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It has been predicted that 2021 will be the year of the smaller office, predicts serviced office broker FreeOfficeFinder. The company reports that up to a third of companies (35%) that enquired about office space in January and February have enquired about taking on smaller offices than their previous pre pandemic workspaces. They follow in the footsteps of the likes of HSBC and Lloyds who recently announced they were reducing their office space due to a combination of falling profits and employees desire to work from home.
Another deciding factor for the case for smaller offices was flexible working with many companies adopting a ‘hybrid’ model where employees would rotate the days in the office with their colleagues. Many companies no longer require an office desk space for every employee, allowing them to rethink and reimagine their existing office space and / or downsizing to smaller shared ‘satellite offices’. Creating satellite offices around the main office is referred to as ‘The Hub and Spoke’ concept where workers can move from home to the main office (‘Hub’) and a satellite office and / or co-working space (‘Spoke’), closer to where workers reside.
Typically, a smaller office may pose a few problems for business owners because a smaller office space can create a feeling of confinement and therefore lack of productivity could creep in. However, with the right organisation to prevent too many people working in a smaller office at the same time the ‘Hub and Spoke’ concept could prove to be successful as workers are evenly spread.
The ‘spoke’ or satellite office will no doubt be smaller than the to the main office employees have become accustomed to. So, can you be sure you will feel the same or as comfortable in a smaller office? How do you make the most out of the limited office space you’re working in?
In this guide we look at some tips to make the best use of a small office space:
Poor light has a very similar effect to dark colours – it makes a small space appear even smaller. If you want the office to look bigger, you should ensure that there is plenty of light – either natural or artificial.
If installing additional lighting, however, be sure to choose ceiling and wall lights. While floor lamps can look very decorative, they also take up space which is something you don’t want if the office space is limited.
With the technological advancements of LED’s, lighting solutions today can recreate an accurate light pattern according to the time of day, from dawn to dusk. Big Sky Dome for example brings the daylight inside and attaches to the ceiling as skylight. The LED’s combine in such a way that it resembles a view of the sky, making you feel like you are under a glass roof on a beautiful day.
Mirrors come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, so there’s always going to be something that will fit a smaller office. Round mirrors can soften the feel of a room, giving the wall a less one-dimensional feel, whereas rectangular mirrors often have thicker frames and are bigger, which can add interest to an empty wall. Mirror styles range from rustic and vintage to industrial and traditional, so you can always find one that is sympathetic to your brand whilst utilising the available.
3. Take advantage of vertical space for storage
When choosing storage units and cabinets, think vertically. Up to the ceiling if necessary. In addition to keeping the office tidy and organised, storage units and cabinets that extend to the ceiling or close to the ceiling will accommodate more documents and other office materials. This will help you keep the office clear and create an illusion and impression of a larger space.
We have previously designed and installed several space saving floor to ceiling storage walls for smaller (and larger) offices. It’s possible to add your own company graphics, colours or branding to the doors, bringing storage solutions to life!
Tambour units are also great space-saving storage units thanks to their roller shutter doors which retract into the cabinet, rather than opening out.
Painting the office in a bright colour such as white, beige, light green or yellow is one of the easiest and most effective ways to create the illusion of larger space. Also, most people tend to perceive bright colours as positive, energising and motivating. If you decide to paint an all-white office, consider texturing the walls. Wall graphics or art featuring bold colours would be the ideal texture for white walls.
5. Consider flexible furniture
According to some furniture designers ‘the desk is dead’ as it is no longer necessary to be tied to one place at work. With mobile technology and cloud based software people now require a place to sit occasionally, or a comfortable place to hang out. With that in mind it would make sense to furnish a smaller work place with flexible, light-weight mobile furniture.
The mobile Talent desk / folding tables for example are a great example of flexible furniture as they work as desks and tables and feature flip up top so they are easy to store saving valuable floor space when not in use.
Diving the space up with mobile screens can also be a great way to create semi-permanent work zones. You can now combine mobile floor screens or room dividers with write on whiteboards, such as The Deluxe Mobile Dry Wipe Whiteboard, a great example of multi-functional, flexible furniture.
The beautifully designed Centro Oak table can also be used as a meeting table and for collaborative or individual working, featuring discreet power units and through leg cable management systems.
It’s all about cross over functionality and creating agile spaces when designing a smaller office.
If traditional desks are still a requirement, then desks or bench desks should be considered. Slim it down! The depth of a standard desk is usually 800mm (31 inches) but many desks and bench desks are now available at 700mm (27inches) or 600mm (23 inches). Historically computers and monitors were bulker than they are today so 800mm provided enough room to accommodate for this. However flat screen monitors and slim laptops are now the norm so the additional desk space is unnecessary. Although it doesn’t sound like a lot the difference between 10 inches either side of a bench desk or rows of bench desks soon adds up and frees up valuable floor space.
The Buro, Trapezo and Veta four-person bench desks are available at 700mm depth per desk and feature contemporary goal post leg designs, ideal for the design savvy smaller office.
Make sure you don’t use chairs which are too large and over-engineered for purpose. The staff that are there on a more permanent basis will need a chair with the necessary ergonomic features such as the slimline Flexico Chair, whilst somebody who visits now and then or is only static at a desk for short periods will probably only need a more basic operator chair such as the Icon High Back Chair. Additionally, chairs in lighter tones or mesh chairs will create a sense of lightness and space when populated throughout a smaller office.
Although relocating or working in a smaller office maybe daunting to some it doesn’t necessarily have to feel that way. By changing the mindset from how we ‘should work’ to how we ‘can work’ we can adapt to smaller spaces in a short amount of time. In some cases, working in a smaller space can help you become more organised. So, clear out all the unnecessary junk and files and keeping on top of clutter, your motivation and productivity could soon improve!
If you are considering moving to a new smaller office and would like some help designing a layout or specifying space saving, multi-functional furniture then please get in touch with our sales team.
John Wooden, American basket ball coach and player.
Office Reality is a resource for those who look to source and buy office furniture, contract furniture, healthcare furniture and equipment
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