Design matters: Does the feel of your office match your business?

Author:Kronemyer, Bob
Position:Office Design & Technology - Techniques offered on office design - Statistical Data Included

A good design can mirror he culture of the company to a valued or prospective client. It can improve staff efficiency, and space planning is critical when square footage is costly.

"You want to use your square footage as effectively as possible," says Doreen Gaboyan, owner of Office Furniture Specialists in Gary. This is best determined by asking, "Who and how do these people interact with each other?" Gaboyan suggests.

At Office Furniture Specialists, for instance, there are six employees, some of whom need to collaborate during the day. Sharing the same work surface fosters free-flowing ideas. Conversely, an accounting firm may prefer private offices.

Companies often do not use their file space efficiently, Gaboyan observes. "They treat inactive documents like active documents," she says. "Many businesses do not properly store or shred their documents." Consequently, "file space takes up a lot of room." Several unnecessary file cabinets may be able to be replaced with a desk or cubicle.

"Space planning is very important. It means looking at your environment and planning how you want your furniture situated in that space," Gaboyan explains. Using overhead storage units can easily free up desktop space.

Lighting is also key to an office environment. Task lights are particularly underused, notes Gaboyan. "Overhead lighting is not enough," she insists. "You need concentrated lighting to illuminate work surfaces." Likewise, an articulating keyboard tray below the work surface enhances ergonomics. "It's not good for the hands, arms and upper back to use a keyboard at the same level as a desktop," Gaboyan says.

Image should not be overlooked. For example, Office Furniture Specialists recently provided executive office furniture to American Express. "The company wanted to portray a strong image," Gaboyan says. The cherry wood furniture conveys that impression. "This is in contrast to something contemporary and modular."

Adds Bob Kochne, executive vice president at Business Furniture Corp. in Indianapolis, "You really have to determine what your organization's mission is." An innovative, technology-based firm may want to provide an open environment that supports informal communication between employees vs. a consultative environment with more private offices. The latter "wants doors more than they want their people to see one another," Koehne says.

Companies that have product marketing groups to develop new products typically employ a variety of...

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