Modern Office Planning and Layout Types
By Shahar Alster
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder
We’ve entered the age of custom. People forgo mass-produced, standardized commodities in favor of tailored solutions. Cookie-cutter homes are out; unique remodels are in. Off-the-rack clothes are waning; personalized subscription boxes reign supreme. Even modern office planning and layout types fall within the realm of custom. No two workplaces are the same, so why should the office layout be generic?
As with all things custom, the benefit comes from a tailored solution—not just unique for the sake of being unique. Rearranging desks into an obscure layout doesn’t make for a modern workplace. Instead, it’s about utilizing available workspace in creative ways to meet employee demands.
Coordinating a modern workplace floor plan takes work. More than anything, it requires a comprehensive understanding of new-age workspace types—their benefits and drawbacks, and what they offer your workforce. Here’s a look at some of the most common:
1. The conventional office
Let’s start with the benchmark: the traditional office. It’s a workplace filled with barriers—cubicle walls, individual offices, and tucked-away conference rooms. It doesn’t promote socialization and tends toward the higher end of the utilization scale—dangerously close to overcrowding. After all, the solution to maximizing space in a conventional office is to pack more people in, while isolating them to give the illusion of space.
2. Benching (open office)
The open office layout is a 180-degree change from the conventional office. There are as few walls as possible, which promotes consistent socialization and camaraderie. Open offices foster collaboration and inclusion, while dissolving the hierarchy of conventional offices.
Their drawbacks? Open offices can be open to a fault. Distractions are plentiful and noise pollution is a problem. Benching is best supplemented by private space for days when people feel more introverted or need to buckle down.
3. Activity-based environments
Activity-based spaces—a popular modern office floor plan—serve the needs of the people using them. They’re highly versatile, easily configurable, and instantly accessible. Activity-based spaces are also agile and support rapid changeover. Because they’re used when needed, activity-based environments are smart paths to efficient space utilization.
The downfall of activity-based environments is a lack of personal space. When employees are constantly on the move or adapting to changing workspaces, they need to plant roots somewhere. Personal lockers or cubbies are a great solution.
4. Desk neighborhoods
An intermediate desking option between benching and the conventional office are desk neighborhoods. They’re staples of modern office planning and layout. They bring small groups of coworkers together to foster collaboration, while still maintaining personal space for each person. Transitioning from individual work to collaborative projects is easy.
Desk neighborhood skeptics believe desk clumps make people too accessible to their coworkers. It’s important to establish etiquette with this type of arrangement. Privacy is also a concern, so provide areas where employees can retreat, if needed.
5. Hot desks
No creative coworking space design is complete without hot desks. These first-come, first-served workstations promote employee choice and offer opportunities as diverse as your workforce. Hot desks cater to individual work habits. Plus, employees can change their desking choice as often as they want to deter complacency and stave off the doldrums.
But be beware of hot desk territorialism! Encourage employees to vary their habits among different spaces, and make sure there’s a diverse array of hot desk locations and types. It’s also critical to use a space management system and define etiquette for hot desk use.
6. Hospitality and remote-worker friendly
Even when employees don’t come into the office, it’s still important to cultivate a welcoming, efficient workplace.
For part-time staff and occasional on-site visitors, hotel desks let them pick their seat and reserve it in advance. They’ll know exactly where they’re sitting and how to get there when they arrive. There’s no confusion about where to sit or accessing materials—hoteling takes care of everything.
For full-time, remote employees, consider the shape of your digital office. Are you providing the right cloud-based software and services? What about communication and networking apps? Some companies pay for their remote workers’ coworking space memberships. Remember, workplace is about enabling work—no matter where work happens.
Understand the work to shape the space
Shifting to a new, modern floor plan isn’t a small change. The goal: make sure it’s the right one. Take workplace planning by the horns and approach redesign with employees in mind. What kind of space do they need? What modern workspaces fit the bill? How can you make it work within the facilities available to you?
Your business is unlike any other, and your employees are unique individuals with their own needs and wants. In the age of custom, cultivating a unique, modern workplace isn’t an extravagance—it’s a necessity. Success demands an understanding of workplace planning and the prototypical types of spaces used today.
Keep reading: Best office layout for productivity.