PROBLEM 1: NOISY AND DISTRACTED WORKERS
Whether it's a pesky mobile phone ring tone or the co-worker who broadcasts their weekend plans (all week long), auditory distractions in the workplace are plain annoying.
And the increasing popularity of open plan offices doesn’t help.
Over time, the never-ending noise adds up to frustrated and distracted staff and can impact on productivity and morale.
First, it's a good idea to actually encourage noise in certain zones. Some tasks – and the more extroverted employees – thrive in a lively, collaborative environment. However, you also need to provide quiet zones, away from all the buzz, for phone calls and tasks requiring careful concentration. Quiet zones should be located as far as possible from noise, traffic and visual distractions.
If you want to go a step further, agile working environments fully embrace this zoning idea.
Agile working also offers a host of other benefits (and doesn’t have to be expensive).
Considering acoustics can also help to minimise noise distractions. Other considerations to take on board include seating orientation and noise reflection.
If you’re at (or thinking about) the fitout stage, remember to balance style and practicality.
Polished concrete floors and exposed ceilings look great, but they’re also great at carrying sound. Ceiling tiles and soft flooring may not have the visual appeal of other options but absorb sound better in open plan areas. It’s just a matter of matching the right finishes to the right areas .
PROBLEM 2: FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY
Too hot? Too cold? Too drafty? Too stuffy?
While some wo/work-well/how-to-embrace-abw-activity-based-working's not surprising that the office air-conditioning is a popular source of complaints in the workplace.
Let’s face it, air-conditioning is always likely to be an issue.
However, this checklist will help prevent a full-scale war between team freeze and team tropical:
- Ensure sensors are in the right location (ie not on perimeter walls that build heat load or in direct sunlight).
- Sensors with an adjustable thermostat should not be generally accessible. Establish no-go zones. For example, an easy way to prevent sneaky adjustments is to install a simple Perspex box with a lock.
- Don't let a quick fix tempt you. While local heaters may quickly thaw out those frozen toes, they wreak havoc on the main system sensors, are very power inefficient and also bring power load issues.
- Consider supplementary air-conditioning units as a way of taking pressure off the base-building system. Large meeting rooms, where people arrive en masse, are not handled well by base-building systems (leading to an adverse impact on the rest of the floor).
- When selecting premises, carry out due diligence on the age and performance of the base building plant and the local units on the floor level. Investigate the history of maintenance undertaken.
PROBLEM 3: THE BIG SQUEEZE
The business landscape is constantly changing, bringing fluctuating employment levels and structural upheaval. In the current conservative climate, business growth can put the squeeze on – quite literally.
If you’re wondering how your density levels stack up, do some maths.
Less than 10 square metres per person (including ancillary spaces) is low.
Over 15 square metres per person, on the other hand, is generous.
If space is getting tight, storage is always an area worth exploring. We are continually amazed at how much can be purged or sent offsite when clear outs are co-ordinated.
Do you need everything onsite? Have you been enforcing regular clear outs? Are you heading towards paperless? Take time to really think about your answers.
If your organisation is growing quickly, you can also consider peeling off teams to local satellite spaces. (And it’s worth noting that those suffering with the opposite problem –locked into a lease with too much space – should investigate sub-leasing options).
Reducing the amount of built works, such as partitions, and increasing flexible furniture options, such as breakout areas and free-standing storage, may also help ease the squeeze.
Most organisations are now reducing the number of private offices in their layouts. This is partly a reflection of flatter organisational structures.
Does your middle management still need separate offices?
It’s a sensitive topic in some organisations but definitely something worth considering. Private offices are footprint hungry!