The office is a complex environment with lots of moving parts as it has to accommodate a variety of different needs. Our clients approach us for inspiration but also to provide solutions that improve their ways of working and staff experience.
Office design problems are not exclusive to old buildings or fit outs. Each company occupies spaces slightly differently, so even in a modern building, there will be ways to improve the space to better support your people.
We’ve pulled together five of the most common office design problems that we’ve encountered with our clients and provided our solutions for how to address the challenges and help improve employee engagement and productivity.
One of the most common reasons for moving offices or redesigning existing spaces is due to poor space utilisation.
Poor space utilisation comes from creating workplaces that are not customised to the people using them or if there is not enough variety in the types of setting. Whether it is a lack of the right sort of spaces, like quiet-working or collaboration space, or if you have simply outgrown your existing office, working in an office that is too small or crowded can heavily impact happiness and productivity.
Conducting a workplace consultancy and analysing your existing space will tell you what type of design features would benefit your office and unlock any underused spaces. If large meeting rooms are repeatedly being taken up by one or two people on calls, then you could look at replacing that one large meeting room with multiple individual booths. This would be a better use of the space and would mean the larger meeting rooms are available for use.
Workplace consultancy is about interrogating spaces, asking people questions and developing informed decisions about space allocation. Being able to make data-driven design choices that directly respond to the needs of your business helps reduce underutilised and wasted space.
Open place offices are noisy by their very nature but this doesn’t mean they have to be viewed as a negative aspect of the office. They promote collaboration, they encourage better communication between teams and they also create an ambience within the office.
The downfall of the open plan is the negative impact on productivity and the disruption it can cause. Without the right sort of spaces for people to take a break from their desk or have a space to socialise, the open plan doesn’t offer enough variety to account for the differing needs of individuals and their job functions. Plus, with the increase in video calls in our daily working lives, taking calls in
Open plan space has become a foundational element of most modern office spaces so the solution comes from the way the spaces are implemented rather than adopting a different type of space. Open plan spaces should be fitted with acoustic treatments to help reduce noise transfer. Consider noise-friendly flooring solutions, acoustic panelling and sound masking.
Taking the time to correctly map adjacencies and placing certain teams together based on how they work. Positioning a team that works in a collaborative way next to a quieter, more siloed team will cause people to be disengaged and unproductive. Planning the office layout will help reduce disruption and designate different areas to certain types of work.
Creating acoustically-sound areas in the office to hold video calls will help support new ways of working. Rather than one person occupying a meeting room for a video call, adding in small pockets of space in quieter parts of the office mean that noise is kept to a minimum without impacting the experience of the call.
Being able to take time away from the busy office and do private work has become increasingly important for our wellbeing. The workplace should be balanced and staff should have access to a variety of spaces but these dedicated reflection spaces can often be overlooked.
Being able to retreat to a quiet area to reflect on your work or decisions is important to mental health as well as designing inclusive spaces that support neurodiversity Without these types of spaces, it can leave people feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable in the workplace.
The workplace has evolved to become a more fluid, more diverse destination than ever before. This evolution has been driven by the blending of our private lives and work lives. As a result, offices must cater for more complex needs.
Prayer rooms, mothering suites and mindfulness spaces are becoming increasingly common in the workplace and these purpose-built sanctuary spaces offer people the chance to escape the buzz of a busy office. To support neurodiverse requirements in the workplace, it is also an option to create rooms with ambient sounds, controllable lighting and soft seating. If we are going to move towards creating more inclusive environments, these are examples of the design solutions that will help us progress.
Working in an office that feels flat and doesn’t inspire you is not a nice place to be. While culture is an intangible element of a workplace, it is closely linked to the way people interact with their colleagues and can directly impact their productivity levels. A workplace that doesn’t foster a positive working culture or encourage a sense of community can be damaging to the business reputation and could make it difficult to attract and retain talent.
As companies navigate the return to work, the office should operate as a physical representation of company values to bring people together. Perks and benefits are often mislabelled as culture, but there are ways to design offices that offer enriching environments that people want to be part of.
Company culture means different things to each company, but this feeling of shared values and what it is like to work somewhere is a key foundation that acts as a wireframe for building an engaged workforce.
When it comes to designing for culture, you should set a clear vision of the environment you want to create. Core business values should be more than just a mantra written on the walls; your office design should embrace these values which will also help bring together a more aligned community.
Try to identify how you can make the workplace somewhere employees want to visit. For example, events and socialising might stand out as an important part of your culture. A large breakout space or reconfigurable spaces would enable you to host more events in the office.
New ways of working have seen companies shift away from providing each member of staff with a dedicated desk to save space and reduce rental costs. Removing desks is a great way to optimise your space but this can also create issues with productivity, as well as the loss of privacy and personal space. Plus, with more businesses implementing remote working, the fluctuating occupancy rates means that if desk management systems aren’t introduced, staff will be left without a desk and wondering why they’ve come into the office.
Adopting an agile working model is one of the most effective ways to move away from fixed desk positions. To do this, you need to consider how to redesign your office to support your maximum occupancy – what types of settings need to be introduced, which jobs can be done without a desk and how can you encourage new working behaviours?
Not everyone needs a desk and with the rise of hybrid working, we’ve seen that technology can enable a more transient workforce. Dedicated touch down areas and desk booking software is a good way of making your workspace more agile without having to relocate your office. Read our article to learn how to achieve agility in the workplace.
Download our guide for a step-by-step process of how redesigning your office could benefit your business. We lead you through our process, outlining industry terminology and the costs and timescales you should consider.download now