By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

Working in a small office means contending with the limitations of its square footage. Estimates cite the need for every employee to have a minimum of 100 square feet of workspace. But that’s often hard to come by. Changing the fundamental layout of your workplace, making the switch to less cumbersome furniture, and redecorating can make a difference. Luckily, there are a few small office design ideas geared toward employee comfort and productivity:

1. Give neighborhoods a try

Home base for most small-office employees is a personal desk. One option to maximize space is a desk neighborhood. That’s a fancy way to describe grouping the desks of team members together as a way to inspire camaraderie and collaboration.

For small offices, limiting desk neighborhoods to pairs or quads is best. Anything larger becomes more of an open office concept and reduces focus on teammates. Remember: smaller groupings are meant to foster close-knit affiliations between coworkers.

When setting up desk neighborhoods in a small office, pay mind to thoroughfares. Make sure there’s a clear, unobstructed path from one end of the office to the other. Leave plenty of space between desks—enough for people sitting back-to-back to lean back without bumping. Most importantly, consciously pair neighbors to avoid employee friction and tension.

2. Flexible workspaces are worth a look

If you’ve got a small office and a small workforce, flexible workspaces such as hot desks may be the answer. These open, unassigned seats allows employees and office mates to use desks as needed—when they’re available. They’re a great way to make use of space without focusing on one specific area of the office.

Small companies can create flexible workplaces from unused meeting rooms and offices. Turn a conference room in a group work area and lounge. A tiny office becomes a media room and phone booth. Coupled with a good scheduling system, employees have access to multiple options for work, collaboration, and relaxation.

3. Free up space with new furniture

Beyond desk layouts and seating arrangements, some of the best small office design ideas are the ones that focus on furniture. Because furniture can cover the largest swath of square footage, it’s the obvious place to start.

Think smaller and simpler. Bulky desks can be replaced with standing units that maximize space for tech components and less clutter. Minimalist furniture can have a big visual impact without taking up a ton of space. Geometric tables offer the same number of seats as traditional rectangle ones, but bring teams closer together for better collaboration.

No furniture is also an option. Tear down cubicles and eliminate big file cabinets by digitizing paper files or moving them to off-site storage. Less furniture means more space for employee work areas.

4. Decorate with a theme

Décor goes a long way in bringing out the personality of your office. Walls with art and mounted accents break up the blandness of white paint. Hanging light fixtures or decorations from the ceiling bring dimension to the space. Plants are great for a natural, vibrant aesthetic, as well as color accents throughout the office.

Decorating a small office also reinforces your brand. Use company colors and logos to tie the workplace to  your business. This can foster employee pride and show visitors you’re here to stay. It doesn’t have to be dramatic; make your space an extension of your intangible brand.

5. Balance work and life in subtle ways

Employees in small workplaces may feel boxed in, which can impact mental and physical well being. It’s important to give staff an outlet—something for work-life balance. You may not have a lot of real estate to work with, but there are a few ways to boost morale.

Give your break room a makeover by adding a new fridge, cappuccino/espresso machine, healthy snack options, and proper dishware. For many employees, the break room is their space to unwind—even a TV can help a cramped workplace feel a little more comfortable.

Beyond the break room, pay mind to the areas of the office that cause friction. For example, move the copier near a window. Employees can take in the view and soak in some much-needed natural light while waiting for a report to print.

6. Don’t be constrained by space

You can’t magically push the walls of your office outward without…at least not without spending a large sum of money. What you can do is make the most of the space you have. Try these creative concepts and see if you can make your workplace a little more accommodating—at least until a bigger space becomes a practical investment.

Small Office Design Idea Checklist

Trying to make the most of your limited real estate? Finding the right small office design—one that maximizes space utilization and employee comfort—comes down to working with what you’ve got. Here’s a quick checklist to follow, to help you unlock the best value from the space you’ve got:

  1. Try a new desk layout or rearrange seating
    • Neighborhoods
    • Hot desks
    • Open office design
  2. Consider flexible workspaces
    • Agile spaces
    • Activity-based spaces
    • Hot desks
  3. Try new furniture arrangements
    • Minimalist furniture
    • New arrangements
    • Downsize furniture
  4. Decorate with a theme in mind
  5. Create a reminder of work-life balance
  6. Identify and eliminate friction points

There’s a lot of possibility for small office designs. Unlocking your office’s potential comes down to realizing the many opportunities to make the most of what you have. From new seating arrangements to a better décor scheme, everything matters when space is limited.

Keep reading: reception area ideas for small offices