Beyond the obvious: 5 questions to ask before planning your new office space - DESIGN+BUILD Workspace

Beyond the obvious: 5 questions to ask before planning your new office space

So you want to upgrade your office space?  Whether you are going to expand your current office or completely relocate, there’s one thing you’ll need to do first:  you’re going to have to do some planning.

And we might as well go over some ‘obvious’ points first, because things that are obvious are often also very easy to miss.  I know there’s a perfect idiom to illustrate this but I just can’t think of it right now.

It may seem obvious, but a little office space planning will really help you get the most reward for your effort.  Planning will not only help you with the measurable of efficiency and best use of space, but will even help you go deep in creating a strong culture.

This will probably seem obvious too, but you’ll want to plan it from the user point-of-view.  When you really think about how your team members are going to be using the space, you’ll make it both comfortable and conducive to work.

And another obvious point is to plan well in advance.  When creating that perfect, form-meets-function office space, the process takes time, and you don’t want to be caught short.  You’ll want to start the planning months before you plan to move in.

Talk to professional office space planners who thoroughly understand your business.  The way you run your business is unique; make sure the space planners you use have a thorough understanding of how your business runs.  One size does not fit all.

Once the professionals you are using have a grasp of your needs, they will use their experience to design an office space that increases both productivity and user satisfaction.

In the meantime, hear are 5 questions to answer for yourself.  Make sure you share the answers with your office space planner.

What do you need?

The first question to ask yourself is what you actually need.  What is your current reality? How do you use your current office space?  Will you be using your new office space the same way? 

Are you heading towards using a flexible, open floorplan?  Or do your employees need their own designated space?  If you often have customers visiting, you’ll have different office space needs than if your clients interact primarily by phone or email.

The point is, your office space should make it easier for you to do business.  You want it to work for you; you want it to earn its keep.  You don’t want it cramped; that will only hinder your team’s productivity; but at the same time there’s no point paying for and maintaining a lavish conference room or customer lounge that doesn’t get used.

Are you growing?

You’re not planning to stay precisely the same size as you are today, right?  Whether you have a team of 5, 50 or 500, your office space planning needs to take next year into account too.  In fact, you really want to lean out 3 to 5 years and imagine where you’ll be in terms of staff. 

But don’t only consider growth by total potential number of people.  Break it down a bit more, maybe by department, and consider if you’ll have enough space for each department as it grows.

By weighing this over as part of your office space planning, you’ll be able to minimize the risk that you could grow, hire… and then be left wondering where to put your new talent.

Of course the other risk is that you could have more space than you need, and have to carry the cost of it.  But there are creative ways to minimize that risk too, and as long as you are careful that your lease allows it, you may be able to sublease as much or as little as you want.  One forward-planning company I know intentionally built in substantially more office space than they need, and rents out even as little as a single desk for a single day.  This way they have plenty of space for years to come, but are not carrying more cost than necessary.

Which brings us to the next question!

Open spaces, cubicles or hybrid?

It would be easy to jump on the open-space bandwagon and insist that all new office plans should be designed for collaboration. 

Or you could pass it off as a fad and decide to stick with traditional cubicles.

But in reality, each design serves a different purpose.  Your professional office design planner should have a thorough understanding of how your business works, and how the individual teams within your business work and interact, before making recommendations.

A lot of businesses are finding a hybrid approach brings together the best of both worlds:  quiet rooms for private, focused tasks, and open collaborative zones for team interaction and collaboration.

Do you have remote offices?

If you have staff working at remote locations, whether at their home 20 minutes away or another office on the other side of the world, you don’t need to think about them when you’re planning your very local office upgrade, right?

Wrong.  That was totally a trick question.

You see, often remote staff isn’t actually remote 100% of the time.  Employees that work from home 2 days a week still need space the rest of the time.  Employees from another office may come en masse for quarterly meetings.  And there are also times when remote employees may come for training, team building, or a kicking off a new project.

Any of those times will need extra space to be available, but it would be overkill to plan on as much space per person for occasional use as you do for full-time users.

This is another time when a hybrid design of quiet rooms and open collaboration zones can really make a difference.  With flexible space and furniture, your office will be comfortable for all the employees that are there at any point.

What else makes you unique?

There are nearly unlimited variations of special considerations that an office space planner will help you identify and work with.  For example:

  • Where will you hold video conferences with your remote workers?
  • Do your lunchroom and break rooms meet your employees’ needs beyond basic survival?
  • Will it be easy for users – both employees and visiting clients – to charge their electronics?  Do you have charging stations available?

Getting back to the obvious, there are far too many unique situations to list one by one here.  But that is the role of a professional office designer: cutting through the trends and fads, pulling out best practices, making sure that both obvious and obscure is taken care of, and building all of your special considerations into an ideal office environment for you and your team.

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