Space-Efficient Office Design
If you’re looking to reduce the amount of office space you have, you’re not alone. As hybrid working becomes more popular and the economic climate becomes more difficult, many companies are looking to rationalise their real estate portfolio. A key part of this is their office space, with nearly half of UK companies expected to reduce their office space by 2025.
Despite prime office space being so expensive, many office designs are very space inefficient. Outdated design traditions and a lack of planning mean that many offices have 30-40% wasted office space. Eliminating this wastage at your company could save hundreds of thousands of pounds every year.
Every week, we speak with companies planning office relocations or refurbishments. A common challenge is making their design as efficient as possible without compromising the productivity of their staff. In this article, we’ll go through 7 common ways we see space wasted in offices, and how you can avoid them in your next office design project.
1) Reduce Desks
By far the most common cause of inefficient office design, most companies have too many desks. With many staff working from home 2-3 days per week, having an assigned desk for every employee is inefficient. When your people are in the office, they also spend a lot of time away from their desks in meetings and working collaboratively.
For many companies, desking areas comprise 60-70% of their total office space. While the exact requirements will be different for each company, most office designs should include 30-40% desking areas. some will be even less. To get a better idea of how many desks you need, survey your staff to see how much time they spend using their desks, and consider when they are in the office.
2) Cut Meeting Rooms
Meeting rooms are another common culprit when it comes to inefficient office layouts. Many meeting rooms are used less than 20% of the time. This is especially true for large meeting rooms and boardrooms. If it looks like you haven't got enough meeting rooms, you should consider if your people are only using them because there isn't enough collaboration space.
Meeting rooms take up 10-20% of most office spaces, with this percentage being higher in smaller offices. In our experience, this is too high. Many companies should have around 5% of their office devoted to meeting spaces. Informal collaboration areas should be assessed separately. Installing occupancy trackers to detect how much your meeting rooms are used will help you assess just how much formal meeting space you need.
3) Reduce Individual Offices
Individual offices are much less common than they used to be, though they are still prevalent in certain industries such as law. While there may be a need for certain staff to have a personal office, they are very space inefficient. A medium-sized office is about 150-200 sq/ft. . Meanwhile, an open-plan workstation is 30-50sq/ft. . Too many individual offices will mean you are spending much more than you need to on your office lease.
In most offices, less than 5% of the space is used for individual offices, though some layouts include over 60%. To improve the efficiency of your layout, minimise the individual offices in your space. You could replace them with bookable suites for remote meetings and hybrid work, as these will take up a lot less space.
4) Minimise Storage
Many companies waste valuable office space by having too much storage. Too much storage creates a cluttered and distracting office environment. This reduces the productivity of your people. While some storage is necessary, large storage rooms for equipment and sundries are very inefficient.
In some industries such as law, going paperless is not practical. However, keeping paper usage as low as possible will reduce your need for storage. For surplus IT equipment and furniture, you could look at a long-term storage facility, as this is much cheaper per square foot than office space.
5) Use Mobile Technology
Portable technology is a must in the age of hybrid working. This will enable your people to always work in an environment that suits their needs, from buzzing collaboration to intense focus. Without it, your people are tied to fixed workstations. This reduces their flexibility and increases your office space requirements.
While the transition to mobile technology was sped up by the move to hybrid work, there is more to be done in making your workspace technology more portable. Mobile technology is of little use if your environment doesn’t support this. High-speed, secure Wi-Fi is essential, as is power supply throughout your office. This includes breakout and collaboration areas.
6) Embrace Flexible Working
Moving to a hybrid working model doesn’t mean you only need to reduce your office space. You also need to change the layout of that space to reflect the changes in how your staff will use it. Hybrid workers complete most focussed tasks at home, and use their time in the office for collaboration and networking.
If your workspace still features 70% desks, your office will provide a very frustrating experience for your staff. As a result, their productivity and wellbeing will decrease. By creating an environment that matches the needs of your staff, you will maximise their performance both at home and in the office. As a result, you will bring your company the best of in-office and remote working.
7) Assess Your Needs
Regardless of best practices and the latest trends, what matters most is that your office design layout meets the needs of you and your people. Otherwise, it will be very inefficient. No two companies are the same, so no office layout should be either. Merely following templated design trends will not only result in wasted space, but it will also make your people less effective.
To maximise the efficiency of your office, assess how your people currently use the office and what would make them more effective. You can then work with an experienced office designer to create a space that meets those needs. You should also consider how your needs will change in the future. While it may seem unnecessary to lease extra space now, you may save money and hassle by avoiding having to relocate in just a few years.
Making Your Office More Efficient
The way businesses are using their offices has changed drastically over the last 5 years. Full-time office working for all staff is no longer the default. Workspaces are shrinking as companies adopt flexible and hybrid working models to meet evolving business and staff needs. Nearly all companies still need an office, but the role it plays in their company has changed significantly. As a result, not only the amount of space you need has changed but also what that space should look like.
To reduce the amount of office space that your company needs, focus on creating shared, bookable resources, from desks to meeting rooms. These are far more efficient than individually assigned desks and rooms, as you need fewer of them. Maximising flexibility in how your people work will also make your space more efficient. It's crucial to remain focussed on your needs and how your people use the space, rather than trends or best practices.
It's also important to keep real estate rationalisation in context. While it can save huge sums of money each year, the costs will far outweigh the benefits if it hampers the productivity of your people. If reducing your office space will negatively impact your staff wellbeing, engagement, or teamwork, then it should be avoided. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. By considering these 7 tips to make your office design more efficient, you can reduce costs while improving the productivity of your staff.
To learn more about the amount and types of office space that are best for your company, read How Much Office Space Do I Need? We’ll explain the standard guidelines for the amount of office space you need, as well as what can drive that number up and down. We’ll then dive into what types of space you need within that, and how you can plan for growth. Finally, we’ll show you how to work out how much space you need for your business needs, and how you can get started finding your perfect office. Read more here.