HAVE you ever considered that the answer to your office accommodation concerns could be right there under your own roof?
According to Frank Maughan – of Aberdeen-based ASM Integrated Workplace Solutions – instead of relocating to cope with an expanding or contracting workforce, perhaps a radical rethink of your present premises is what may be required.
He says: “With the current shortages in the local property market, and in the present economic climate, it makes sense to use your property asset to its best advantage – space costs money after all.
“In fact, to borrow the Waste Aware Scotland motto – ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ – could very well be applied to your office; so, to reduce the need to relocate, think about reusing what you already have and recycle the space into something different and more useful.
“An office audit leading to better use of existing accommodation can frequently free up space for more efficient or different use.
“The use of office space is continually changing and evolving as new technologies and attitudes develop.
“There are many different styles of office layout, and each one will give employees, clients and visitors a different impression of a business.
“The office layout can foster a culture of individualism, or promote co-operation and teamwork; it can enhance the idea of hierarchy within the staff or put everyone on an equal footing; it can increase productivity and creativity or, badly done, it may stifle employees, so it is important to consider all aspects carefully if you are thinking about using your space in a different way.”
He adds: “The old style of office typically had cellular units for one or two people as the norm. Office sizes were usually assigned on a hierarchical basis, with even the size and style of furniture being provided on the same basis. In extreme cases, this could even apply to pictures on the wall and pot plants on desks; we can laugh at this now, but even 20 years ago, this was not uncommon.
“By the ’90s, major changes were under way.Open-plan had arrived, although this was often misunderstood and frequently misapplied as organisations started to look in depth at how they were structured and how they operated.
“Furniture manufacturers responded to the changing environment by moving away from the old-style rectangular desks and producing more flexible options.
“These evolved to create viable solutions including L-shaped and 120 degree desks, mobile storage units and a variety of screens.
“As computer design has evolved, modern flat-screen technology has permitted a return to the rectangular desk unit but today’s version is far removed from the old double-pedestal desk so common from the 1960s right through to the ’90s.
“Desking is now commonly made of lightweight materials which allow the desks to be mobile and adjustable, with detached mobile storage, permitting an even more flexible way of working in today’s modern office.”
He goes on: “The ’90s was a significant time in office design and layout, with revolutionary working practices being introduced, and often quietly dropped.
“That decade saw the introduction of flexiworking, homeworking , and hot desking.
“However, the failure of some of these practices was not necessarily that they were wrong but that they were sometimes wrongly applied or were not the right solution for that particular business.
“It was also around this time that break-out areas became a very real consideration in office space planning, recognising the potential of informal unstructured meetings to improve teamwork and communication. Even ten years before, the term and concept were unheard of.
“There was also a time when feng shui hadn’t reached these shores but now there are some businesses which insist on incorporating its guidelines and philosophy in office layout to promote wealth, happiness, energy and the perceived benefits arising from this.
“It’s a fanciful approach for most westerners, but perhaps, with the increasing emergence of China as a major economy, it may become more commonplace.”
And he noted: ‘Legislation has also impinged on office design, with changes to the Building Standards Regulations, Fire Regulations and the introduction over the last decade or so of the Display Screen Equipment regulations and the Disability Discrimination Act having a profound effect on the working environment, and leading to many challenges for office designers.
“Office designers, space planners and furniture manufacturers have responded to the legislation and now there is an almost bewildering selection of furniture types and designs, partitioning solutions, communications systems etc to choose from.
“Finally, and fundamentally, space planning and office design is not about cramming as many people as possible into a space. It is about optimising the use of the available space to create a working environment which will help and support the business operation, complying with all the relevant legislation.
“The outcome should be a pleasant workplace for the staff which will reflect and enable the business practices and aspirations of the organisation, leading to improved performance and profitability.”
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