With the Commercial Office market increasingly tight and costly in most markets across Australia, many businesses, from small to large, are looking to evaluate the use of their space and where possible reduce their footprint. While much is written about Activity Based Working (ABW) and hot-desking, this doesn’t suit all businesses and looking at ways to maximise the current office fit-out doesn’t have to be a massive change to your business and may be achieved at looking at some smaller changes.
In terms of physical elements, the perceptive size of the office is the starting point when maximising a small space. Full height walls and partitions are one of the key drivers that can make a space feel constricting. Instead of a full wall, consider how your space can benefit from half height partitions, the use of glazing or the many screening options that can open up a space and allow the natural light reach further into the space, which in itself assists makes the space feel more open. Where privacy may be required, feature screening or privacy films on glass walls can help to ensure private areas remain that way, without making them feel enclosed or separate to the rest of the space.
An informal meeting area for our Corval Spec Suite was created by the simple addition of acoustic screens, supplied by our friends at Krost, keeping the open workspace while still providing a semi-private space with acoustic benefits.
Ease of access between different areas around the office can also have a big impact on whether a space feels big or small. Paths of travel through the space need to flow to allow easy access to all areas of the office. Open plan workstation areas are a no brainer in a small office and smaller desks go a long way in helping to creating wider walkways, further improving accessibility throughout the space. The shift in desking standards has aided this, with many offices finding linear workstations provide adequate space and proving far more efficient than traditional L-Shaped desks. On the other hand, too many paths of access can lead to wasted space, and be counteractive to smart design thinking.
Maximising the usage of space, this operable wall between adjoining meeting rooms at Software AG allows a quick transition to a full size meeting or training room, while the glazed glass walls ensure the required level of privacy.
Versatile furniture, hand-in –hand with multipurpose areas are another way our innovative designers ensure that space is being fully utilised. When sqm’s are lacking, the option to have low usage areas goes out the window. Designers need to incorporate ideas to ensure the spaces can be used to meet a variety of business needs: breakout seating can be used for team gatherings; adjoining rooms with movable screens can be combined to accommodate larger meetings; and bench seating can double as storage.
The kitchen & breakout space in one of our spec suites for AEW Capital featured dual purpose furniture; a dining table is also an informal meeting or collaboration table, or even a ping pong table.
A common understanding in making a space feel bigger is to make use of the natural light, but what can be done when natural light is limited? For our Designers, turning to alternative ‘artificial’ ways to help bounce light or to engage the eye can help capitalise on planning and design choices. The finishes on walls, floors and the ceiling, as well as additional lighting elements all contribute to creating a sense of depth and space.
Natural light was plentiful at our Now Careers project. Using tambour units and semi-open shelving to divide the space (instead of solid, light-blocking walls) meant light could penetrate the space more easily, as well as maintaining an open workspace feel.
When working with our clients, our Designers are continually asking: what works? What is crucial? And what really should go? Functionality, or rather multi-functionality doesn’t mean that the wish list for office features needs to be cut down, but rather creatively tweaked to come up with alternate ways in which every objective can be achieved. By turning storage into a visual feature for example, we not only add to the function of the space, but also to the aesthetics of the office.
With the increased need for businesses to cut down and to give back space, making the most of an existing fitout is key. And with ‘work’ and ‘home’ trending towards being intertwined, making this fitout appealing and comfortable is crucial to users and businesses alike. By utilising the methods listed above and subsequently increasing the perceptive size of the space, even the smallest offices can be used to their full potential, without compromise.