Both small and large companies alike are now using open-plan office spaces as they are thought to have a number of advantages over the traditional cubicle style offices of the past. They are more cost-effective as they eliminate the need for creating individual work cubicles, they increase employee interaction and therefore collaboration. Also, they make for a more relaxed work environment. However, there are also drawbacks to this modern approach to office layout design: the absence of clearly defined spaces for things such as more focused work, collaborative work, leisure, and meetings. Zoning is one such solution to open offices and consists of putting up partitions in an open space in order to create designated workspace areas without the need for building walls or reconstructing the physical space. These partitions are lighter in weight and temporary, meaning they suit spaces that are constantly evolving. Changing the layout of an open-plan office, therefore, is no problem with zoning and the partitions can be rearranged also. Office zoning is made up of a grid system that is personalised to any given space by adding functional accessories such as shelves, lights, plants and acoustic panels to the basic building module. If you find that the open-plan office space is hindering workflow, you should consider zoning as a promising solution. The following includes the types of zones you may create in your office and why they will bring value to an open-plan space.
Break Out Area
Zoning plays a big part in making sure your office is the most productive it can be. The fewer distractions and non-work related conversations in the main workspace, the more focused each employee remains at the job at hand. Therefore, it is important to diffuse ‘lunch-time’ chat for somewhere out of earshot to the whole office, where people are working and not looking to be constantly interrupted by chit chat. This is one reason you should create a breakout area in your office, out of common courtesy for your team. However, it is also a good idea to provide workers with this space, secondly, to give them an area where they can take a quick break from their own work, to read a book or to sit down and have a quick snack. As many productivity methods and systems have shown, taking a short break after regular intervals actually helps to increase your productivity and ability to focus on a given task. The Pomodoro Technique, for instance, suggests working in four 25 minute-bursts, taking a quick 5-minute break after each one. After this, you are advised to take a longer 15 to 30-minute break. With this in mind, a zone where members of the team can take their mind off things, have a quick chat or even daydream for a few moments would be highly beneficial. A breakout area is also the perfect place to have a bit of fun and a laugh. Kit this area out with board game classics such as Jenga and Monopoly to you’ll be sure to have some fun.
Another zone that can be created with space dividers such as palisades is a collaborative workspace. A collaborative area is set up quite differently to the main office area, as the space should allow for interaction between members of the team, while still remaining a place of work. It is not meant to be as informal as a breakout area nor as formal as a conference space. Yet it would include both comfortable, relaxed seating as well as more formal chairs. This way, employees can choose between seating depending on their mood and the work they are doing. It should be a space that encourages creativity and brainstorming allowing you to use as much imagination as possible when decorating it. Add some bright stools and chairs for a pop of colour and posters for inspiration. To aid the brainstorming process, add a whiteboard, markers and post-it notes on hand and you are ready to start any collaborative work. This area not only serves to aid group work, but is also good for those who want to get away from their desk and work in a more relaxed setting, with other people around, depending on their mood.
A focus area is a crucial zone to have in the office. A distinguished area, separate from the main hustle and bustle of the office where people are chatting or talking on phones is a must. This zone can be designed as more of an individual working space, where there would be no distraction. It will make for the ideal place to go if you are looking to get a task done that requires your full attention and a quiet atmosphere. The separators of this space can make for increased productivity and can feature acoustic solutions if desired, by incorporating accessories such as moss panels which reduce sound levels by absorbing excess sound. Also, other individual plants can also be added to the palisades which make for a more relaxed workspace, helping employees to feel more at ease while they work. There are many ways to create privacy in the office. However, If looking to further increase the privacy of this focus area in particular, and if space allows for it, consider putting in some acoustic pods. Acoustic pods allow for improved concentration as they absorb excess sound and also being in this type of enclosed space minimises visual distractions.
A meeting or presentation zone is another useful space to add to the open-plan office. If you regularly hold business meetings with clients or between departments, you need to consider having one. This area is designed with a different look in mind from the rest of the office, so to resemble functionality rather than style, but it still must impress. It can also be decorated in a neutral and understated manner to give off a more professional feel. If wall space is available, consider installing a projector which is a necessary addition to this space when looking to give presentations. It is a good idea to add some kind of meeting unit here also, allowing for adequate storage of various equipment and electronics. This space is just as valuable for the team as it is for clients and business partners who visit your office. Employees at work are not interrupted by a constant flow of visitors, nor are clients expected to walk through a busy office. Meeting zones therefore make a good impression and have a positive impact on the business as a whole.
Zoning with palisades and partitions can revolutionise how you use and occupy the open-plan office space many of us find ourselves working in today. They serve the much-needed function of breaking up space and helping to create zones designated for specific types of work and activities. Also, you are sure to add some style to a given space.
In addition, palisades are easily customisable to suit any interior, adding a modern and eloquent touch to the workspace. If you are interested in knowing more about zoning and the solutions we offer, get in touch with us.