Christian Logue, MD of Sagal Group, explores how a well-thought-through design can make a smaller office a hugely productive space.
“Should I downsize my office?”
For several years, business owners have asked themselves this question. The general drift towards new working patterns (sped up by lockdowns) has meant owners have been looking at empty desks and wondering if all this, rarely used, real estate was an unnecessary drain on their finances.
Today, in our brave new hybrid world, the need to make decisions over how space is utilised has become all the more pressing. Arguments range from those who feel offices should increase in size through to those who believe they should be done away with altogether. The former believe extra space is needed to accommodate TW*Ts – hybrid workers coming in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – who generate a massive demand upon finite resources (such as meeting rooms) on those days. The latter might be described as downsizing extremists who argue for ditching offices completely, in favour of occasional use of rented coworking spaces.
I’m not going to tell you what to do. If you do decide to downsize, don’t miss the opportunity to turn your new environment into a space that really works. For too long large areas of traditional offices have been underutilised – and I’m not just talking about unattended workstations. Receptions are often lifeless places, seemingly fighting the dynamism most organisations work hard to project. Canteens lie empty the majority of the time, incongruous relics of a previous age. Meeting rooms are generally stuffy, uninviting and often occupied with someone engaged in an activity they weren’t intended for. The decision to downsize could be the spark your organisation needs to really make efficient use of the space it occupies.
Things to think about:
You never get a second chance at making a first impression. So, why would you bring your customers into an environment with all the atmosphere of a bus station cafe? Make reception a multifunction space, a ‘shop window’ showcasing your team getting on with the types of services you sell. A client walking into a bustling reception area, filled with informal meetings and briefings, will quickly form an opinion that yours is a vibrant and dynamic organisation. Not only that, by mixing up the usage of this previously underutilised environment you’ll decrease your need for space.
There really is nothing worse than seeing a vast sea of computer terminals with only one or two occupied – it’s like a box of chocolates on Boxing Day when only the toffee caramels are left. If most of your team spends most of their time somewhere else, don’t devote the majority of your floorspace to pointing out their absence. Instead, limit the number of workstations to an amount you can regularly fill. Implement them through an efficient desk booking system, combined with some overspill space for TW*Ts on bulge days. By doing this, you’ll create an area your teams will want to occupy that takes up much less space.
3: The Kitchen.
If you can only expand one area of your new office, make sure it’s the kitchen. Coffee shops are now such a large part of our culture, why not encourage some of that vibe into the office? With a bit of intelligent design, a kitchen could easily become a place to grab a latte or perch to type up a report. The aim should be to make your kitchen the heart of the office – you’ll know you’ve succeeded if the constant chatter of innovation and ideas emanates from the area. A kitchen hub is hugely multifunctional – the perfect place to have those ‘all hands’ meetings every so often, much better than an overcrowded meeting room.
4: Meeting Rooms.
These spaces have always been such a source of contention. Make sure you plan before allotting them in your downsized office. The main issue is meeting rooms are rarely available when needed, often because they’re being hogged by someone looking for a private workspace. Solve this issue by creating a variety of small nooks and pods for solo-focused work, this will free up your meeting room for what it was originally intended. Introduce a booking system for the room and read our guide on choosing a meeting room(s) to suit your organisation’s needs. 6 types of collaborative space you NEED in your office. – Sagal Group
Plan, plan and plan again.
At the end of the day, the key to a well-run destination office isn’t the square footage, it’s what you do with it. It’s amazing how efficiently smaller spaces can work if they’re planned out correctly. I’d advise that you don’t rush, rather take an abundance of time to plan out how your new downsized office will overcome the issues I’ve outlined here.
You’ll be glad you did.
Christian Logue, MD Sagal Group.