Space Planning for Your Office: Designing for Optimum Workflow.

Office furniture is designed to solve problems, not create them. But haphazard planning and execution can make the office space planning process unnecessarily grueling and expensive. The problems that crop up when office layouts interfere with worker efficiency show that there are many more ways to get it wrong than right.

Facility managers need to recognize that there is no such thing as a generic, one-size-fits-all office. What’s right for an accounting firm might not be right for an advertising firm. Even different departments in the same company may have diametrically different requirements – just try moving an advertising art director down the hall to an account executive’s cubicle, and you’ll see what we mean.

In this white paper, we will describe design issues that may crop up when another variable is introduced into the mix, one that varies from office to office – that of workflow.

Fresh New Twists on Office Space Planning.

Office space planning is an evolving art – just ask Marc Kushner, creator of architects’ social networking site Architizer. In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Kushner takes note of how space planning for offices has changed to correspond to changing technology, and our changing perceptions of collaboration and productivity.

Change has been a long time coming: office space planning has historically been programmed around corner offices and cubicles ever since the invention of the latter, and only recent developments (the recession, the Internet) have made office managers consider alternatives like never before.

Reformulating the Working Space

Take office cubicles. The death of cubicles has often been predicted, and sometimes actively sought (without much success). Kushner still thinks those predictions aren’t wide off the mark.

“I think what people are experimenting with is getting that privacy without sequestering people into that defined space,” explains Kushner. “Specifically, you see a clear trend towards casual gathering spaces being a place to not just congregate, but also to actually do work.”

Dutch facility YourMeet offers an example of workplace space planning that takes Kushner’s insight to heart: They’ve ditched office cubicles for an open floorplan that can be commandeered for meetings or brainstorming sessions. As Fast Company Co.Design reports:

Loosely divvied up into zones (for brainstorming, speaking formally, and so on), it’s conceptualized to give workers a free-flowing atmosphere for hatching their cleverest ideas.

Changing Attitudes Influence Office Space Planning

Changing mindsets about working space have enabled office space planning to take another innovative turn – as millennial workers now have less qualms about sharing workspaces, former fringe ideas like “hot desking” are now gaining wide acceptance.

Hot desking refers to the practice of having no assigned desks per worker – instead, desks are available to the first worker who uses or reserves it for use. This space planning concept allows offices to reduce property costs without a corresponding decrease in labor.

British computer services company ICL has seen the light – one-fourth of their 20,000-strong workforce now hot-desk. “We opened a building in Staines which has 320 desks but supports 600 people,” ICL’S Richard Reed told the Daily Telegraph. “We see this building as a model for the future.”

Offices like Dutch consulting firm YNNO have redesigned their office around this concept. YNNO can rock this type of office space planning, as most of their employees are highly mobile with their work.

“Workers should have a place to check in and plug in, but don’t need designated desks, especially since they travel so much as consultants,” explains Suzanne LaBarre. “Think of it as less of an office than a homebase.”

LaBarre figures that YNNO can go a lot further than previous attempts at abolishing the cubicle, largely since the technology and the mindset has now dovetailed with acceptance of this space planning concept.

“We’re more comfortable as mobile employees now than we were then, in large part because we depend on mobile technology,” speculates LaBarre. “The technology will only continue loosening the corsetry of traditional office work…. expect YNNO’s office to become the norm, rather than the exception.”

Whether office space planning experts keep office cubicles or move on to open creative spaces or hot desking, it’s all one to Marc Kushner as long as they keep one thing in mind: the workplace should enable fun.

Good offices consider the joy of work. As an employer, you want to create an experience that is positive and proactive in the workplace. And we’ve seen much experimentation over the years—open offices, closed offices, eco design, and so on. But what it all comes down to is that a workplace is part of the human experience, and a nicer office can help you to have happier, more productive workers.

Asking the Right Questions About Your Cubicle Furniture.

Style: Formal or Avant-Garde? When shopping for cubicle furniture, you want to make sure you have the right look. Office furniture comes in a wide assortment of colors and styles, so it’s easy to buy cubicle furniture that, upon further examination, is revealed to clash with the existing environment: walls, floors, ceiling work, lighting, etc. So when selecting your cubicle furniture, think of the overall look of your office. Is the dominant style traditional, or modern? This will influence your choice of cubicle furniture, whether it’s stylish and high tech, or traditional and earthy.

Give some thought to the impression your office furniture makes on clients. A firm of accountants needs different styles of cubicle furniture from an ad agency; a call center shouldn’t have the same kind of cubicle furniture as a law firm! The impression you make depends largely on what your clients need from you. A design firm wants its cubicle furniture to look adventurous and creative; an accounting firm needs cubicle furniture that helps it look solid and dependable.

You should also be mindful if the style of cubicle furniture you’re selecting is timeless, or is bound to go out of style in the next few years. Sure, your cubicle furniture looks great now – but in five years, will the new employees be as squeamish in their office furniture as they would be wearing 1970s-era leisure suits?    (read more)

Pimp My Cubicle: Five Awesome Cubicle Do-Overs.

To break the monotony of the typical office cubicle, more workers are spending a lot of money on “pimp my cubicle” one-upmanship. Blame the uniformity of the cubicle farm; office cubicles are a damned efficient way of corralling a large workforce into a single workspace, but the mind craves variety.

I don’t know about you, but when the first time I tried to pimp my cubicle, I worked with a really low budget – and cheap clods like me began with action figures. Dollies for men. Surely you can’t be a sissy if your office cubicle action figures come from the hit show Futurama could you?

ThinkGeek sells three sets of Futurama action figures, including the star-crossed duo of Leela and Zapp Brannigan (pictured above – with the awesome addition of Richard Nixon’s head in a jar!).

Moving up the budget scale, indulge your Formula One fantasies by buying a RaceChair – an actual seat from a real-live sports car, lovingly transformed into a static office chair. How’s that for a comedown? One moment, you’re a critical collaborator on Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One team, the next, you’re warming a midlevel manager’s expanding backside.

RaceChairs cost as low as $2,000, but may go for over $11,000, in the case of a seat stripped from a Lamborghini LP640 Murcielago.

More pimped-out cubicles after the jump.         (read more)

Micro Management: Some Small Office Design Tips to Remember.

The rules are very different for stocking a small office: the best small office design ideas don’t use the same rules as big offices. Yes, you too need to create an orderly, productive environment – but no, you don’t have as much space to work with, and chances are you have a smaller margin for error.

Working with a small office design forces you to zero in on your needs, fast. Do you expect frequent client visits? Then you’ll need furniture that leaves a good impression. No patchy second-hand furniture, or worse, wildly inappropriate furnishing choices (one small travel agency I visited this week had, I kid you not, a bed).

Is the industry you’re working in a stable one? You might think about leasing furniture to stock your small office. On the other hand, choosing to buy your furniture outright may keep your budget low, and compel you to buy only the stuff you really need.

Tough questions like these can help you decide what furniture you need to be productive in your small office. Some things will always stay constant: a decent desk; a comfortable chair; a telephone; a PC.

If you’re working from home, your work and personal facilities should be separate, or as separate as possible. Have a separate phone line for work, so you don’t miss important calls from clients if your kid is on the line.

Think of your power consumption – can your small office location cope with the extra wattage you’ll need to consume for your enterprise? Do you have enough power outlets to cope with a PC, desk light, printer, scanner, and fax machine all sucking up juice at the same time?

Finally, you should add a light touch to your small office design – a painting in the right place, or a photo frame of your husband and kids can lighten the mood in your small office. Ransack your personal wants and needs to create an office that’s not just a pleasure to work in, but also a place you want to visit again and again. The alternative is just too horrible to contemplate!

Office Cubicle Installation in a Little Over an Hour.

Cubicle installation isn’t a long, tiresome process anymore, at least not since the Sixties. When Herman Miller introduced their Action Office 2 (AO2) cubicle system, they introduced the open plan office into the business lexicon. They also made tedious office cubicle installation a thing of the past.

Take this example from Cubesolutions – this video shows a timed cubicle installation session, transforming a bare space into a 500-cubicle set in just over an hour. You’ve got to see it to believe it – office cubicle installation in a flash, giving you a complete office in the time it takes to finish your lunch!

Of course, the video leaves out the hard work done before the partitions are locked in place. The cubicle provider needs to know the dimensions of the work area, the type of cubicles that need to be installed, the type of electronics that will be used (AO2 cubicles accommodate cabling, but these need to be determined beforehand).

Our guys got this down pat, too – cubicle installation services and more. Ring us up if you want this kind of speedy magic pulled off in your workspace.

Click here to see Cubicle Installation video

Four Smashing Office Design Upgrades for your Workplace.

Office design these days tends to the staid and practical – squares of space carefully rationed out to individual employees, uniform shelving and seating, all illuminated in that ghastly greenish fluorescent glow.

Fortunately, there are ways around cookie-cutter office design. Like flowers growing from cracks in the pavement, your own design sensibility can be brought to bear onto even the most boring workplace. Just don’t be afraid to project your own style onto your office, and you’re good to go!

Look through these examples, and take some inspiration to work.

office design, Herman Miller Celle Mesh chair

Image © Herman Miller,

Herman Miller Celle Chair. A classic that adds both comfort and class to any office space, the Celle Chair from industry leader Herman Miller offers great value in an adjustable ergonomic mesh chair.

The Celle’s Cellular Suspension mesh technology provides comfortable seating with the added bonus of looking extremely sharp. Cellular Suspension moves with you – its loops and cells flex individually to give you the best possible support, however you move.

Get your Herman Miller Celle Chair from’s seating page, where the Celle and many other cutting-edge seat designs are just waiting for you to take one of ’em home.

office design, logerot side bookcase

Image © Aissa Logerot

Side Bookcase. A side-standing bookshelf? Yes, says designer Aissa Logerot – having one’s books on the side frees the walls for pictures, yet protects books from spills and stains.

This shelf, crafted out of plain wood planks, is an ideal addition to any modern office. You can use it as a coffee table, media center, or as a room divider; multiple functions that can only add charm to one’s office design.

To see two more smashing designs, click “read more“.

Space Crisis for Office Cubicles.

As employers attempt to lower costs and maintain productivity with a shrinking workforce inhabiting their office cubicles, some offices are taking the game one level up by shaving the cubicle space each employee gets.

The Wall Street Journal reports that office cubicles have now become prime real estate in the recession. Companies are taking different tacks. Some are creating open floor plans and removing cubicles from their office spaces. Employees are now given rotating or random workspaces, instead of being assigned an office cubicle of their own. Other employees are given more opportunity to telecommute.

Manufacturers are following suit – new workstations designed by design group HOK now have an average area of 48 square feet, down 30% from five years back. Other companies “are reducing per-employee office space by as much as 50%, and their total footprint by as much as 25%,” the article reports.

One former office cubicle rat – now a telecommuting writer working from her own home – remembers the old days with mixed feelings. Says True/Slant’s Caitlin Kelly:

That’s one good thing about working alone at home. Right now, the only sound I hear — loud and clear — is my neighbor’s laughter and phone conversation. I’m not sure, short of a cabin in the woods, you can escape noise or other people and get your work done.

I can’t agree with you more, Miz Kelly. Although I’d add that some of these companies are plainly misled – why cut down on cubicle space and call that savings, when they can just buy remanufactured cubicles at a much lower price and keep their office cubicle inhabitants happy with a little more real estate? Just a suggestion.

Modular Furniture – Godsend for Facility Managers.

Facility managers take note – modular furniture is your friend. Today’s Facility Manager chimes in with some useful tips for managing office furniture, when the time comes to move ’em around your territory.

Furniture that can be easily moved around is key. Ease of disassembly is another attractive characteristic for many FM’s. And it’s worth noting that this advantage is not limited to chairs, desks, storage, and the like.

“Modular interior construction is finally beginning to realize its potential,” observes Mark Paul, national sales manager for OM Workspace based in Naperville, IL. “Many buildings use movable walls, raised floors, sound masking systems, and indirect lighting fixtures to [facilitate easily reconfigured space.]”facilities management furniture trends

Wait, isn’t modular furniture expensive? Not anymore; one side-effect of the recession is a glut in used office furniture, and a corresponding surfeit of remanufactured office furniture that’s practically indistinguishable from brand new, but comes at a lower cost.

This provides an advantage for the facility manager with one eye to the future, and another on his bottom line.

Modular office furniture is not only adequately represented in remanufactured furniture catalogs (such as’s extensive inventory of remanufactured furniture by Herman Miller – watch out, it’s in PDF). Modular office furniture’s increasing versatility and interchangeability offers the following advantages highly sought after by facility managers:

Adaptability: such furniture can be reconfigured to serve a variety of job types. They can be adapted to current usage, or put away when downsizing or restructuring occurs.

Compatibility: remanufactured office furniture catalogs allow facility managers to match newly-purchased furniture to existing product lines – minimizing the mismatch that often comes when the manager has to wait long periods before purchasing new furniture.

Customization: remanufactured office furniture allows a high degree of customization when called for. Call center operators and vice presidents have very different needs – a facility manager ought to be able to provide for the needs of both.

Mona Hoffman, vice president of marketing at Kimball Office in Jasper, IN, notes the way the wind is blowing for facility managers. “There is a need for multipurpose products that easily adapt to changing footprints and flex with the flow of people and projects,” Hoffman reports.

Office Interior Design Helps Heal Patients.

A doctor’s office layout can help greatly in facilitating her patients’ well being – a consultation room’s interior design can improve the quality of a visit, the Mayo Clinic announced in a new study.

These surprising findings were revealed through a randomized trial published in Health Environments Research and Design Journal. The Space and Interaction Trial tested a new office interior design, which had both patient and physician facing a computer screen at a semi-circular desk. The study randomly tested 63 pairs of patients and doctors.

Participating physicians felt that they were able to share more information, while patients felt they had better access to information.

“This study supports the notion that the space in which people meet can influence how they work together,” said Dr. Victor Montori, one of the study’s principal authors.

The study was a result of collaboration between the Mayo Clinic and the office furniture company Steelcase.

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