> Office design
Zones | Core | Managed noise |
Walkways and places between | Shared areas
| Views | Office size | See also
Here are a set of principles you can use in designing offices and workplaces
to create satisfying and effective environments in which people can be
comfortable, stimulated and effective.
Boundaries that separate but do not divide.
People need a strong sense of identity, both individually and with people with
whom they work. Boundaries mark the edges of these groups, separating ‘them’
from ‘us’. The more complete the separation (preventing visual and verbal
connection), the greater the perceived division and the less communication
there will be between groups.
Physical things help mark boundaries,
including aisles, walls, partitions, flooring, light, color.
Boundaries divide ownership.
Within their boundary, people will take greater ownership. Outside of it, they
will take less. Where boundaries are not clear, they may either fight for
ownership or abandon it, assuming others will take it.
Different zones for teams and shared areas, help support their sense of
identity and aid navigation.
Zones can be marked with lighting, signage,
furniture, color, etc.
Although different zones allow difference to be shown, too much difference
leads to unpleasant appearance and confusion in such activities as wayfinding.
Mark the transition into zones with distinct entrances. These may be marked by
signs, arches, changing color, carpeting, etc.
A core area is a specific zone that provides
a center of activity.
The core need not be at the center, although this could
be a good choice.
Tangential to highway.
Areas that are adjacent to main circulation routes are easier to find and make
it easier to ‘drop in’.
Visual cues can be used to identify the core, for example ceiling ‘skylight’ and signage.
Build a noise gradient:
a greater noise may be expected at the core, with quieter areas at the
periphery. This will also help to insulate current residents the noise of the
field. Offices thus have ‘contours’ of equivalent noise that are usually
equidistant from noise sources. Seek to smooth the slope across the contours.
Match the people to the bustle.
People have different noise needs. Some need calm and quiet whilst others feel
lonely and left out if they are not sited near the centers of action. Match
the people as best as possible to the noise and bustle that suits them best.
Manage the natural noise points.
There are points where noise naturally occurs and where people should not be
put at desks if they have a significant need for quiet.
By coffee machines and other intended break
Next to meeting areas.
Next to people with louder tendencies – such
as exuberant sales people or those who use the phone a lot.
At junctions where people pause before going
their separate ways.
Walkways and places between
Many people like to take occasional breaks from their desks and go for a
stroll to think and refresh. Give them somewhere useful to walk where they
might sit down along the way, meet others, etc. This kind of area is sometimes
called ‘Main Street’.
Excuses to pause.
When people are out walking they may meet others but they often need an excuse
to pause and maybe have a common topic to talk about. Ways of doing this
Space to stop.
Where people stop, others need to pass by, so ensure these areas are wide
Connecting shared areas.
A walkway that connects breakout and other shared areas encourages groups to
visit one another.
Anchors at the ends.
Just as shopping Malls have major stores at either end to ensure people walk
the full length, office walkways can have major points of attraction at either
Create people magnets.
People often need to be encouraged to talk together, yet when they get fully
engaged can provide each other with helpful ideas and connections.
Communal areas towards the core.
Just as people will go towards the center of a town to find a shopping area,
so also the magnetic effect of a site core will mean that shared areas away
from the core may well receive less traffic.
Quiet areas away from the core.
The opposite effect of ‘towards the core’ is where people seek quiet and
isolation. Just as town people flee to the country so also can private and
quiet spaces be put far away from the core.
Airport lounges are a good example of an
informal balance of work and relaxation.
panels between 2/4/6-seater tables (possibly with benches) are both
space-efficient and provide a balance of privacy and openness for informal
meetings. They work well near drinks areas.
Propose shared space.
Increasing space shared across the site reduces the need for individual and
team space, but requires that people be prepared to share. With no direct
mandate for sharing, shared areas may need negotiation.
No white elephants.
Soft-seating areas, and play areas although inviting can be shunned when
people are concerned at appearing to be not working or where they are too far
away. Such white elephants can lead to the building and workplace services
Large offices can offer economies of scale as
well as a broader array of benefits, but they can be overpowering and dark. It
is easier to get to know everyone in smaller offices, although they can be
The maximum group size with which people generally feel
comfortable is 150. This makes offices of 100 or so people likely to lead to
satisfying communities (provided there is sufficient connection between
people, of course).
Economies of scale are not necessarily realized in large
offices, as they have additional overheads.
Real costs can be difficult to determine where
allocations are not done on a realistic basis.
Overall design principles