8 Ways to maximise space with a smaller office footprint.

With new products, design philosophies and ways of working moving in, companies are finding they can take on smaller office spaces by applying a few clever tricks to maximise their space and save on rent, which in a market where rent is on the increase, is a win win, especially for the new wave of start ups that need their own environment without the bigger overhead.

1. Do you need an office?

Many management teams would prefer to be in the open plan interacting with their employees and have a small space to go to if privacy is needed, rather than individual offices. This smaller space can be a one to one room, a shared office, a telephone box, a high back sofa space or a booth area if effective sound deadening is applied. This then creates a more open layout to the office without the ‘us and them' feeling and can be an added feature that all teams can utilise when they need to, not just the management and so becomes a multi tasking space with double the usage – making that square footage work harder for the money

2. Flexible working in open plan

This is a trend that is coming in fast due to the influx in co-working spaces throughout the world, let alone just London.

Taking smaller square footage is forcing companies to look at the way they work in terms of desk quantity and ask themselves the question – are we working efficiently?

The answer is most likely, No.

So many companies are sales based and working out the percentage of employees that are in the office permanently versus those that come and go is the ideal way to save on open plan desk space. Bringing the co-working style environment in to action, again making spaces multi task for the square footage and having tea-point break out spaces double up as a plug and play work space with booths or long bench café tables for example with power built in and wifi throughout or smaller desks close to the entry point in the open plan defined as hot desks ready for people to come in and out regularly, collaborating with the more static office teams while in and still saving on square footage of every employee ‘owning’ their own desk.

3. Are all those meeting rooms in use?

A key area that takes up valuable square footage is usually the meeting suite, often located towards the entrance of a space. Firstly and simply one room can become two with a retractable wall – a product that has come a long way and is now being utilised as a feature piece with digital image printing and wall covers to dress them. But, are these meeting rooms always in use?

Again, the answer is likely, no.

So looking at the percentage of usage these rooms get is key when re-evaluating for office relocation, and a few questions can be asked to identify the soluntion.

Can these rooms be multi-functional?

For example if a director is only in once a week, can their office double up as a small meeting space for the rest of the week allowing employees access to a room that would be left empty otherwise.

Can some of the meetings that are booked in to rooms actually be informal chats in the breakout area?

Tea-point/breakout spaces are predominantly used between the hours of 12 and 2pm and so for the rest of the day are only subject to the footfall of coffee lovers and tea-makers – who are few and far between.

Do you need to consider it a ‘meeting’ at all?

Thinking about the purpose of the meeting is essential even for the above 2 examples, if the meeting is merely a catch up for a project team that just want a quick chat can this be done within the open plan in a collaborative manner, in a spot that has a high table to gather around, then keeping the other people in open plan in ear shot with the ability to put ideas forward also, a play on the theory behind ‘collision’ points, areas that individuals from different teams ‘collide’ such as water coolers or copy points and have a quick chat that may spark an idea that otherwise would go amiss, a great way to mix things up. Alternatively with products such as pedestals with seat pads on top, even gathering around an individuals desk is comfortable and doesn’t mean dragging large task chairs around the office

4. Is a reception desk necessary anymore?

Many companies still like the idea of a professional reception desk with a smiling face behind it greeting guests as they enter the space – a great first impression. However, when thinking about saving space – is the desk really necessary?

In more offices moving forward it would seem that the receptionist also has a dual job description and is perhaps the office manager or a personal assistant for example and so seating this person within open plan close to the entrance, seems more appropriate, saves on space and gives that individual more of a feeling of belonging, being among co-workers rather than stuck out in no mans land as receptions tend to feel. This person will still have the access control capabilities at their desk and be the face that greets visitors by walking in to a greeting/holding area with branding and seating with a more modern client lounge feeling with a refreshments point, rather than a formal reception….still giving that great first impression but in a more condensed set up.

5. Desk sizes – does size really matter?

Often when relocating offices a client will demonstrate their requirement mirroring what they have existing – this isn’t necessarily always correct and advising clever tactics and new ways of working is where the designer comes in and gives them an on trend, revolutionary new space.

Desk size is often one of the main things that is mirrored, if a person is used to sitting at a 1600mm desk, they couldn’t possibly reduce the size, they have too much paperwork….correct?

Again, the answer here is likely, no.

There is no doubt that individuals do have that much paperwork and do need a decent desk environment but that doesn’t mean a big desk….it means a smart desk! Products such as monitor arms lifting the screen up freeing the underneath space, pull out pedestals with far more usable storage than the standard ped and an added work surface to the top that can be tucked away at the end of the day, management rails on screens with clip in accessories from paper trays, to phone holders and further….all there to free up desk space and give the user more actual space than they would have had being on a 1600mm in the first place – therefore reducing each individuals footprint and even allowing for more fun space within the office for them to utilise for a better overall work environment.

6. Storage – when is it classed as hoarding?

Office relocation is the perfect time for a spring clean of the stored files in a workspace therefore reducing the amount of storage units required and freeing up the space in open plan and the general square footage.

Understandably, some departments are more paper heavy than others, for example HR and Finance and so allowing space for a clever layout of storage wall specific to that clients requirements in terms of hanging files, shelves, pigeon holes etc. is key to keeping this neat and tidy and still reducing the need for mass amounts of storage.

Further to this, archiving some content might be well over-due or scanning in documents and keeping them on file on the server instead of physically keeping each piece of paper seems to be the new way of thinking and although time consuming, will save money in the long run on rental space that is not necessary.

7. Does it need to be a room at all?

a few elements within an office can simply be placed in a dead space in open plan or in an awkward corner and without putting a door on it so saving on circulation space in and around what would have been a room.

Examples of this are the comms room, if the comms is not a major requirement and is only a small rack this can be a part of an already open copy point for example – multi tasking again. The same can be said for bike storage, an increasing requirement amongst start ups that typically do not go for large square footage and perhaps need those clever solutions to storage of quite a large item, so wall mounted bike storage or tucking this away in a space again such as a copy point.

8. Can you space save by sharing?

Keeping on trend and seeing the massive influx of co-working environments, an interesting way to save space is to perhaps look at creating your own style of co-working. The way the property market has been going shows a pattern of entire buildings of tenants being evicted for a redevelopment and so getting together to perhaps find a space big enough for all companies is a great way to save on square footage per company and share a lot of the facilities in the same way a co-working environment would, while still having private spaces for working and individual branding. Then sharing the cost and square footage of the tea-point and meeting suite that can be utilised and booked out during the day…..this can also help develop and build relationships if the adjacent tenants are an asset to your company in the same way a furniture dealer is to a design and build company, then it’s a case of clever networking as well as maximising the space.

Property trends show that there is a clear need for office design to work a bit harder for the client, and it would appear that a definite theme can be seen in the number of ways this can be achieved. Multi tasking spaces and design allows a client to get each element they need, without the need for a huge square footage, it just takes a little research and immersing in to the culture and work days of the client to understand which areas can achieve this concept.

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