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What type of office suits your company?

A workplace influences employees continuously. According to research carried out by the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE), it determines 24% of people’s job satisfaction. Therefore, providing employees with comfortable conditions for performing everyday duties seems to be crucial. Let’s start with matching the office type to the needs of a particular organisation. We invite you to familiarise yourself with our analysis, in which we present both the advantages and disadvantages of various space arrangements.
 

Ewelina Adamus, Senior Workplace Research and Development Consultant

Does a cellular office consist of dark rooms? Is an open space a noisy hall equipped with countless desks arranged in rows? Does a flexible office lack workstations for all employees? Is an Activity Based Workplace good for everyone? Not necessarily!

4 office types

Because of the different space arrangements, each of the four office types creates a work environment that supports different work styles.

A cellular office consists of closed, shared rooms designed for working and managerial offices located along the corridors. This arrangement usually offers a large number of storage places (cabinets or open shelves). By definition, a cellular office is equipped with a few huge rooms dedicated to formal meetings and a social zone (a canteen).

+ it facilitates the concentration process
+ it ensures confidentiality and privacy
+ it offers space for organising formal and official meetings
+ it allows for personalising the office space

– it isolates teams from each other
– it hinders free communication and the exchange of knowledge
– it lacks the possibility to share office devices – every room is usually equipped with its own printers, fax machines, etc. 
– it makes it difficult to manage teams and monitor their work
 

An open space is based on the concept of a huge space equipped with rows of desks. There are fewer storage places compared to the cellular office. Usually there are meeting rooms with mobile walls that can be quickly rearranged. In this arrangement, we recommend implementing at least a few places designed for holding spontaneous meetings (soft seating) – these spaces allow employees to discuss current issues without needing to book a room, and they help section off desk rows.

+ efficient flow of information and knowledge
+ possibility to hold quick consultations between employees
+ no problems providing feedback
+ space and office devices are shared by employees from different teams = greater integration
+ possibility to rearrange the office space and adjust it to the company’s development 

– high level of noise
– lack of comfortable conditions for performing quiet and concentrated work 
– lack of privacy and work or document confidentiality
– lack of comfortable conditions for holding phone conversations
 

A zonal office is designed to give employees access to different zones that support them in performing particular tasks. Depending on the needs and work style of the organisation, the office is designed with various different spaces. For example, if cooperation is a crucial aspect in a particular company, then meeting zones will be dominant in its space arrangement. Desks are placed in an open space, often with a few partition walls that improve work comfort. This office type is characterised by a large number of meeting rooms of different sizes and diverse areas designed for holding spontaneous meetings. In order to ensure employees perform particular tasks effectively, the office arrangement should include telephone booths and one-person rooms for undisturbed work.

 
+ access to zones that support employees in performing particular tasks – comfortable conditions for holding meetings and phone conversations, as well as working in the quiet 
+ efficient flow of information and knowledge
+ quick consultations between employees within an office, which do not disturb other colleagues
+ lower noise level than in an open space

– lack of privacy and little work or document confidentiality
 

An Activity Based Workplace is a solution that ensures access to different zones facilitating three basic activities undertaken by office employees: administration, concentration and communication. The arrangement of this office type includes a large number of meeting rooms of different sizes, places for spontaneous meetings, telephone booths, zones for undisturbed work (a reading room, a silent room) and an auditorium.
In terms of mobile departments in this work environment, we can also observe the concept of desk sharing, which means that employees do not have assigned desks; there are fewer desks than employees. 

    
+ possibility to choose a workplace to match the activity being undertaken
+ flexible work style
+ it facilitates communication between employees
+ access to zones supporting work performance
+ possibility to change the environment and work near different people
+ knowledge exchange and greater integration with colleagues 

    
– lack of desks assigned to particular employees
– no possibility to personalise a workstation
– obligation to work in zones designed for performing particular types of task
– principle of tidying a desk after finishing work and storing personal belongings in a locker
 

How much does it cost?

Nowadays, when every square meter is precious, it is worth taking into account economic aspects as well as the work supporting elements when choosing an office type. Because of their unique space arrangements, each of the office types presented occupies a different area and can include a varying number of desks.


The table shows a comparison between the number of employees and the number of desks in each of the four office types in a sample area of 913 m2.
 

As the table shows, a cellular office can accommodate a significantly smaller number of employees than an open space, due to its closed space arrangement. However, taking the same aspect into consideration, the difference between an open space and a zonal office is not so significant. When choosing a zonal office, companies “lose” a place only for four employees, while gaining access to various zones that support employees in performing their everyday duties. The qualitative difference is significant to the employees.

An Activity Based Workplace is the most efficient office type in terms of the work space it offers. However, before applying this solution, it is worth planning an internal information campaign and a change management process to facilitate the change implementation in an organisation. Our experts have knowledge and experience in this area and conduct these processes successfully.

New technologies and work flexibility enable us to arrange offices in an interesting and functional way. However, it is not an easy task to create a space that is not only modern, but also adjusted to a particular organisation’s needs. No office type is better or worse; everything depends on a company’s character, its business processes and its employees’ needs. We always want our projects to hit their targets; therefore, we are eager to advise our clients on the solutions that will be most beneficial for them. When needed, we also conduct research and analyses concerning, for example, the desk occupancy level, efficiency of meeting rooms, activity profile of particular teams, or relationships between departments. An office is an investment that should be well thought out.
 

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