If you are feeling cramped in your current office space but are locked into a lease or don’t want to give up your current ideal location, maximize the space you have. NY Report managing editor Daria Meoli spoke with Daniel DeSiena, senior vice president and director of design at Milo Kleinberg Design Associates (MKDA ) about how to make even the smallest office space more workable.
DM: How can you maximize smaller office spaces?
DD: The key to the success of a company’s space is flexibility. What we find now is that company job hierarchies are a thing of the past and you really want to try to have uniform-sized offices. Standardizing allows you to move vice-presidents or IT techs — whoever is in need of an office — into [any] space. Flexible space allows you to grow your company’s infrastructure without having to find a new location.
Flexibility can also be increased by arranging your offices differently. Rather than automatically going with a traditional layout of offices on the perimeter of the space, it may be more advantageous from a space planning point of view to put them on the interior or in the core of your space. That leaves the perimeter for workstations. This also fosters natural light coming in to the core of the space.
DM: How do you plan an office layout to promote collaboration?
DD: Collaboration and teaming is very important because it ultimately leads to innovation. [To promote collaboration], create smaller meeting areas rather than a big office that has a sofa and chairs. Consider meeting rooms that are the size of an office, so later maybe they could become offices if your business needs change. Intersperse those areas throughout the space, because most meetings take place ad hoc. Smaller offices and more meeting rooms facilitate impromptu discussions and allow for more flexibility and a greater ability to team and collaborate.
Teaming also is a very important consideration when you decide where to place workstations. Lay them out in a consistent fashion so you don’t have hierarchical workstation areas, for example, all managers by the window and the new customer service rep by the men’s room. Consider placing workstations in quads or groupings that have a central meeting area.
For larger group sizes that collaborate on a per-project basis, design spaces that are multi-functional, such as a break room with a service bar and docking stations for computers rather than having a lunchroom. This is also good if your staff attendance varies — maybe some people are on the road or have staggered hours. Rather than having a dedicated office, which uses up a lot of space, you have a more communal area with docking stations. This setup also fosters the ability for a team to collaborate.
If you do need a boardroom, make it divisible. You will have one room for the occasional large, all-hands-on-deck meeting or holiday function that can be divided into smaller spaces or utilized as smaller meeting rooms.
DM: Can office furniture increase flexibility?
DD: For example, having low workstations rather than high [cubicle] partition walls allows for better communication. It provides seated privacy, but the minute you stand up, you have immediate connections with coworkers. Many teaming groups are small; believe it or not, the most common group size is two. To address this, a lot of workstations now have “conference elements” [e.g., room for chairs].
Today even smaller pieces of furniture, such as storage components, are designed with collaboration in mind. For example, the traditional workstation storage has the drawers set in place under a work surface or desk. But today all the storage components are mobile. They can pull out and they have seat cushions on top. If you have a group of two or four workstations, you then have the ability to seat not only the four people who are the primary users but also four additional people.
Ultimately, it is uniformity of scale, elimination of hierarchy and flexible furniture that allows for teaming that are the basics for maximizing space.