9 ways a small business can use office space more effectively
It’s a fact that many small businesses don’t scrutinise their office space beyond the practical layout considerations – space, proximity to plugs and outlets, and so on. Many small businesses believe that office design is something only larger companies worry about. We happen to believe the opposite: if you’re a small business, there is absolutely a need for you to squeeze every drop of usefulness out of your resources. That includes your office space.
Even if you don’t have unlimited resources, a simple change to your layout can have a genuine impact upon all sorts of things: productivity, creativity, collaboration, management style, company philosophy, even the talent you attract. All you need is the office itself and some different ideas for how to utilise it.
You’ve got the office – and here are the ideas.
Team working spaces
Open workspaces generally feature a single, open-plan area where employees can interact and move around freely. Open offices are excellent for creating a social, collaborative ambiance; they encourage rapid idea exchange and have been shown to lead to more innovation. They work well for a variety of businesses, but are particularly suitable for firms in the creative industries, such as marketing, design, web design and even fashion.
Closed workspaces is what comes to mind when we think of a traditional office, with separate rooms or cubicles for private work. They encourage greater focus and concentration for individuals, making them ideal for firms in such fields as accountancy, finance, legal services and so on. It’s undoubtedly useful to have your own space if you need to make sensitive phone calls, or have a conversation with a colleague which you don’t want to broadcast to the whole team.
Open vs closed
Open offices can improve communication between colleagues and create a sense of community in the workplace. However, closed working spaces provide considerable privacy, which is important for some professions. Some offices incorporate both – which offers companies the best of both worlds. Establish which approach would boost productivity and adopt it in your office.
Traditional meeting rooms
Meetings traditionally take place in a single room with chairs surrounding a central table. Many have facilities such as projectors or audio equipment for presentations. Meeting rooms allow everyone to gather in one isolated space, uninterrupted by noise or activity from the rest of the office.
Office lounges usually consist of an open space with seating, usually smart couches or sofas. They provide an informal alternative to the traditional meeting room and have become particularly popular in the creative industries – even in smaller offices. While a growing percentage of professionals (particularly those in their 30s or below) say they would prefer to use an office lounge, only a quarter actually have access to them.
Are office lounges useful?
Office lounges create a social and collaborative atmosphere. Surveys have shown that people who have access to them get plenty of work done, rather than only using them to catch up with friends. However, traditional meeting rooms tend to offer more privacy and quiet, which are often vital for formal conferences and presentations. Businesses with larger offices find it beneficial to have both lounge areas and traditional meeting rooms to meet the demands of the specific situation.
These are usually mobile or standing workstations, often equipped with only the basic facilities. Touchdown desks are useful for businesses that need their offices to be as flexible as possible.
Calm and privacy can be created in the busiest of offices with the help of quiet zones. This can be as simple as a zone in the office where talking is kept to a minimum and headphones are allowed, or it can consist of a separate room with sound-absorbent material placed on the walls.
More and more companies are producing secluded ‘pods’ that can fit into a smaller office and mimic the large ones seen at Google. These can be useful for professionals who want to escape the bustle of a noisy office to focus on their work in private. Like quiet zones, they often feature sound-proofing.
Me-spaces and we-spaces
Professionals who spend a lot of time carrying out intensive, detailed work such as data analysis or design often prefer to have access to so-called “me-spaces”. This include things like quiet zones and thinking pods. Meanwhile teams who are constantly sharing ideas often get better results from “we-spaces”, which are areas in the office dedicated to noisy collaborative work. Examine the ways in which different members of your team generate ideas and work on a project and tailor your focus spaces accordingly.
Sitting with the team
In recent years, it has become increasingly popular for managers to base themselves in an open working space, among their staff. This approach creates a sense of transparency, approachability and team spirit, and allows the manager to keep up with the day-to-day operations within the office.
A more traditional format is the separate office, in which managers work apart from the rest of the team. This offers greater privacy and less distraction, and establishes a clear hierarchy of authority which can lead to more efficient decision-making.
Which is better?
While sitting with the team can be good for communication and help managers to bond with their colleagues, having a separate office provides valuable ‘alone time’ and creates a clear boundary between a manager and the team. Review your company ethos and establish which type of managerial approach is more suitable for your business.