The littlest things can prove to be beneficial to your business, and one of the things that many people may never consider is the impact that your office layout can have on productivity and staff welfare. In this article we will briefly consider the importance of a good office layout and will look at three specific things that anyone thinking about office layouts should consider. Whilst looking at these three key concepts we will refer back to two of the most popular layouts; cubicle and open plan.
One of the fundamental things to consider when deciding on a layout for an office is that good communication is almost always one of the key features of any successful business. Therefore it should come as no surprise to anyone that office layouts that ensure effective and easy communication are often very successful.
When communication is considered, it becomes obvious that it is necessary to place office desks in a way that provides optimum opportunity for communication. One of the reasons why desks facing each other have become so popular is not just because of the space it saves but also because it allows employees to talk face to face. Body language experts often tell us that a very high percentage of communication is non-verbal and as such it is of fundamental importance to be able to view ones conversational subject – without this it becomes difficult to pick up the non-verbal clues which help one to truly understand the communication. Following on from this, we understand that if it is important for those who need to share information with one another to sit near to each other, it makes sense for an office layout to account for that. Workers who need to communicate often should be placed near to one another.
Obviously, in terms of communication, an open plan office is far more conducive than an office with cubicles, so when considering your office layout, bear in mind that if you choose to have cubicles, it will make it more difficult for your employees to have work related conversation.
As we know, business is all about time. The workers of a successful business will spend a vast proportion of their time working on business related tasks and their time doing other things will be cut down to an absolute minimum. Therefore, the time it takes people to do things should be considered when deciding on an office layout. For example, if your business comprises a factory and an office and you have an employee who works in the office but frequently needs to visit the factory then it would be prudent for that employee to be placed somewhere within the office that makes the factory the most accessible possible. That way, it will not take this employee as long to accomplish his regular journey to and from the factory.
Placing machinery that most employees will require use of in a central area can also maximize the productivity of your business. Photocopiers, scanners, fax machines and other such implements should be placed in an area that provides ease of access for all employees. Failure to do this can result in employees wasting vast swathes of time walking around the office to each piece of machinery.
Having an open plan office allows employees to walk around with more freedom as they are able to walk through the office as opposed to around the various cubicles. Furthermore, the walls on either side of the employees cubicle can contribute towards hindering movement and therefore be potentially time wasting.
Having too open an office layout can actually decrease the productivity of your business. Too much access to other workers, especially workers who are not working on the same project can result in your employees spending too much time talking about things not related to the business; thereby decreasing their productivity. It is for this reason that many businesses have chosen to give their employees cubicles – the intended result is that they focus on the job in hand as opposed to what their colleagues have been up to in their leisure time. A good manager manages to strike a balance between ensuring that his or her staff are able to fully collaborate with one another whilst making sure that they do not get distracted from the task in hand.
A useful way of creating this balance is to work out what sort of tasks each worker performs. If a key part of their job requires significant collaboration then it is worthwhile risking some distraction by placing them in a social area, but if the fundamental aspects of their job require them to work almost entirely independently (programming for example) then it is sensible to place them in a more secluded area of the office – as they have no need of collaboration, any collaboration is likely to be counter-productive.
It is in this aspect that the concept of having an office laid out with cubicles is an attractive idea. Having your workers in cubicles is far more likely to keep them focused on the task in hand and it considerably reduces the possibility of them being distracted by other employees.
How should I lay my office out?
As we have seen by briefly outlining some aspects that need to be considered when deciding on an office layout, there is a lot to think about and going solely with one particular layout has its pros and cons. We have seen that for the three aspects we’ve considered, an open plan office is likely to contribute more to effective time management and communication but that your employees will be more likely to be distracted in that setting. A balance appears to be the best way forward; provide the ability for communication and collaboration whilst ensuring that measures are in place to reduce the possibility of distraction.
About the Author: Alexa Garthwaite is the Business Development Manager at Executive Offices, who offer virtual offices, serviced offices and meeting room hire in prestigious locations across England.