeed largely from the ‘cubicle’ approach to floor-space sub-divisions – but there is still frequently the need to divide work areas: be it for different teams, to provide private areas, to provide managerial spaces, for soundproofing purposes etc. However, the modern open-plan approach to offices is based on bright spaces (ideally natural light) with workers feeling part of a working ‘community’, as opposed to being ‘kept’ in a small office on their own, with collaboration a key ingredient to efficient working.
So, how can this be achieved alongside ‘sectioning’ areas of the total workspace? The answer: partitioning! Often when office partitioning is mentioned it conjures-up images of yesteryear’s ‘cubicle’ partitioning which was largely formed be a grid system of movable/low-level partitions arranged to create individual workspaces with some degree of privacy and noise reduction. However, office partitioning is not a ‘one size fits all’ and has a myriad of types and functions that can easily be incorporated into the modern workspace to achieve the goals of a fit-out.
A more in-depth look at office partitioning can be found HERE on our website, but for the purposes of this article it’s worth considering a couple of examples.
Bearing in mind the above, one of the most commonly used, and flexible types of partitioning is the utilisation of glass partitions. Glass partitioning has a number of benefits in that it’s transparent – lending itself to promoting the open feel of an office – has sound-proofing qualities and can also be a canvass for manifestations which are, in essence, graphical transfers applied to the glass itself (these could be corporate names, logos, or anything a graphic designer can produce). They can also be used in conjunction with traditional partitioning materials, for example you could have glass partition walls with wooden doors.
Demountable partitioning, or retractable partitioning are also highly flexible options that allow the partitioning to removed or deployed as required- even to the point of reconfiguration. For example, a workspace may require a large lecture room and tow smaller meeting rooms but only have the physical space for one option. With the use of retractable partitioning a large lecture room could be turned into two smaller meeting rooms by simply having a mid-point retractable partition that could be opened into place.
Kitchens & Breakout Facilities
Numerous workplace studies over the past few years have shown that workers perform better, and their general sense of well-being improved, when they are not ‘tied’ to their desks for the duration of the working day. Furthermore, a more collaborative ethos sweeping through the modern workplace dictates that encouraging staff to mingle with other staff to discuss their work improves problem solving and provides a greater understanding of how a worker fits with other departments and within the greater organisation.
To facilitate this, it is important to provide areas where staff can be away from their desks; no more eating a sandwich at the desk for lunch!
In light of this, breakout areas – ideally with kitchen facilities, is an important consideration when planning an office fit-out/refurbishment. There is a whole science behind breakout facilities and collaborative areas but as a rough guide, these would ideally be a large room with windows to the outside, to allow natural light in and allow staff to see outside, with comfortable seating in communal zones along with some kitchen facilities (taps, microwave, kettle/hot water etc) to give staff more of a feel of being ‘at home’ and able to relax and chat when not at their desks.
Whilst we have only looked at three areas for consideration when planning an office fit-out, there are many more, they will give a good starting point for envisaging the future workspace and including elements that are essential in the modern office for planning the utilisation of the existing space. In the next article in the series we will turn our attention to considerations for furniture and fittings.