September 2016 archive

How to Make the Most of Your Open Plan Office Space

Open Plan Office Screens

Whether we are at home or at work; architects, business owners and home owners alike are very attached to the idea of open plan office spaces. Many of us may have grown up in homes with multiple rooms, sealed away by doors in order to provide privacy from parents and siblings. Nowadays, the situation is quite the opposite. We seem to love the idea of these collaborative spaces, which allow rooms to mingle and creates this sense of a collective group, rather than a handful of individuals. Of course, this kind of design has its drawbacks, which is why many of the stunning designs have undergone meticulous planning in order to strike a balance between collaboration and privacy.

Why Do We Love a Open Plan Office?

Across Europe in particular, the trend for an open planned home is a mark of our changing lifestyles. No longer are we hosting fancy dinner parties, secluded from the rest of the home. Instead, we crave more social gatherings, families tend to sit and spend time together. Traditional designs restricted the home to the labyrinth style which became so synonymous with Victorian and Edwardian era homes. With open plan homes, the removal of walls creates this perception of more space and allows more natural light to flow through.

This is ideal especially in smaller living spaces where the amount of space available is already severely limited as is often the case with older homes. The same idea is increasingly applied to office design. Many businesses have now moved away from the idea that employees require complete peace and quiet in order to work efficiently. Instead, modern design now looks towards collaborative spaces which enable staff to work as a team rather than a group of individual cogs. To achieve this walls have been torn down and collaboration is on the up, but there a host of side-effects which need to be addressed before a design such as this can work.

Arrange Furniture Creatively

With so much space at your disposal, there is no need to go back to the rank and file furniture layout which makes the office resemble a classroom. One of the key factors which needs to be considered here is the amount of distractions possible with each design. There is no point clumping employees together as noise will become an issue. Meanwhile, seating everyone opposite each other or by main doors will provide visual distractions which will become a regular and persistent issue.

Open place offices create the freedom to develop a unique design in order to enhance the efficiency of your employees. It is possible to create hubs for different teams, allowing the space for collaboration while separating it from distractions across the rest of the office. If the space is available, then there is also the potential to create separate areas which are tailored to encourage group work as well as other zones which allow employees to concentrate without the hassle of persistent distractions.

Make The Space Adaptable

One of the major benefits of an open plan office is the freedom it provides to chop and change how it is setup. If you are still in the planning stage, then look into integrating flexible office screens which can be moved and setup as and when required. The major benefit to these is that they can help to reduce the audible and visual distractions which are often a common issue with open plan offices. As teams tend to expand and grow, the ability for the office to adapt is important to being able to make the most of the space which is available. Screens can be easily moved for more desks and more seating.

The Space Needs to Work for Introverts and Extroverts

If you are perplexed by what the title means, then this is a very important issue to factor into your office design. Generally, people are split into two categories; extroverts who thrive in team situations, are often more outspoken and are more likely to thrive in collaborative spaces. On the other end of the spectrum, introverts appreciate exactly the opposite, they work more efficiently when given privacy, often keep thoughts to themselves until absolutely necessary and generally would rather have their own office rather than a desk in a busy environment.

Your office design needs to take these into consideration. While your open collaborative space may be fantastic for some, it could be a nightmare for others. Introverts will value more private, quiet spaces, but this can lead to extroverts feeling agitated, further hindering their efficiency. The solution to this really boils down to how much space you have available. The ideal is to be able to create two separate types of areas, one which is more collaborative and helps teams the bond and grow. The other is a quiet space, which provides the privacy for employees to get on with their work without audible and visual distractions.

Striking the right balance between freedom and privacy can prove a masterstroke. If your environment can enable all of your employees to work comfortably and efficiently, then the overall productivity of your business will increase. Open plan offices are great in theory, but many have made common mistakes which result in disaster. This is often because open offices become too noisy and you find everyone just trying to talk to each other, or there is so much going on in the office that there is no space for everyone to concentrate.

 

Open Plan Office Screens

8 Factors You Must Address When Re-designing Your Office

Open Plan Office Screens

What Makes the Design of the Office So Important?

Chances are, if you are looking into re-designing your office, then you have already begun to understand the impact that it can have on the efficiency of your business. From the colour of the walls to how big the windows are, there are a range of different factors which can influence how effectively employees can concentrate and the length of time in which you can expect them to remain focused. Some of the greatest office designs are simple in theory, but in the planning phase, the design must be tailored and adapted to the space in order to make it as effective as possible.

The key to creating an ideal office design, is being able to balance privacy with a collaborative work space. This means ensuring the means are available for staff to press on with work when required, while still having the means to communicate with others when their schedule permits. Such a setup is challenging to establish, but with the necessary due care and attention taken beforehand, an ideal design such as this is attainable and can provide significant benefits in areas which you may never have considered before.

Lighting

If employees are going to be sat at their desk for the majority of the day, then this first factor is important to consider. While it is necessary to have light of any type in the rooms to stop eyes from becoming strained, it is even more integral to allow natural light to flow through. Large windows, glazed screens or even skylights are all different tools which can be used to allow natural light in. Being exposed to this as opposed to synthetic light helps employees to sleep for longer, concentrate more, think more creatively, thereby helping to improve their mood and reduce stress. All in all, a lot of benefits to be had here.

Comfortable Furniture

If your office is still equipped with rickety old chairs, then they should definitely be the first thing which you throw out. Especially in situations where staff can be sat down for up to 8 hours a day, the prospect of doing so on a seat which is firm and squeaky is hardly going to get their mood up. Ergonomic desk chairs and comfortable seating in break spaces are hugely beneficial long term. Your employees are less likely to have issues with back or neck problems and it can also help to boost concentration as that perennial squeaking noise will finally be thrown out.

Keep The Space Clean and Tidy

It does not take an individual with OCD to become stressed out at the sight of a cluttered office space which makes it impossible to find things. With the advent of computers, there is no excuse for having paper lying around and for offices to be looking like a dump. Encouraging employees to keep their work space tidy can further benefit them as it helps to keep the mind tidy and focused on the task at hand.

Colour

As you are reading this, you probably have not been taking much notice of the colour of the environment around you. The walls, office partitions, and even your mug may appear minor, but colour can have a significant impact on the mood of your employees. Shades of red can help to bring out passion and aggression, while yellows are much better in creative spaces. It all boils down to what we associate colours with. So for example, when we think of green, one of our initial responses is grass and the countryside, which we immediately begin to associate with being calming and soothing. So while your company logo may be red, splattering that around the office whilst people are trying to be creative is less likely to result in the fantastic designs which you may have been hoping for.

Temperature

Temperature is quite obvious and there is no trickery of the mind involved. If the office space is poorly ventilated, then staff will begin to get too hot, stress levels will rise and before you know it you will regret having that fancy floral centrepiece over an air conditioning system. If the temperature is monitored and maintained throughout the day, then that is one thing less for employees to worry about.

Noise Levels

Noise levels are a factor which we feel very strongly about. There is nothing more frustrating than having to listen to the IT guy (or whoever else for that matter!) clicking a pen for 6 hours a day. This is particularly an issue in open office spaces where it is very easy for sound waves to bounce around and when there are over 10 people sat in an office, this just causes volume levels to rise and rise throughout the day. The unpredictable nature of sound waves also makes it one of the harder factors to address. While there are some more elaborate suggestions available, as a rule of thumb, introduce lots of soft surfaces like carpet and office screens for example, which can help to soak up the ambient office noise before it becomes too much of an issue.

Ensure The Space is Organised

If your business is growing, then this is great news for your company but bad news for your office design. More employees as a result leads to increasing noise levels, further distractions and it could potentially slow your growth levels down. So when re-designing, consider where desks are going to go, are one team going to be crammed into a corner when the space can be more effectively used by someone else? These are the types of issues which will only arise when the re-design is all said and done.

Brand The Space

Finally, you should treat your office like a showroom, even if you are only having visitors once a month. Having your branding visible creates the perception that you are established, trustworthy and that ultimately they are in the right place.

 

Office Screens

 

 

Why Privacy Should Be a Crucial Consideration in your Office Design

Office Design

When we think of modern office design, the first image that comes to mind is an expansive white space with light bouncing across the room. Picture perfect. The actual practicality of an environment like this is up for debate however. As we have moved away from cubicle style offices as well as series of individual offices, it is hard to escape the fact that the open plan office remains the most popular design available today. For one, it’s incredibly cost effective compared to other designs, all that is really required is a large open space which can be given a lick of paint. But while it seems an easy solution, there are a number of drawbacks which are hard to escape.

The whole idea behind having an open office is that they are supposed to ‘foster collaboration’ and make employees more productive. All your staff, working in close proximity, giving each other gentle encouragement with friendly pats on the back. Idyllic. So what happens when stress levels start to rise? Your account manager’s ‘unique’ laugh was a novelty when you first moved into the office, but now it is grinding you down every time you can hear it bounding across the office. You can’t escape the fact that colleagues flanked either side of you keep rearing their heads to see what you are doing. All of a sudden the idea of working as part of a team goes out of the window as you begin to suffocate from the restrictive nature which a poorly designed open plan office will deliver.

Why Do We Value Privacy So Much?

If you have ever worked in an open plan office… and if you are reading this I would wager that you have, you will probably be well versed in the pitfalls of the bullring style ‘collaborative work space’. If not and especially if you are re-designing your office, please listen in closer for the sake of your employees. Privacy is not something we are thankful for every day, but it is something we very much notice once it is taken away. In a wider context, imagine if your medical records were leaked, your issues at home spreading like wildfire at work or that *thing* you did when you were 18 years old and thought it would never the light of day again. How would that make you feel?

Having a colleague peering over your shoulder at work for 6 hours a day isn’t quite as drastic as these examples, but while it is manageable for a couple of days, the frustration of it all builds up. While you are trying to meet your deadline, all you can hear is the laughter booming from the other side of the office and phones ringing off the hook. When this happens, all you can hope to happen is to block out your surroundings in the hope of actually getting some work done. But simplistic open plan office designs do not facilitate this, they forget the intricacies of human relationships and they neglect the fact that everyone is different.

Office Design Needs Balance

By this point, you may be wondering how large companies such as Google which has set the benchmark in recent years for open office design, has been able to subvert some of these issues. Quite simply, they provide a variety of spaces for staff, some where they can sit with others and collaborate while they work. Then there are others which allow employees to sit in private, shut out the world around them and get on with the task at hand. Okay, so you don’t have a multi-acre estate to create a layout like this, but examples such as this highlights the importance of creating environments which allow staff privacy while still having the option to interact with others.

Headphone usage has been on the rise recently as bosses allow their usage so staff can focus, but this does not eliminate the issue of visual distractions. One solution for this can be to introduce Office Screens. These can add a splash of colour to the space especially if it has been whitewashed and more deluxe versions even integrate acoustic foam which can help to soak up some of that frustrating ambient noise which keeps bouncing over from the other side of the office.

What Should Be Considered…

Every work area is different, so this will require some thinking on your part. However, there is a fine line between giving someone privacy and simply just placing an employee in a box. Ask someone who worked in a cubicle what they thought of that. Open spaces are great when they are tempered with areas where staff can focus on one task at a time. Just because of all the space you have does not mean you need to fit in a desk wherever possible. Crowded offices become very noisy at peak times and can you seriously expect efficient work when teams are constantly trying to talk over each other?

Before you start, it would be beneficial to find out thoughts of those already working in the office, what is their pet peeve with the current design? To enable your employees to work at their optimum, it is important to integrate a design which allows them to get on with work at their pace. It is perhaps unrealistic to expect everyone to work 100% in every minute of the day, so the conditions need to be created so that when they are working, they are not constantly distracted by audible and visual distractions.

Office Design

 

Privacy and Why It Is Crucial for Concentration – Next Day Screens

Office Design

If you are reading this at work, then take a minute to look around you. Chances are that if you are reading this, you are probably procrastinating. No worries, we have all been there, but consider why you are procrastinating? Is the work mind-numbingly dull? Are you looking forward to going on holiday next week? Or are you feeling a bit overwhelmed by the buzz of chatter emanating from across the office? Whatever it is, it’s safe to say procrastination is often the direct result of becoming distracted.

The best working environments are those where we can get on with work in peace and quiet, not having to listen to what your colleagues did on their weekends or the seemingly perpetual phone ringing. This is a very common issue with the most popular design of office space – the open plan office. When interior designers first conjured this idea over 40 years ago, the ability to combine semi-private spaces with collaborative work areas appeared like a stroke of genius. The reality has been quite the opposite, in fact, in the UK alone, approximately 1.5million of us work from home as a result.

What is Privacy?

Privacy is quite a broad term and it means to be able to seclude yourself and then express whatever information as you please. In the world of CCTV cameras and supposed tracking over the internet, the whole idea of privacy has come under threat. That’s a whole can of worms which we won’t be looking into, but the same premise which causes us to feel unease at the thought of being watched, is the same reason why privacy is so important for concentration. Unless you have a magic switch which can flick off the environment around you, chances are your productivity is being hindered by loud voices, slamming doors, phones ringing, children screaming, and a whole myriad of other factors.

While many people claim to be able to multi-task, the fact is that while it may be possible to do two things at once, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on one without neglecting the other. Being able to focus is something which some are able to grasp better than others, and it is the others in particular who are most affected by audible or visual distractions. Whether you are studying, working or even just planning, the ideal environment would be a controlled space with nothing but you own thoughts.

So Why Do We Become Distracted?

Distractions and concentration are complexities in the brain which we are only just starting to get to grips with. Just like a machine, everything we do takes up resources so when we start to get hungry, those resource levels are low and we lack the necessary fuel to complete what we are trying to do. For example, if you slept less than usual last night, then as a result you are more likely to become distracted as your body has not had the chance to rejuvenate those resources and you are being hindered because of it.

Another major issue outlined by David Rock, explores this ever connected world which we live in. While workplace designs are gradually improving to help individual efficiency, things we may consider minor such as our mobile phones and the internet are soaking up a huge amount of our time. This all leads to a pretty vicious cycle; lack of resources means we struggle to focus, which then leads to becoming distracted, but by the time we get back to working, we have exhausted a lot of those resources on time wasting activities such as social media.

What Can I Do About It?

Just because you regularly become distracted easily does not mean there is no hope for you. As mentioned earlier, there is a growing number of people working from home who can control the environment around them, cutting down on the number of temptations and distractions. Therefore, providing an optimal environment for concentrating. Unfortunately, many of us do not have the luxury of completing our work whilst sat on the sofa wearing pyjamas. So, the trick is to plan ahead to attempt to stop the distractions before they begin.

If you can’t help but look up the instant there is movement in the office, then look into adding Office Screens to help keep your mind focused on your work. If the noise around you is simply becoming too much, then try out listening to music through some headphones (calming music with no lyrics, the latest hit single or your favourite 90s track are going make the distractions even worse). If your phone keeps vibrating all over your desk with all those group chats you regret joining, then now is the time to switch your phone off for an hour or two so your mind can focus on one thing at a time.

There are many tools out there to help you to stay focused. If you have ever found yourself searching for a blog online only to find yourself mindlessly logging into social media every day like you have done for the past 365 consecutive days, then there is help out there. For example, StayFocusd can be tuned with all the sites you visit and once you have spent long enough browsing through Twitter, the app will block you for the rest of the day. Pretty handy when you are used to watching hours slip by in a day!

So to put things simply, identify those factors which constantly leave you distracted and learn to ignore them or get rid of them altogether. Some are unavoidable, so look at your options to cover or mask them and with any luck, you should see your productivity soar!

If visual distractions are becoming a constant thorn in your side, then we can help. Here at Rap Industries, we manufacture Next Day Screens which can provide instant relief in the office so you no longer have to have your concentration broken by activity in the office. If you need any more information, you can give us a call on 01733 394941 or send an e-mail to sales@rapind.com.

Next Day Screens