Although the hybrid and fully remote work models have been proven to be efficient, employers recognize that having employees in the office is essential for re-establishing collaboration, innovation and productivity.
The challenge in planning an office space is to create an inspiring and productive work environment, so that employees find value in utilizing the office. By focusing on the quality of employee experience, improvements in collaboration and productivity will follow. Office building planning must also take into account the changing space requirements as businesses move to a hybrid working model, with fewer employees working permanently in the office.
This office space planning checklist outlines the factors driving the need to redesign an office space, the role and scope of office space planning and why comprehensive workplace safety and security is an important element of office building planning.
Changing employee expectations
Post-COVID, the office is no longer the de-facto workplace for many employees. With more businesses offering work-from-home or hybrid working arrangements, employees’ expectations of the office are now vastly different.
Now that employees have the freedom to choose their workplace and working hours, they typically visit the office to attend face-to-face meetings, socialize with colleagues, use equipment that is not available at home or work in an environment with no distractions. Beyond that, they expect to have access to technology that will help them meet their goals.
That’s because one of the critical drivers of change across the workforce was the rapid uptake of technology during lockdown. Technology has now become a key element in the development of office design planning.
When it comes to fostering the in-office work experience, many employers are lagging behind in adapting to the demands of the digital workforce – and missing an opportunity to create a great office experience that can attract and retain talented, highly motivated employees.
The role of office space planning
Planning office layout and space planning for an office is the process of organizing or re-organizing office space to meet the current and future needs of businesses and their employees. That may require rearranging existing layouts and furniture, or creating a brand-new layout with a full renovation.
The role of office space planning is to create a workplace that encourages employees to utilize the space and fosters employee engagement. The goal is to redesign the office space into an agile environment that adapts to employees’ evolving work patterns and meets the changing expectations described above.
Effective space planning can achieve this by optimizing the existing space for employees’ evolving needs while enhancing the office experience and creating a sense of comfort, safety and inclusion.
That’s important because many employees, used to the comfort and flexibility of working from home, are reluctant to return to a traditional office. Office space planners must reimagine the workplace and create an environment that home working cannot match, with the same ease and flexibility in mind. This may mean offering more private conference or meeting spaces, incorporating a desk hoteling model, upgrading security systems for 24/7 access or adding telecommunications equipment to connect with remote employees.
Goals for space planning for offices and commercial buildings
An office space plan must take a number of important goals into consideration to ensure it meets the requirements of both employers and employees. Some benefits in creating a strategic office plan include:
Having a comfortable and safe working environment
The office must become an environment where employees can work in comfort, regardless of external weather conditions. Smart technology that automatically adjusts heating, lighting or air-conditioning in line with the weather can help achieve this. The office plan should also ensure that the environment is safe, reducing health risks by incorporating smoke detection and air quality sensors in the office infrastructure.
From an employer’s perspective, redesigning office space should focus on productivity, using technology as well as optimum layout to improve efficiency. While there is no one-size-fits-all layout for productive working, many employees have indicated a preference for quieter, more private working spaces, rather than the traditional open-plan space. Providing employees with cloud-based software enables them to use the same copies of the latest versions of cloud-based files, data and business applications whether they are working on-site or remotely.
With team members in the office and at home, office design planning should incorporate comfortable, productive meeting rooms and efficient collaboration tools to bring team members together, wherever they are located. Team members based in the office need to collaborate efficiently with colleagues working remotely to maintain progress on projects. Video conferencing solutions and cloud storage for files and data enable virtual meetings and simplify content sharing to ensure effective meeting outcomes.
Increased energy efficiency
While productivity and teamwork improvements are priorities, the office redesign plan should also help achieve greater energy efficiency. Using smart environmental controls that respond to occupancy levels and changing weather conditions helps match energy usage to demand.
Smart lighting solutions, for example, use sensors to turn lights on or off in line with occupancy. Lighting controls can be integrated with automated blinds to maximize levels of natural light and reduce lighting costs. Daylight sensors adjust the dimming of the lights to match the required level of light at different times of the day
Smart HVAC systems automate the control of heating and air conditioning systems, adjusting temperatures in line with occupancy levels and weather forecasts, reducing energy costs.
Reduced operating costs and hybrid office layout benefits
A study by Accenture found that 83 percent of employees prefer hybrid work. The same study finds that hybrid models are used by 63 percent of high-revenue growth companies, while 76 percent of respondents to the Cisco 2022 Global Hybrid Work Study claimed to have saved money through hybrid work in the past year.
Hybrid working office design or a well thought-out hybrid office layout is top of mind for businesses. A well-planned hybrid office design layout provides an opportunity to reduce space requirements by ensuring there are no “dead zones” in the office. With a better understanding of how and when people are utilizing the office, companies can ensure the space is optimized for those purposes specifically, leading to an overall reduction in operating and energy costs.
Comprehensive security should be an integral part of office building planning. Security systems, alarms and access control systems help prevent unauthorized access to the office and protect employees and their property against threats. But these same systems could be working against companies trying to adopt a more flexible hybrid environment.
When space planning for hybrid offices, employees will likely need access on irregular schedules. Adopting the right door lock technology can help prevent unauthorized people from getting into the office on the pretense of flex hours, as well as deter overcrowding. Using desk booking software, office managers can know who is scheduled to work that day, and automatically assign them credentials for their specific work location and hours.
In addition, having security systems with built-in analytics can help office management respond to security incidents faster and with greater accuracy. Whether somebody is locked out or there is a more serious breach taking place, video camera analytics can help teams identify where and when an incident is occurring and take appropriate action, even if they aren’t on-site at the moment. Ensure your cameras and door readers are placed strategically in your office space plan to maximize visibility and efficiency.
Office and commercial building planning basics
There are components to office planning that create a comfortable, productivity-boosting workspace. One of the factors to consider when planning an office space is the basic layout. Before the lockdown, an open plan layout was the de facto standard for office space planners, architects and employers, as an open plan encouraged interaction and open communication. However, research findings and the impact of COVID-19 have reshaped this idea. An article in the Harvard Business Review found that interaction had dropped considerably when businesses moved to open plan. Concerns about close contact after the pandemic also turned opinion against open plan.
The trend in space planning for commercial office interiors now favors a mix of small private spaces, informal meeting areas, well-equipped collaboration spaces for more formal team meetings and temporary workspaces for hybrid employees visiting the office. The private spaces ensure employees can work in comfort and concentrate without being constantly disturbed.
Many office space planners are going further with providing the comforts employees have at home in the office, adding lounges with comfortable seating where employees can socialize or work quietly and recreation rooms with games, which help create a more relaxed environment.
The office space plan should also include facilities for visiting clients. These might include formal conference rooms or more elaborate customer experience centers, where businesses can demonstrate product functions as well as hold meetings.
The widespread acceptance of hybrid working means that fluctuating office populations must be taken into account when planning office spaces. A survey of 278 executives by McKinsey in August 2020 found that on average, respondents planned to reduce office space by 30% as more employees chose to work from home, with only occasional visits to the office. Regardless of day-to-day numbers, businesses must make sure that workspaces have the best possible facilities for hybrid meetings as well as a welcoming, productive environment that encourages home-based employees to return to the office as frequently as possible.
To accommodate home-based staff when they visit, the office space plan should include hot desks and shared workspaces that can be booked in advance to ensure availability. Desk management software is essential, allowing employees to book workspaces for planned visits. Data from the software can be used to analyze usage and plan capacity to optimize the use of office space.
When it comes to improving the traffic flow of meeting spaces, meeting room management systems synchronize the employees’ calendar, internal meeting schedules and planned customer visits. With this software, property managers gain full visibility of space availability and can handle booking more efficiently, as well as avoid congestion.
Integrating smart technology with office layout plans
The key goal for office building planning is to create a comfortable working environment with elements that make it easier for employees to perform their tasks frictionlessly. Redesigning the office space will make a major contribution to this goal, but including smart technologies will add further benefits.
Property managers can use smart technologies to monitor and automate control of environmental factors that contribute to the quality of the workplace, from lighting to heating and air conditioning. Some smart technology components to implement in office space plans include:
- Smart lighting solutions use sensors to turn lights on or off in line with occupancy Lighting controls can be integrated with automated blinds to maximize levels of natural light and reduce lighting costs. Daylight sensors adjust the dimming of the lights to match the required level of light at different times of the day.
- Smart HVAC systems automate the control of heating and air conditioning systems, adjusting temperatures in line with occupancy levels and weather forecasts. This reduces energy costs and ensures a comfortable working environment.
- Environmental sensors monitor air-based and sensory changes such as levels of carbon monoxide, humidity or particle pollution within the workplace. Aside from maintaining a healthy work environment, the sensors can reduce the risk of employee absence through illness.
Protect the office with comprehensive security solutions
One essential element of the office space planning basics is implementing robust security measures. These measures include an access control system to verify employees’ identity, as well as confirming authorization for customers, vendors, couriers, contractors and maintenance staff.
The goal of implementing these security measures is to protect the property and people without making access inconvenient. Office access control systems are designed to keep out intruders and minimize security risks while making access frictionless for authorized users.
Access control can be used to secure buildings, parking garages, elevators and any spaces with restricted access. The readers should be installed at entrances, gateways, turnstiles and interior doors to restricted areas — a professional access control installer can assist you in choosing the right places to install access technology.
Employees and authorized visitors can present credentials in a variety of ways. They might use key cards or fobs, which they swipe or present to a door reader. Some doors can be opened by entering a PIN code. A more convenient and touchless access method uses mobile credentials on a smartphone app. Users access an app through their mobile phones that allows them to unlock doors when they are near a reader, eliminating the need to carry keys, cards and key fobs that can easily be lost.
When it comes to managing entry, access control software is used to restrict or grant access by adding or removing users. Security teams can also analyze data to assess usage or identify any patterns that might indicate security issues. Plus, access control management systems can also support an office design for hybrid work by incorporating flexible credentials for employees who work from home, but need occasional access to the office.
The software to control security systems can be hosted on the premises or in the cloud, which can simplify operations. For example, security personnel can provide out-of-hours access even when they are not onsite by controlling access remotely. As cloud-based software is updated automatically, the risk of security incidents from new forms of attack is reduced.
While these access control methods are suitable for employees accessing the office regularly, security personnel can also provide temporary authorization for visitors using similar methods. For example, regular couriers or maintenance staff might have smartphone apps giving them limited access. Occasional visitors can also use audio or video intercoms to request access from a contact inside the office or a member of the security team. Access control systems provide a convenient method for controlling access to buildings and offices within the property.
However, to ensure comprehensive protection, other physical security components need to be implemented. Security video surveillance cameras monitor activity in vulnerable spaces, enabling security teams to identify and record incidents and respond quickly. The remote surveillance in modern security surveillance systems help prevent security breaches when security guards are not physically present in the office. Alarm systems and sensors also provide additional protection for doors and windows not covered by security cameras or access control systems.
Access control and other security system components can be integrated with other building management and environmental control systems as part of a holistic security plan. By analyzing access control system data on traffic levels and space usage at different times of the day, factors such as heating, lighting or air conditioning can be automatically adjusted, reducing costs and improving energy efficiency.
Working with office design planning and security experts
Space planning for commercial building interiors can be complex and time-consuming. Office space planners can provide professional advice on office space planning guidelines, including layout and equipment, in addition to carrying out detailed space assessment and design. They also understand building regulations, health and safety guidelines, and other compliance issues that affect office space plans.
Security consultants can provide advice and guidance on the most suitable security systems for an office. They carry out risk assessments, identify vulnerabilities, and recommend access control systems and other security components to prevent security breaches. Security consultants can also carry out detailed designs and specifications for security solutions, as well as manage installation and integration with other systems.
Office space planning for your business and commercial building
If you are considering redesigning your work space or thinking about commercial space planning, investing in office security and a future-forward design layout is imperative. It ensures that the office represents a safe, secure, comfortable environment that increases productivity and fosters collaboration. Whether you need office design for a hybrid work model or planning an office layout for a permanent workplace, the right office layout planning can improve efficiency and reduce costs by making an optimal use of space.
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