Businesses are constantly evolving whether it is through expansion, downsizing or reorganization. With world markets in a state of flux, many commercial and office spaces don't have the same function as they had, maybe 18 months ago. Different staff levels, pressures on manufacturing processes and amended working practices often result in an office space feeling disjointed and worn around the edges.
We all want a working environment which looks and feels great, but sometimes the money isn't available to spruce things up. However, there might be a deeper problem that needs considering. As they look to pull out of recession, businesses could find themselves, not only with atheistically dated offices, but without premises capable of expansion or the flexibility to change. Its no longer just enough to be doing business, they have to be able to function efficiently and without the basic structure in place, they will find it a struggle to keep up with growing demand.
Look around. What isn't working?
Companies have understandably shunned investment in their commercial offices over the last few years, looking to invest their available budgets in core manufacturing equipment, or making do with temporary solutions. These years however have seen huge advances in communication technology and a dramatic reduction in the cost of data storage. This can allow a business to shed bulky filing cabinets and shelves bulging with out-of-date business directories streamlining their archival and information retrieval measures. Encouraging the use of new technology results in better information recording that speeds up future searches presenting answers in a consistent, digestible format.
Companies are using their new found office space for the increasing trend of having 'breakout' areas, or meeting spaces. They recognize the value of having face-to-face meetings, giving department heads the opportunity to brief employees on changing fortunes, or getting team leaders to motivate staff. This reduces the reliance on lazy internal email practices, and encourages a more effective approach to business that promotes ideas and interaction from the bottom up.
There will always be the need to store equipment, files and stationery in an office environment but rather than bulky cabinets, many companies are looking to storage walls as the solution. Not only creating clean lines within an office space, they can also offer greater storage with the option to go from floor to ceiling. The crisp finish will inspire even the worst paper hoarders to make an effort and keep the office tidy.
Extra space can give companies the ideal opportunity to look at the layout of workstations. Cramming staff into a small space is often counter productive, so if new space has been made available through the reorganization of storage areas, then there is the scope to take a fresh look the office space plan.
A study of staff and visitor traffic flows will show a company where areas of high volume and acoustic issues might be an issue. Companies can plan space, taking advantage of natural light sources, data points and power sources enabling them to keep infrastructure work to a minimum. Workstations can then be situated in the best possible positions and with adequate space between them optimizing the working environment.
Hiding the wires
All offices now come with a plethora of unsightly wires and communications cables. Good office space planning will include hollow desk legs to hide all visual rubbish and run cables behind walls or above suspended ceilings. Power and data points need to modern, and the increase in outsourcing will often mean offices now have to accommodate power sockets capable of supporting equipment brought in from the far east or the Indian sub continent.
Conference Rooms and AV Equipment
Good presentation skills are important when attracting new business and conference rooms or meeting areas are a key element in that process. Media walls, which conceal plasma and LCD screens, are the must for any business taking presentation seriously. It was great to have a plasma screen 18 months ago and that was enough to make them look state-of-art compared to companies that use projectors, but it now looks dated and awkward if just mounted on an old desk in the corner of the boardroom.
Conference rooms also have to work harder and will often have a dual purpose, such as extra office space for seconded staff, or transforming the space completely to offer lectures or seminars. They now have to be linked into the main network to avoid all that fumbling around with flash cards trying to load up the 'company laptop'.
Merging Locations and Changing Spaces
Many businesses have entered what can diplomatically be called a period of 'consolidation'. One way to reduce overheads during this time has been the practice of merging locations. Finding new premises to house both parts of the business, or moving one part of the business into the commercial building of an existing part can achieve this. Finding a new building can often be the more expensive option, so many are looking to keep one building and making that work for their new staff levels. A good office space planning company will find innovative ways of merging the two parts of the business by examining the complete space and planning where each element would be best placed. Extra structural expansion might also be needed and they will advise on solutions such as partitioning, mezzanine floors and extensions.
The Commercial Refurbishment Process
If you think your company is looking forward and needs some office space planning input, then most commercial refurbishment companies will offer an initial consultation free of charge. It'll be best to ensure this is the case before proceeding in order to avoid any misunderstandings.
The commercial space planning process will start with a study of existing practices and an examination of the future needs of the business. Plans and 3D visuals are then produced in order to finalize the design and are presented with a breakdown of costs and timescales. Most commercial space planners will also take on any landlord liaison and deal directly with the local planning office. All that is left for the company to do is plan for the expansion and the increased productivity the well planned office will provide.
Tim Webster is company owner and director of TWP Designs. TWP Designs are commercial refurbishment specialists, interior office refurbishment, commercial dilapidation, car showroom refurbishments and commercial office space planning Their unique heritage in cabinetry means they can offer a bespoke design and build service allowing them to provide the perfect working environments.
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