The post-Covid workplace will be very different; we need to adapt our office spaces to suit occupants who will use the office primarily for communicating with each other, their clients and suppliers.
This means that the balance of traditional work settings must change – we will need fewer desks and more meeting/breakout spaces. The experts agree that the new office will provide occupants with choices to use work settings appropriate to the task at hand.
But the experts can’t tell us exactly what balance of spaces to provide – and this will vary according to organisations’ individual business models. Some degree of experimentation will be necessary to work out what works for your business, and there’s no point in waiting.
Changing your workspace will help you to retain a happy and productive workforce – more important now than ever before, as people consider their work/life balance and look for employers offering flexible work patterns and a great place to work. Potentially, you could gain efficiencies, with the potential to reduce overall workspace required for the same number of people. If you don’t have that choice, your workspace may be able to accommodate future growth without further costs.
But this all costs money, right? And right now, budgets may be tight. The good news is that there are many low-cost furniture solutions that can be applied as an interim step towards your own ‘office of the future’. And, unlike partition walls, furniture can be picked up and moved to a new facility with minimal cost or wastage.
We can arrange for your existing furniture to be reconfigured, and for any that isn’t required to be stored safely for your future use, or sent for charitable use.
To help you consider these options, we have taken a typical high-density office layout and applied some changes that you may wish to consider. These are the key components:
Click on the layout to open in a new tab
Click on the layout to open in a new tab
Office desks (Area A)
The ‘before’ layout includes 156 desks arranged in typical ‘banks’ of 10, 8 and 6.
We contend that the new requirement will be about half that number; most people will choose to be ‘at the office’ to attend meetings – anything from a one-on-one progress review to a client presentation. However, once there, they will need a ‘base’ to use between meetings; a place where they can catch up on emails or other work tasks – and there is little that can beat the traditional desk/chair for ergonomic comfort.
Where these desks are located doesn’t really matter; they will most likely be allocated/selected by attendees on the day of use. We have chosen to locate them in one wing where space can be used efficiently, easing the density to provide more separation and circulation space.
If you really want to future-proof your office against a future pandemic, you may consider providing more separated/screened ‘work bases’ as detailed here in our Pandemic-resistant office (‘PRO’) concept – but the lowest-cost interim solution is to use your existing desks.
Reception (Area B)
The office is the ‘face’ of the organisation, so it’s important to have someone to ‘meet and greet’ when customers or suppliers come for meetings/presentations. A reception/waiting area should be located near the point of entry/exit, with a clear view of any lifts.
Formal meeting Rooms (Area C)
Most businesses need to host occasional larger meetings or perhaps client presentations. Assuming appropriate facilities are not available elsewhere in the building, this is one case where it makes sense to provide a private, partitioned room to allow an appropriate level of privacy.
In our example we have configured two rooms with a dividing folding wall for greater flexibility, and naturally these are located close to the reception area, so visitors don’t have to walk through working areas.
Lockers (Area D)
Lockers are the new pedestals.
Everyone brings stuff to the office, and they need somewhere to store their personal effects. The drawer pedestal used to fulfill this function, but a flexible allocation of desk space demands that there are designated areas for personal storage.
How many lockers you will need depends on the maximum number of people you expect to use the office on a given day – it could be half the organisation or all of it.
There are now many ‘intelligent’ locker systems that allow users to select an available locker using their access card – allowing you to avoid the space wastage of providing an individual locker for every person in the business.
Breakout space with kitchenette (Area E)
Arguably the biggest benefit of having a central office is that it encourages interactions that may not otherwise occur, and most experts agree that it is these informal interactions that provide the greatest organisational benefit – such chance meetings often create the seed of a new idea; they are the very foundation of innovation and development.
So at the heart of the new office we believe there should be a kitchen/breakout space that encourages people to sit down and share a coffee or snack – far removed from the traditional ‘locked-away’ teapoint. It’s often beneficial to provide some different settings here, mixing dining tables, high-level stools and benches and softer banquette seating, so that users can choose what is comfortable for them.
Other meeting / collaborative spaces (Area F)
There are many brilliant furniture products available to create flexible settings for groups of 2 to 20 people. From acoustic screens and pods, through semi-open space dividers, to mobile work-walls and even theatre-like stacking platforms, there’s something for everyone – and we have shown a range of examples, re-utilising our client’s existing items where possible.
But if your initial aim is to re-balance your space to provide more flexible meeting space, you can achieve this with some simple low-cost mobile screens and meeting tables. You can invest in the more esoteric solutions based on demands from your occupants over time.
Booths (Area G)
In this very open-plan environment, it’s important to provide a few spaces where people can have a private phone conversation. Your organisation may also need a few more private meeting spaces for small groups.
We should not forget that many ‘internal’ meetings will now include people who are videoconferencing-in remotely, which increases the importance of providing an acoustically controlled environment.
The good news is that stand-alone booths are readily available for all such settings, and can easily be moved or relocated to new premises without waste.
Summary (all measurements indicative for guidance)
|Formal Meeting Rooms||7||70||2||75|
|Breakout / Kitchenette||1||20||1||90|
Conclusion and further notes
We hope that these ideas act as a starting-point for your own thoughts and ideas. We can help you to make progress towards your end-goals in manageable steps. One thing is certain; future offices will need to flexible and re-configurable - and it’s inevitable they will become more ‘furniture-based’ than ‘fit-out’ based.
There are other important factors to consider to really make your space work, such as Acoustics and natural planting. While they are not the subject of this article, rest assured that Interion has the knowledge and expertise to advise and support you.