Open-space Designs Can Provide Effective Working Environments and Create Happy Employees

Leesburg, Va.-based VA Spaces focused on creating a sophisticated business environment for AdvantEdge Business Centers, Washington, D.C. The space features comfortable styling and flexible work areas, as well as a 50-person training facility featuring an operable glass partition, an upscale lounge and a café.Leesburg, Va.-based VA Spaces focused on creating a sophisticated business environment for AdvantEdge Business Centers, Washington, D.C. The space features comfortable styling and flexible work areas, as well as a 50-person training facility featuring an operable glass partition, an upscale lounge and a café.

Since the dawn of the much-maligned cubicle farms of the 1980s, companies have recognized that open areas can maximize small office spaces. Today, companies still see the value of an open office for creating flexible and functional work areas but also are placing increased importance on creating spaces that promote collaboration, creativity and conversation.

Interior renovations for Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ 10,000-square-foot office suite in Richmond, Va., included framing the reception area with aluminum storefronts and double glass doors that open to ceramic tile floors accented by wood paneling along the walls.

Interior renovations for Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ 10,000-square-foot office suite in Richmond, Va., included framing the reception area with aluminum storefronts and double glass doors that open to ceramic tile floors accented by wood paneling along the walls.

Other advantages of open offices are their versatility and longevity. Many companies want office spaces designed for the future of their organizations. Open-space designs reduce the area needed for each employee compared to the area needed for closed offices. So, as a company grows, it is easier to incorporate additional workspaces, allowing a company to stay longer in its location.

New, fresh approaches to corporate design are leading many companies to reconsider open spaces for their work environments.

Starting on the Right Foot

The key to the success of an open-space office is creating a productive business environment with authenticity and flexible work areas. Identifying a company’s organizational structure will help inform the design of an architectural floor plan that adds value to the current structure. And, it is imperative designers work with senior leadership and human-resources staff to understand their capital strategies and objectives and then mimic these goals throughout the design and construction phases.

There is no one-size-fits-all design for an open-space office. That is why it is important to understand the company’s goal for workflow before pen is put to paper. Organizational effectiveness is paramount in designing and constructing an open-office space. Understanding the workflow goals allows designers to incorporate zones that organize employees according to their specific job functions.

Providing the Right Blend

Most organizations value the collaborative environment that an open floor plan fosters; however, it is important to provide spaces for introverts and extroverts so everyone can feel comfortable and work effectively. A variety of spaces should be designed to include individual desks, co-workspaces, open-area seating, as well as private offices. Integrating a variety of areas permits employees to move among different environments to meet their diverse work needs. These mixed spaces allow for private conferences, individual work, group collaboration, and a retreat away from noise and distractions.

It also is important to keep in mind the location of these diverse workspaces. To minimize disruptions, make sure areas designated for collaborative work don’t interfere with people sitting at nearby desks. On the other hand, diverse workspaces need to be easily accessible so employees working at their desks don’t have to hike across the office to utilize a private area. Incorporating walkways with alcoves provides additional spaces for collaboration and conversation.

Putting It All Together

First impressions are lasting, so special consideration should be given to the reception area. This area should be functional and professional while carrying out the theme of the overall office space. Ensure this space is welcoming because it makes a statement about a company.

PHOTO: Dan Cunningham

About the Author

Jeff Black
Jeff Black is vice president of Corporate Interiors for L.F. Jennings Inc., a Falls Church and Richmond, Va., general contractor that specializes in corporate interiors, office, mixed-use and health-care facilities.

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