Productivity is a vital term in the business world, and it is one which encompasses a wide range of different areas. In construction, productivity might be about the number of units you manually produce per week, and in retail, it could equate to sales. In terms of office work however, productivity is a little different. In this case, it’s about deadlines met, new ideas and solutions, new customers, customers retained, sales made as a result, new marketing campaigns and the uptake, with it all equating to hard profits in the end.
The fact that productivity has a direct link to profits should tell you why it is important, but in order to achieve productivity, you need to explore many different areas.
Your employees are your biggest asset, and in order for your employees to work as hard as possible, i.e. come up with those ideas, make the sales, do the work, and find creative solutions, all of which keeps the cogs turning, it’s important to make sure they are comfortable and supported.
Morale plays a huge part in productivity, simply because if an employee doesn’t feel happy, they just not going to work as hard as an employee who is. Think about your own experiences – have you ever wanted to go the extra mile for an employer who didn’t value you or show you that they cared? Of course not. On the other hand, you might have worked harder and come up with more ideas for an employer who put the emphasis on your health and wellbeing, whilst also listening to what you had to say.
The umbrella of productivity also means giving your employees the right environment in which to work. This will boost morale, but it will also ensure that your working practices are streamlined, therefore giving you a virtual extra few hours in a day.
This means looking into new office furniture making it easier and more pleasant to work in your space, as well as perhaps even changing your entire layout.
This guide is going to talk to you about the different office layouts and how they can benefit your business’ productivity. We’re also going to talk about how to find the right layout for your office space, before giving you a few ideas which you might like to emulate or possibly tweak for your own office.
What is an Office Layout?
An office layout works hand in hand with an office system. Your layout is about how you organise your furniture within your office space, and your office system is about how you work within that space.
For instance, an open plan office is a type of office layout, but you could also have hot desking within that layout, which is an office system. Both would work together to create a productive environment, provided that is the right route forward for that particular office. Remember, every office is different, and is made up of a group of very different employees to boot.
One of the most popular types of office system at the moment is called agile working, but there is also something called an agile layout. We will discuss more about this a little later on, but for now you simply need to bear in mind that this particular beast falls into both the system and layout category.
Now, let’s explore why the layout of your office is vitally important for the productivity, and therefore success, of your business.
Never underestimate the small details when it comes to how a business makes its cash, and it’s often a case of digging beneath the surface – to where the desks are and how they are arranged!
Why is the Office Layout Important?
The layout of your office basically dictates whether or not it is going to be productive. Of course, your office system has a lot to do with it too, but the layout is what really goes back to basics. If your chic office desks are situated too far apart and people need to collaborate, it’s going to cause issues and time wasting, whilst people find a suitable place to have their discussion. On the other hand, if you choose a sensible layout, e.g. incorporating a collaborative zone, you will save time and be more productive as a result.
The layout also decides how pleasant the office is to work in. Nobody wants to work in a difficult office; would you prefer an office which is designed for ease of work, designed in a bright and cheerful manner, or you would you be totally fine with working in an office which was poorly designed, with everything you need to be close together, actually far apart? It’s a no brainer, surely.
A poor office layout is one of the reasons for low morale within an office space, and we know that low morale affects productivity as a whole. The recent UK Workplace Survey – by Gensler – showed that badly designed open plan offices in particular have a hugely detrimental effect on office workers in the UK, being further compounded by the fact that so many employers go for the open plan option.
When designed correctly, an open plan office can be an engaging and innovative space, but when designed badly, it brings a whole host of headaches to the table. For a bit more information on the two sides of this argument, check out this interesting video.
As you can see, it all comes down to how you design the space and the small details that other people might avoid thinking about, or overlook.
The Gensler review also found that most offices don’t incorporate alternatives spaces where employees can go to do certain types of work, e.g. collaborative areas, brainstorming, quiet work, learning etc. By incorporating these spaces and ensuring that all boxes are ticked, this type of space can be extremely rewarding.
If you regularly have people entering your office space, e.g. clients, customers, potential business links for the future, setting a positive first impression is vital. You can do that by choosing an attractive layout, which is both functional, and productive at the same time.
As you can see, layout is vitally important.
Let’s sum up before we move on. The office layout is important for the following reasons:
- A well-designed office space increases morale, which increased productivity and profits
- Planning your layout properly means you can incorporate different areas for specific types of work, increasing productivity once more
- Time is saved when office layout is given proper thought and consideration, e.g. not having to walk around the office constantly to get what you need, printers being sited too far away, etc.
- It works hand in hand with your office system, e.g. hot desking, agile, flexible, and therefore needs to be optimised to compliment the system you choose
- A well thought out layout is also attractive to the eye, which boosts morale yet again, but also sets the right impression when visitors enter your space
Main Types of Office Layouts
The office design world is constantly shifting and changing, and that means that there will always be new layouts being added to the list. For now however, let’s talk about some of the main layouts around at the moment, and what their good and bad points are.
Open Plan Office
This is the main type of layout and the most traditional. This is also a quite flexible space because you can easily separate up the space and use office partition screens if you want to add extra privacy. There might be booths for privacy also, but it’s more likely to be that desks are arranged in a regular pattern across the space and people come and go throughout the day.
This type of office is therefore quite busy and noisy for the most part, but again, you can use screens and even acoustic panels to cut down on some of the background noise. This type of layout also allows colleagues to mingle and mix, creating a team working environment overall.
A cellular office layout is a series of small offices which usually occupy between 1 to 3 each. This layout is quite space consuming but it does leave plenty of scope for confidentiality and a lack of distractions. Both of these are ideal for productivity and the safe running of the business.
The downside is that people working within a cellular layout may have the tendency to feel isolated, which isn’t the best route towards morale. These offices are also less energy efficient and can be a barrier to collaboration and idea sharing.
The combination layout is a mixture of the open plan office we’ve just talked about, and another we’re going to cover shortly, i.e. the cellular office. This is one of the most flexible types of layouts because it combines spaces for people to work together and collaborate, as well as smaller spaces and enclosed offices. These are all linked by corridors which run throughout the space, and it is characterised by the main common section, i.e. where most of the office desks will be situated.
The plus point of a combination layout is the flexibility we just mentioned and it gives people the space if they need a collaborative area or a quiet area. This layout also maintains the plus points of the regular open plan office too.
This is a very broad term of a layout, because a creative layout is anything but the norm, and always geared up for team work and innovation. A creative layout is likely to have funky office lounge furniture rather than standard options, and it’s also likely to be a bright space, with innovative lighting, art work and breakout spaces aplenty.
The major plus point of a creative layout is that you’re encouraging team work, ideas, collaborating on projects, and you’re bringing an innovative feel to the space. The downside is that an area which is geared up for creativity might be difficult to work in if you really need to knuckle down and concentrate on quiet work.
The contiguous layout is probably the most confusing to visualise when hearing it described in words, but it is basically two main office spaces which run adjacent to each other. These can be above or below one another but they are always adjacent. The reason this is useful is because it allows you to incorporate different office sizes into your main space, e.g. for management, meetings, collaboration, etc., but keeps everything within a relatively small area too.
A contiguous layout isn’t likely to be too loud or difficult to work in for close work, and therefore you’ll probably find less distractions with this type of layout too. The downside is the possibility for isolation between the two offices, e.g. you might find an ‘us and them’ feel between the two spaces, and it is also quite time consuming to move between them.
The experiential workspace is less of a layout and more of a concept. This type of office focuses entirely on the experience of the person working within it, i.e. your employees. This means incorporating breakout areas within the main office, plenty of spaces for collaboration once more, quiet areas, learning zones, refreshments, outdoor spaces, and even social areas too.
This type of office is ideal for bringing people together in an innovative way, but it can be little chaotic from time to time, until everyone learns how to use the space in the way it is meant to be used. This is meant to be the ultimate office experience, but for those who aren’t used to having so much happening within one area, it can be difficult to adjust at first.
This is not strictly speaking a layout but an office can be set out in this way, so we will include it here. An agile workspace is set up with the task in mind, so employees can access different areas or zones, according to the type of work they need to do. A little like hot desking, staff don’t have a specific desk, but they can work at the same one if they want to. There are less rules with this type of layout, and there are likely to be quiet and collaborative zones, breakout spaces, as well as touchdown areas for remote or flexible workers calling into the office space.
The point is that an employee can work from any part of the office they want, making the decision based on the task they need to complete and where is best to do that in terms of productivity.
Because agile working and layouts are so in fashion right now, check out this infographic for a solid overview, to further reinforce your knowledge.
Do any of those layouts instantly call out to you? You might have a few in mind already, or perhaps even one favourite, but there are a few things you need to think about before you narrow down your search.
How to Find Your Ideal Office Layout – Things to Consider
By reading to this point, it’s likely that you’re ready to make a change to your existing office layout, or perhaps you are designing a brand new office and you’re trying to decide the initial layout you’re going to go for. Before you make your final decision, there are a few conditions you need to think about carefully.
Let’s explore each one in turn.
- Budget – It’s a good idea to pinpoint how much cash you have to spend on your layout change. Whilst it’s not going to cost as much as a total office renovation, there are likely to be purchases you need to make, such as bench desks or perhaps a full set of breakout furniture.
- Space – How large is your office and are there any barriers to the type of layout you want to achieve, e.g. lack of natural light, pillars in awkward places, an odd shaped office in general, or a small or too large room. Pinpoint these challenges and look to work around them. It’s also important to have enough space for the layout you want. If you are going for a full on agile workspace, you are going to need a good amount of space, compared to a regular open plan, which can be large, medium or small.
- What is your aim? – What are you trying to achieve by changing your layout? It’s a good idea to identify this aim before you begin, to ensure that you choose the right layout to tick that box. Are you trying to established different zones for different work?
Do you want to totally encourage team working? Do you want to add more confidentiality and privacy to your space? Are you trying to cut down on distractions? Knowing your aim will help you make your decision far easier and more effectively.
- Is management going to be within the office? – Some offices have a separate office for management at the far side, some have management in with the rest of the employees, and some have management on a separate floor altogether.
How do you want to arrange this situation? Do you want a segregation between management and employees or are you happy for everyone to work in the same space? You should also think about how that makes your employees feel, e.g. will they feel constantly monitored? And you also need to think about confidentiality from a management point of view, and any sensitive subjects or tasks they may have.
- Furniture requirements – How much new furniture will you need to achieve your new layout aim? Will you need to purchase modular office furniture solutions, which can be moved around for flexibility? Do you need modern office shelving to store important items? Make a list and add that into your budgeting endeavours
- Access to natural light/ventilation – Your layout isn’t only about the shape of the room, it’s also about the access you have to natural light and ventilation. Work around your windows and make sure your lighting requirements are adequate, before you place office desks in any set space.
- Work requirements – What is your predominant type of work? Is your work more about quiet work, or is it a mixture of this and team work/brainstorming. Identifying the main type of work your space does will help you create a layout which caters to this need.
Once you’ve considered all these things, you might still have a few unanswered questions or concerns. That’s entirely normal; this is quite a large change you’re making to your office environment and in that case it’s a good idea to request a design visit, so that we can assess your space and give you the best advice based on what we see, and our years of experience. There is no better way to really advise on a space than seeing it with your own eyes, after all.
Office Layout Ideas to Consider
All this talk of layouts should have visual ideas popping into your head, but it could also leave you a little confused and in need of some inspiration. In that case, let’s look at a few sample office layouts, and see if any of these ideas catch your eye.
Fast Paced Collaboration
This type of layout could loosely be described as an old press centre or news room. This means plenty of collaboration, firing ideas out left, right, and centre, and quite a lot of rushing around to meet deadlines.
If this sounds like your office space, i.e. a fast pace, then go for modular office furniture, which can be moved around with ease, think about mesh chairs or beanbags to give a quick and comfortable feel to the space and avoid screens or barriers. This type of space is about everyone pitching in and working fast. You could also push together existing desks to create a brainstorming ‘centre’.
The Coffee Shop Vibe
This type of layout is ideal for a start up, and incorporates high stools and desks, perhaps sofas, maybe stand height tables or height adjustable desks, as well as areas where laptops or tablets can be used and moved around.
The idea behind type layout is constant movement from area to area, collaborating in a casual way, as well as a free way of working, ideal for inspiring new ideas. There is no rush about this type of office, exactly how you would expect a coffee shop to be, but full of productivity at the same time.
The Quiet Library
If your employees regularly have quiet work to do, e.g. they need to concentrate and focus without distraction, the library style set up could work for you. This set up uses office booths, acoustic panels, screens and partitions and allows staff to work without being interrupted. This type of layout may also benefit from a breakout space for people to go for a quick time out, and a break from concentrated work.
An Artistic Creative Space
We mentioned the creative layout a little earlier and this is a great example of that. This type of layout is inspired by the painter’s workshop or loft. Think long desks, interactive whiteboards, stools or sofas, and plenty of colourful artwork on the walls to inspire ideas and creative thinking and solutions. Incorporate urban office furniture for a NYC artist’s look to this layout.
The Idea Generator
Many of our layouts are about innovation and ideas, but that’s really what productivity is mostly about. This particular layout is another which is bound to bring your employees together, and it includes meeting spaces with modern conference tables, but these are drop in, e.g. they don’t have to be booked and are used for brainstorming or quick chats about ideas.
You could use screens or booths for private chats but overall the feel is open and innovative. Collaborative office furniture is likely to be at the heart of this entire layout.
The Naturally Light Space
We all know that natural light is great for boosting focus and mood, so this type of layout works with that in mind. Plenty of windows thrown open, synthetic light which is as close to natural as possible, and perhaps mirrors to reflect the light. You could also think about glass desks to reflect even more light and create a brighter feel still. You should however be careful when deciding where to place your office seating, so as not to cause undue glare to anyone sitting in a particular spot. This is a good choice for a small office.
These are just a few ideas you might like to consider, but it really depends on your office and the space you have in terms of how you go about it. These ideas are there to give you inspiration and help you to think about the best commercial furniture you might need to achieve your aim.
Of course, one of the most important things you should do before making a change to your office layout is to speak to your employees. Your staff are the ones who are going to be working in the office itself and they might have some useful ideas that you can take into account. In addition, speaking to your employees about upcoming changes will help them feel more valued and listened to.
This space might be about productivity, but it is the space in which they are going to be working for the duration of their office days.
That means it needs to be comfortable and it needs to be full of designer office desks and other solutions, which make it supportive, comfortable, and an attractive and pleasant place to be.
Once you’ve made your change, or changes, to your office layout, how can you check whether the change is working or not?
It’s about monitoring many different things, but specifically morale and asking opinions once more. We just mentioned that it is important you speak to your employees about changes and involve them in the decision making process, but asking them how things are going and taking on board any changes that might need to be made from their point of view is vital. This might mean looking into a new office desking plan, or maybe changing your office storage solutions to streamline the whole process. Whatever the suggestion, make sure you listen to it and allow it to inform your decision on whether your new layout is the right one for you or not.
You don’t necessarily have to invest a huge amount of cash when changing your layout, and it could very well be that you can use the furniture you have already, and buy a few supplementary pieces here and there. Modular furniture is also a great idea, because it can be moved around with ease, and you can easily store it away when not in use. Despite the flexibility side of things, it’s surprisingly durable too, so you’re getting great cost effectiveness at the same time.
The office space layout has a direct impact on the productivity. If your layout is poorly thought out, it’s going to be a difficult place to work, an unpleasant place to work, and it’s not going to encourage your staff to do their very best, or go above and beyond. In this case, they will do the bare minimum, until they can go back home at the end of the day. That’s not the picture of a productive space.
Focusing on what you can change and how it is going to impact on productivity will give you plenty of information and guide you towards making the right decisions, rather than throwing cash at an idea that simply isn’t going to work for your particular space.
Time and planning is a vital part of the process.
Thank you for reading!