Streamlining pays off

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 February, 2012, 12:00am


Facing high office rents, how can companies save space without compromising on productivity?

'The workplace will impact staff performance [which in turn] directly impacts company performance and is reflected in productivity,' says Paul Scroggie, director of workplace consultancy Knight Frank.

However, changes to workplace design should only be introduced with a thorough understanding of what employees need, how the company conducts its business and what productivity is.

Scroggie says employees generally do not need as much storage as they claim. These days, documents can be stored as soft copies and printouts stockpiled offsite, offering savings.

People are attached to the small cubicles of old-style offices mainly because they are used to them, rather than because they really need them.

An open-plan office where clusters of people sit together will enhance communication, the exchange of productive ideas and teamwork.

In offices where there are no designated desks and seating is on a first come, first served basis, people will be more alert and see their work from a fresh angle every day, depending on where they sit.

They will meet a different cross-section of their company daily, depending on with whom they sit.

In certain professions, such as sales or accounting, often up to 50 per cent of desks are unoccupied at any given time.

With flexible seating, the company can make considerable savings, accommodating 30 to 50 per cent more staff in the same office.

'This also creates its own problems,' Scroggie says. 'Desks and computers need to be identical, and they need good technological support.'

Depending on the way a company functions, their needs for meeting rooms will be different.

Companies never seem to have enough meeting rooms, but they can provide some small, informal, open-space meeting areas where people can have a short break, a chat with a colleague or a quick sandwich.

Scroggie says this will increase collaboration, communication and understanding while reducing the company's environmental footprint and saving costs.

However, the meeting room strategy is different for a firm that relies on client interface, he adds.

For example, a law firm needs the formality and confidentiality of a meeting space.

To increase engagement, it is important to involve staff in the changes at an early stage.

A workplace consultant can conduct an online questionnaire and face-to-face interviews to find out the company's business drives and team dynamics.

They will work out the space requirements, potential space efficiencies and storage rationalisation, and meeting room strategies, and create a workplace solution that increases productivity, improves work environment and saves cost, enhancing the company's business objectives.

To retain engagement, the consultant will walk staff through the details once decisions have been made, so that they understand what and why they are getting certain solutions and they can anticipate the changes.