How to Extract More Profit from Your Office Space

The relationship between office space design and employee productivity underpins profitability, thereby an existential issue, but is frequently unheeded. This need not be the case.

THE OFFICE SUITE: A FACTORY OF MINDS

Office space is a “factory of minds” where knowledge workers labor to create abstract products such as financial plans, audits, legal opinions, actuarial reports, etc. But, unlike the assembly line for toasters, it is difficult to measure a knowledge worker’s productivity.

Lacking metrics, corporate decision makers often dismiss office space productivity. Underlying this bias is the fact that the cost of housing an employee is a fraction of the employee’s wages and benefits. As a result, “bean counters” seek more rewarding ROI efforts. Unfortunately, these biases create a vicious cycle where office space investment is deferred, resulting in the workplace becoming progressively inefficient and technologically obsolete. Sound familiar?

DESIGNING PRODUCTIVE OFFICE SPACE

Moving to “new” office space or redesigning your existing suite provides a unique opportunity to “reset” workplace functionality and efficiencies. When planning your new office space remain attentive to not only the suite’s configuration, but also the selection of furnishings and finishing materials. Employee productivity is enhanced by:

SPATIAL COMFORT – Obviously, the placement of personal workspace must align to your organizational structure, but not all jobs are alike and neither should be the allocated square footage. Each workstation must also be suitable for specific job functions, i.e., sufficient work surface area, storage space, etc.

PRIVACY – There must be a balance between collaboration and concentration. Minimize interruptions with reasonable levels of telephone and visual privacy.

ACOUSTICS – “Collaborative” furniture systems involve the management of ambient noise. Install upgraded acoustical ceiling tiles; skip the sexy hard floors and use carpeting; if necessary, install a sound masking system; include “quiet” rooms.

AIR QUALITY – As the walls come down, employee density has gone up. Unfortunately, most office buildings’ mechanical systems were designed for 1 employee per 150 square feet, but as today’s employee-dense, collaborative office layouts break this barrier they jeopardize sufficient air flow (measured by cubic feet of outdoor air per minute) resulting in diminished indoor air quality (IAQ). The rule of thumb for today’s office space is 20 cfm per person, so confirm the HVAC system’s capacity corresponds to employee density.

LIGHTING – Use lighting fixtures that deliver light directly to the work surfaces. Curiously, as LED fixtures proliferate, there is concern about “eye health”, so allow natural light to filter throughout your suite.

SUPPORT SPACE – Conference and file rooms were yesterday’s support space, but today we have an array of quiet rooms, meeting rooms, lounge areas and resource/information centers. Conference rooms with high-back chairs and enormous tables have yielded to multi-purpose rooms with “group furnishings”.

TECHNOLOGY – As the cloud expands the IT room has contracted, averting the need for expensive supplemental HVAC and fire suppression systems. Wireless devices, however, have not completely eliminated cables and related electrical wiring, which must remain reasonably accessible.

FINAL THOUGHTS
A lot of factors impact employee productivity, but workplace functionality and design play big roles. After selecting an office building, take time to plan your office space because your organization’s profitability depends on it. You’ll live with office design mistakes are long-term and “do overs” expensive.

© 2016 The Navigator Consulting Group, Ltd

About the Author…

The Navigator Consulting Group is a commercial real estate consultancy-brokerage, specializing in office tenant representation. Mr. DiDonato, president, may be contacted at 516.605.2220 or mike@navigatorconsulting.com