Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Importance of an Office Layout

by Jill Leviticus, Demand Media

The layout of your office is an important, although often overlooked, factor that affects the way your employees perform their jobs. Before you begin an office redesign, think about the types of tasks employees perform in the space. A good office design is not only functional, but provides comfortable work areas for your staff.


An effective office layout groups people together based on the functions they perform. For instance, it might make sense to group employees who process invoices close to your accounting and purchasing departments, so that these employees can consult with each other as needed. Grouping employees who do the same or related work will help to ensure that documents and papers will be shared and handled in a timely and efficient manner. If you plan to redesign your office layout, make a list of key tasks employees perform, such as speaking to customers on the telephone, handling the mail, or producing invoices. The list will serve as a convenient reference when you begin planning the new layout.

Efficient Workspace

An effective office layout provides employees with the space and tools they need to complete assigned tasks. Work surfaces should be large enough to accommodate files, papers and other documents. The use of comfortable chairs and adequate lighting may reduce muscle aches and eyestrain, which can hurt productivity. If possible, place employee workstations near frequently used office equipment, such as copiers, postage machines and printers. The Integrated Publishing website notes that supervisors may be more likely to spot problems if their workstations are placed at the back of the group they manage.

Private Spaces versus Open Plan

Many office designs employ open layouts. In an open office, employees work at communal tables or at low-walled workstations that allow them to view and interact with coworkers. A 2011 survey by Teknion Corporation found that 77 percent of companies surveyed favored an open, collaborative workspace. However, it’s important to consider whether your employees will benefit from an open plan before you redesign your office. If your employees perform the type of work that requires intense concentration or privacy, traditional offices or cubicles might be a better option.

Communal Spaces

The inclusion of communal spaces in your office layout provides staff with places to meet and collaborate. Depending on the needs of your group, communal space may include tables in an open environment, conference rooms or other types of group spaces. Place communal spaces near employee work areas and provide enough room to meet the needs of the various groups and departments that will use them. Informal communal spaces provide areas in which employees can take breaks and recharge. Break rooms and coffee areas should be large enough to accommodate several employees at one time. Locate informal communal spaces away from work areas to prevent noise from disrupting busy employees.

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