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7 points for successfully steering through a workspace design.

To successfully get through a long day at work there needs to be a certain amount of clever navigation and ‘rules of the road’ to keep in mind, the same can be said for the design of the work space.

1. Travelling from A – B.

A downfall in many offices is the lack of circulation allowance, when calculating the square footage required for a clients brief, this is often overlooked. For an office design to be successful and usable, clear circulation routes throughout a space should be included so end users are not dodging stray desks, untidy meeting areas or indeed their co-workers!

This does not necessarily mean rows and rows of call centre like desk benches and long straight corridors, but can be defined with walkway features such as flooring that define best routes to take – no satnav required!

2. Private parking.

This can be a case of common courtesy for your neighbour as well as the result of well designed open plan spaces. Each individual will have a working space and it is key to determine just how much space this person needs, so they are not spilling out in to their neighbours ‘parking bays’, this can differ between departments and so digging deeper in to the day to day working of each group or person is essential to keep people parked neatly between their own metaphorical white lines

3. Public parking.

Parking up in a public place usually comes with a time limit – this can also be said for hot desking areas within an office, these are usually smaller parking bays that are for a quick pit stop, work and go scenario and so placing them closer to local amenities such as reception, print points or tea-points is ideal for fast paced navigation and a convenient work environment.

4. Stopping for fuel.

On a long journey (or in fact a long day!) stopping to re-fuel is important to staying alert, keeping on track and being productive. Throughout an office design these regular ‘service stations’ should be evenly spread out and attractive so to encourage people to stop, take a minute or two and then continue on their journey with a boost of energy. This is inclusive of water stations – dehydration is one of the main culprits for the afternoon lull so often seen in offices and so making more of a statement around these refreshment points in the design will aid in keeping employees hydrated and healthy – a healthy workplace is a happy workplace!

5. Rest Stop

In the same way as re-fuelling, on the roads it is essential to have a rest stop over a certain distance, and this is much the same throughout the day in a working environment. Driving takes a lot of concentration, and if our eyes leave the road it can be dangerous…..this is much the same theory as being at work. Our minds are concentrated intensely while working and if not given regular breaks, mistakes are likely to be made. This has become a trend in office interior design as employers recognise the benefits to the overall company of these intervals – rather than pressurising staff to stay at their desks work work working and thinking this is what will get the most done. If at regular points in an open plan there is a lounge space, quiet area or calming environment that people can remove themselves to for 10-15 minutes of tranquillity, they then return to their desks far more productive and will get more done, accurately. This can also relate to fresh air – an allowance is always made for fresh air within an office, however this can be insufficient for some and so physically leaving the office to gain fresh air and a bit of exercise is often a positive move and so when designing a space, not having restrictive barriers between the end users and the exit should be taken in to account, as even though it is a mentality obstruction, people feel less inclined to leave a space if there are a number of doors or corridors etc. to go through than they would if it was open and the exit was in view as much as possible.

6. Collision (the only time this is encouraged!)

In office terms – this is a positive event that is encouraged daily. Collision is the sudden and unplanned interaction between two or more people that sparks up a conversation, leading to collaboration and the possibility of new ideas between individuals that might not interact regularly. From an office design point of view creating spaces that these collisions can occur without effecting the circulation of the space is a key driver – this is where the typically mundane spaces can be played on, for example the copy or stationary area…a space that people go to, stand & wait, and can find themselves doing this at the same time as a colleague and if this space is engaging and well designed it boosts the ability for communication and positivity – the result of which could be a dynamic new idea.

7. The traffic light system.

Looking at an office space overall there are many different areas to identify when taking a brief and these can be easily determined by a traffic light system that assists in the adjacencies and overall layout.

Green for go, these are spaces that are open and end users can roam freely through, with a buzzy feeling and perhaps music and the energy of communication and technology. These are the spaces with no restrictions, the open plan, the collaboration space, the music rooms and the tea-point to name a few.

Amber, an indication to be more cautious of the surrounding traffic/pedestrians, this in an office design represents an informal meeting space, private working pod or telephone booth for example that are still in the open area but perhaps when in use need a little more thought and privacy for when end users need a bit more quiet and concentration, without flooding a floorplan with cellular spaces.

Red, Stop and wait, which in an office is a space of cellular nature with closed doors and full privacy requirements, which for some departments might be necessary for their job function and others it might be preferable, this can be seen a lot more in offices based around Generation Xers/baby boomers, who have a slightly different approach to office work and are usually more independently minded over team work. The red light system is very rare in an entire office layout as a trend and has been in huge decline as millennials/generation Y have become the focus to design for, and have had an upbringing based around technology, free thinking and team collaboration that are less hierarchical in office terms – whereas previously a ‘red light’ corner office was a positive indication of how high up in a company a person is, nowadays this is viewed more so as a restriction in creativity for the end user.

Office design is not an easy, straight road and can certainly veer off down some scenic routes at times while the designer strikes a balance between being in the driving seat, and being the backseat driver finally letting the end user take the wheel.

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