There are quite a few critical decisions that will underpin the structure of an office layout such as the division of public and private areas and the relative arrangement of empty space. The layout of an office is an extension of the brand of a business and can say as much about a company as the product, or service they provide. When planning an office layout the style and appearance are important factors to consider, but in order to be effective the layout also needs to carefully consider the required information flow, to ensure that the office performs at optimum capacity. The plan will need to account for any paper distribution, telecommunications, or face-to-face interaction that form part of the communication system within the office, and how this can be most effectively accommodated.
Modular Workstation Layout
With the modular plan a variety of furnishings and panels can be used to divide space into individual work areas. Storage units will be deployed next to desks or tables to section off areas. A modular office design allows employees to have a fully functioning space in terms of desks, storage, and area lighting. This style of office can be tailored to suit the specific duties of the occupants. In some situations, this modular approach provides a more functional system than an open space style concept. It is particularly compatible in an office that has considerable storage requirements. In addition to being modelled around the needs of the user this style of office layout can be changed quickly and easily if required.
Cluster Workstation Layout
The main principle of a cluster approach is to focus employee workstations around a central core. This can be achieved by distributing dividers from a hub, and arranging them in a pattern similar to the spokes in a wheel. Employee work areas can then be equipped with all of the typical features that they require including desk, storage, and filing space. Generally speaking, a cluster layout is not as elaborate as a modular, or open space format. This type of system is most effective in an office where employees spend at least some of their working day away from their designated working area. The advantage of the cluster layout is the economy of space provided and the ease with which the layout can be changed. The cluster layout is a relatively inexpensive format of office design.
This style of office layout originated in the spiritual home of efficient office structure; Germany, and is now extensively used in offices across the globe. The landscape layout offers a combination of cluster and modular styles with the addition of a wide range of space elements, ambient lighting and decoration. Plants and foliage are deployed as visual barriers and to enhance aesthetics. A key difference from either the modular, or cluster approaches is that the landscape layout defies the rigid sense of organization. Instead work areas are set out at a variety of angles. The original landscape layout did not include the use of any private areas, but most organizations that adopt this system use a hybrid approach with a ratio of approximately 80:20% open to private areas.
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Open Plan Layout
Offices that use a completely open plan layout will tend to have higher levels of noise pollution, but are generally considered to have much better levels of communication. This particular style of layout is more common in offices where employees are engaged with computer based tasks rather than telecommunications. The organization of desk structure in an open plan layout may be in a circular format with as many as four people on a quad desk. Alternately this layout might have sections arranged in a horizontal line structure. One perceived advantage of this system is that people are not secluded in cubicles and, therefore are able to see each other working. There are obviously some considerations about the lack of privacy in a completely open plan format, but this structure does enforce a sense of teamwork and the need for clear lines of collaboration.
Traditional Closed Office Layout
It goes without saying that you are unlikely to find a CEO at work in a cubicle, or on a desk in an open plan office. Nor would you want to. Other than in some exceptional cases this situation is likely to create an uncomfortable working environment. It is essential for any successful office to have some private space, if for no other reason than to give employees a sense of aspiration, that they might raise their status and be entitled to their own section of the office. A traditional closed office layout will provide heavily partitioned space with a clear hierarchical structure. There may be an open plan, modular, or cluster area but there will also be a clearly designated section for senior officials within the closed office space. This traditional sort of system provides many benefits in terms of structure, and organization, but can impose some barriers on communication.