Space planning in the workplace

We live and breathe workplace design. And for good reason!

Fit for purpose, well designed workplaces ensure that the humble office becomes a space that inspires, improves employee engagement, boosts team morale, supports organisational culture and helps businesses reach their goals.

Reworking your office space can be triggered by many factors – a growing team, optimising a dysfunctional space, or to suit an evolving way your team wants to work. But it’s difficult to know where to start.

This blog will take you through the office design concepts of wayfinding and zoning your workspace and maximising your available office footprint. Smart and innovative ways to use office spaces and engage with your team can really make an impact in your organisation.

What to consider when you’re redesigning your workspace?

When we work with our clients on redesigning their workspace, there are a number of considerations for businesses to think about. Senior management teams should be thinking about how they can encourage their teams to work in ways that will achieve their business goals and support their company values. Employees should be consulted about how they currently work in the existing space, how they want to work and how they might work better in the future.

In addition to employing concepts such as office zoning and wayfinding, there are some simple checklists you can employ today to ensure you’re thinking about everything you need for your upcoming workspace redesign. You’ll want to cover physical and virtual work environments, organisation culture, business processes, technologies and other resources that make working for your organisation unique.

Considerations for workplace redesign

  1. Collaboration – how can your office workspace better support your team to reach your business objectives, work together on client projects or better serve your customers?
  2. Wellbeing – how can your office space increase team morale or support your employee’s physical, mental and emotional health?
  3. Engagement – increasing engagement levels of your team with inspirational spaces has positive effects on work productivity.
  4. Efficiency – is your office floor plan optimised for the number of staff you have and how they like to work? Do you have the right furniture and different spaces for different work purposes?
  5. Retention – happy staff don’t leave. Ensuring your team are comfortable, feels supported and cared for can be just as important as quality work and career pathways.
  6. Future-focused – how might your team evolve? Future-proofing for expected growth, fewer in-office hours and more working from home, or more collaborative project work can help you create fit for purpose office spaces in preparation for change.

What simple office design fixes could you make now?

You don’t need to wait to move into a new office space, or until your team increases to make valuable space planning changes now. Some quick fixes in these areas could lift team morale overnight and allow you to test certain aspects of a new office redesign.

  1. Acoustics – noisy open-plan environment? Investing in sound absorption furniture and creating sound-reducing break out spaces can have a huge impact on your team, by reducing stress and fatigue.
  2. Trends and Colour Theory – does your team culture thrive on increasing energy levels throughout the day or ensuring a zen calm throughout the day? The right colour palette in the right places can impact your team’s productivity, mood, well-being and innovation. Thoughtful colour theory can support your corporate culture and values too.
  3. Wellness – beyond ergonomic chairs and standing desks, supporting employee wellbeing should be at the top of all senior management team’s To Do lists. Quiet spaces, private rooms for in-office massages, and open spaces for lunchtime yoga or team celebrations all support your team’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Europlan works to the WELL Building Standard to ensure we create healthy spaces for more engaged, healthier teams
  4. Ergonomics and Movement – providing opportunities to sit, stand and move is key to reducing physical illness and injury. Promoting movement with a variety of furniture and open spaces will result in higher productivity and better quality work
  5. Biophilia – bringing nature inside with indoor plants, better air quality and natural light can greatly support employee wellbeing
  6. Distributed teams – more staff working from home can mean more video calls for those in the office. Ensuring your workspace is flexible to manage variable staff numbers, with quiet spaces for having 1:1 video calls and hosting larger meetings are becoming more important
  7. Neurodiversity – with 15-20% of our workforce identifying as neurodivergent, workspaces have an obligation to be more inclusive and accommodate different working styles and needs
  8. Returning to work – returning to work parents may need breastfeeding facilities or safe child play spaces as they transition back to the workplace. Providing these amenities will be gratefully received by returning staff, and admired by your wider team
  9. Sustainability – this is likely to be important to your organisation’s goals and to your team. Looking at ways to reduce your operational costs and carbon footprint with sustainable office design can help meet your sustainability targets

Zoning in the workplace

Many offices these days will consider themselves open-plan spaces. Gone are the days of corner offices for the key management team, office cubicles for middle management and rows of desks for the ‘doers’. Today’s open-plan office environment promotes equity amongst your team and allows project teams to cohabitate on a bank of desks for easier collaboration. However, a drawback for open plan workspaces has always been noise and distraction. That’s where workplace zoning comes in – ensuring you have different zones within your office space for different kinds of work.

Think about your current workplace design or layout. Do you have quiet spaces for high focus tasks? Collaborative areas for team building, relationship building and learning? What about private areas for sensitive meetings, video calls and private conversations? Communal areas for eating, drinking and socialising with colleagues?

Zones can be achieved with permanent structures or flexible furniture to test and learn how spaces might work best. Acoustic control can be solved with furniture solutions, different flooring, partitions and meeting pods, and even altering floor and ceiling heights. Creative or innovation zones can be achieved with lighting, biophilia additions and colour theory.

Key workplace zones to consider include:

  1. Reception area – as the first impression of your business or organisation, this is an important space to reflect your organisational culture, and values and be inviting to both employees and office visitors
  2. Key work area – your traditional desk and chair area where much of your work takes place should be ergonomically comfortable and practically support the work you do. Space will dictate whether you have separate desks with an acoustic barrier or work as teams on open tables
  3. Collaboration zone – informal meetings, idea generation and sharing of knowledge should take place away from your key work area and should be motivating or inspiring (think decor, non-traditional seating and use of colour)
  4. Meeting rooms – a mix of sizes for different meeting types and privacy requirements
  5. Quiet zone – do you have a phone-free zone in your office space? Knowing there is a quiet corner or area in your office space to escape to, and knowing you’ll have no distractions can be really important at certain times of your workday
  6. Break out / social zone – this is your office kitchen or informal seating space where your team feel comfortable eating their lunch, having a coffee with a colleague or inviting the kids in for an hour during the school holidays. You might have bar learners and bar stools or comfy couches. Regardless, this is likely the space you’ll use for after-work drinks and team celebrations too
  7. Fun zone – for larger teams, prioritising space for the ping pong table can be important. If having fun is a core company value, then think about how you might create such a zone in your workspace
  8. Well zone – these are increasingly common in modern workspaces, with companies having dedicated private rooms for massages, breastfeeding employees or afternoon naps. If wellness and mental health is a priority for your team, then ensure you make sure a well zone is on your wishlist

Wayfinding in office design

For larger office spaces, including multiple level buildings and multiple location teams, incorporating wayfinding methodology into a new office layout will be integral to your team feeling comfortable in their new space, or being able to locate meeting rooms when they need do.

Wayfinding can be described as:

“…a set of processes and tools that individuals use to navigate through a space. Tech solutions like directories and maps or graphical components like signage make it simpler for people to find their way. Wayfinding is also embedded in the choices made about an office layout, including everything from viewing angles to spacing in hallways can affect everyone who visits your workplace.”

Wayfinding is generally considered another tool in your employee productivity toolkit, as it ensures that you:

  • reduce decision fatigue for your employees – by ensuring clear sightlines within the office and signage to explain the floor layout
  • encourage employee communication – by creating easier opportunities to interact
  • save your employees time – visual maps or colour coded pathways can help employees get where they need to, more quickly
  • simplify onboarding – get your new team members acquainted with your office space sooner and make them feel part of your team more quickly
  • Reduce complexity for visitors – support your clients and customers feel at home in your office space with prominent signage and visual cues

Recent wayfinding trends

If you believe you need to optimise your current office floor plan, check out these wayfinding trends:

  • Incorporating wayfinding into the design of the office – colour coding rooms or floors, theming the naming of meeting rooms in a particular location or floor and are all good examples of this
  • Wayfinding apps – if your workforce is mobile, and not tied to their desks all day, having a wayfinding app can be helpful to allow them to get to meetings on time, or locate a particular team
  • Integrating wayfinding signage with room scheduling software – checking the availability of a room and its location is becoming simpler with smart technology

If you are revamping your workspace, moving to a new location or needing to change up how your office is working, it’s clear that understanding the needs of your management team, and the wish list of your employees is a great place to start. Incorporating some thoughtful planning and flexible working spaces, so that your workspace can adapt as your team changes and grows is also useful.

Engaging a Europlan Workplace Solutions Specialist can ensure you get expertise in the early planning stages, right through to the completion of the project.

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