How to Lay Out Your Office to Suit the Kind of Work You Do

The layout and design of an office can have a profound effect on company culture and how teams communicate with each other. A well-designed layout that fits the needs of a business can maximize productivity and employee engagement; a poorly-executed design can multiply distractions and fragment teams.

Striking a strong workplace balance is a lot easier said than done, but one approach is to identify the kinds of work your teams do on a regular basis and choose the workspaces that best suit the task at hand. Here, we look at the top trending workplace layouts and what types of work are at home in each.

1. Private offices and rooms: ideal for solo work

Private offices and bookable rooms carry a dual benefit: they allow employees to tune out distractions while providing space for confidential calls and conversation. These spaces are perfectly designed for solitary, focused work or the kind of administrative, resourcing and financial tasks that require discretion. Have an HR team member who is dealing with sensitive employee information and making calls most of the day? It’s likely they’d appreciate the opportunity to pop into an office. Creatives and introverts, too, flourish with access to private rooms: ideating and keeping tabs on small details is often easiest in a space without interruptions, while introverts can make use of solo rooms to recharge and prep before going into major meetings or presentations.

Facility managers who want to reap the benefits of private spaces should put special focus on acoustic comfort. A room that doesn’t block out chatter or sound may not provide the sense of privacy that employees are looking for. And rather than designating all of your private offices for team members who aren’t always in-house, keep your rooms in rotation with effective room booking software.

2. Cubicles: quiet space that doesn’t take up space

Having individual rooms can be wonderful, but the reality is that most companies simply can’t accommodate private offices for every employee. Yet some kinds of work require quiet. This could be because specific roles need to concentrate, like programmers or designers, or it could be because the nature of their work is loud, like sales or telemarketing.

This is where the in-between of cubicles and partitions can really help employees thrive.

Cubicles often get a bad rap, mostly because of their uninviting design and because they block out natural sunlight—two cons that are hard to deny. Other sources point to cubicles’ constricting floor plans as the real cause of their unpopularity. But when designed with employee morale in mind, sound-dampening partition walls allow for relative privacy in close quarters, while still making it easy for coworkers to connect. Despite their reputation, cubicles can actually serve an important function for businesses where employees need to be able to make a little noise.

3. The open office: a hub for cross-pollination

Many businesses are currently using open office layouts thanks to their cost-effectiveness, versatility, and potential for open communication. There is however one major caveat—open offices can be detrimental to productivity if they aren’t matched with excellent design. Facility managers that employ an open office layout should still add plenty of opportunities for privacy within the space.

The best work to tackle in an open office? Collaborative visual projects, software development, writing—any task in which plugging in with headphones is as easy as looking up to engage with a neighbor. Many of a company’s best ideas can come from spontaneous conversations, and many employees flourish when they feel connected to their teammates. Open floor plans allow for this fluidity of thought and ideas.

Open offices are also an ideal opportunity to display company culture and values since team members will be circulating throughout the space. Major awards, unique art or staff appreciation boards are just a few ideas for what can be displayed in an open plan office.

4. Lounges and neighborhoods: touchpoints for connecting

FMs looking to create space for more collaborative sparks should look into establishing company lounges—if not entire neighborhoods. Common areas with comfortable seating, alternative workstations and a deconstructed atmosphere, lounges do the work of a good old-fashioned living room: they let employees unwind in a place that feels casual and unpretentious. And as a breakout space, lounges have the added benefit of being a fresh environment that isn’t a traditional boardroom.

The floor plan next door, neighborhoods are multifunctional office spaces that house a team unified by their style of working. Taking the best elements of open floor plans and reducing the scope to approximately 30 to 60 employees, neighborhoods encourage employees to share ideas and bump into one another, while also offering spaces for individual work and private calls. They also allow teams to work on longer-term projects without having to clear materials away at the end of the day—because the space is designated, work can be ongoing.

Both of these workspace strategies offer an appealing middle ground to office layout: they create a sense of collaboration and connection without sacrificing comfort or focus. Small teams might do some of their best brainstorming in a lounge; larger teams might plot out ongoing projects in a neighborhood.

5. Hot desking, hoteling and remote work: office designs for flexibility

Unassigned seats, temporarily-booked desks, flexible working, remote work policies. All of these latest layout and management trends ladder up to one appealing outcome: choice for employees. Employee preferences and workstyles are more easily accommodated by offices where teams can request their ideal work environments or schedule time outside of the office for deep work.

Facility managers looking to create more flexibility in their office should look into implementing strategies like hot desking, movable walls and task-specific rooms. Having clear rules and policies in place will help reduce the conflict and unpredictability that comes with increased flexibility. With remote work now a global industry, flexible offices are likely to become the norm in the coming years.

An office layout should match the unique needs and goals of the teams that work inside of it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will optimize a space—FMs will need to first have a deep understanding of company culture and employee needs before they can implement a layout that will be beneficial.

Article by Darin Herlemarch, OfficeSpace