flexible office

7 Ways to Make Your Office More Flexible (and Get More Value From the Space)

Physical office space is consistently one of the top expenses for any business.

On one hand, it’s worth the investment to make sure your team has a comfortable, productivity-boosting place to work. On the other, saving as much on overhead costs as you can is a smart business move.

That’s why many companies are making an effort to reduce expenses AND improve employee satisfaction by making their office spaces more flexible. By getting smart about planning and infrastructure, companies can significantly boost the value of their space and make it a more pleasant place to work.

A Flexible Floor Plan

You might not be able to change your existing floor plan much without extensive renovations. However, if you’re looking for a new office, you can definitely look for a space with more flexible architecture.

Avoid offices with big, permanent fixtures and lots of small rooms. Opt instead for offices with more open spaces that you can break down into smaller work areas with more flexible partitions, temporary walls, or even furniture. This will allow your organization to accommodate your staff as it grows and shrinks, and change to adapt to other cultural and organizational needs over time.

For example, this accounting firm had great success transforming what used to be a traditional lobby into a common area to maximize the use of space (and provide a more contemporary feel). But this kind of change isn’t easy to make with a limiting floor plan.

flexible office

Adaptable Furniture

There are a lot of cool furniture options on the market for employers who are prioritizing flexibility in their offices.

A quick web search reveals office tables and desks that flip up and nest together for easy storage, for example, and chairs that do the same.

Some types of tables easily fit together to accommodate large, conference-style meetings, then can be separated for a classroom-style layout or for individual work stations. (Here’s one example.)

Flexible office furniture is often equipped with wheels so that it can be moved to new spaces easily. Moveable walls, partitions, large whiteboards, and even entire meeting pods are now available with wheels so that employees can reconfigure rooms easily to meet their needs.

Better Connectivity and Equipment Access

Modern office work requires a steady supply of electricity. If there’s no easy way for employees to power their devices in a certain space, they won’t be able to work there for any extended period of time.

By making sure that more places in your office can accommodate all your employees’ personal equipment, you can get more use out of each room.

As we mentioned in our post 4 Modern Tools for the High-Tech Office, there are many ways to accommodate charging needs without long cords. There are charging docks, charging tables, charging lockers, and even chairs with charging access that make it easy for your employees to work from wherever is convenient for them.

You can also consider extending access to AV hookups in additional spaces in your office that could be appropriate for presentations or larger meetings. The right connections and equipment could transform breakrooms or common areas into great options for accommodating larger groups.

flexible office

Paper-Free Spaces

If your office still relies heavily on paper, consider digitizing paper-reliant processes to free up office space — and save money and boost efficiency in the process.

Of course, paper files tend to take up plenty of office space on their own in the form of heavy, unwieldy filing cabinets. But by going paper-free, you can also consider getting rid of things like the copy machine, heavy-duty printer, shredder, and related supplies, all of which can take up a decent amount of space. Add to that the personal paper storage that employees keep in their personal workspaces, and you could be looking at a lot of extra free space to use for other things.

As we wrote in our post 5 Sustainable Cost-Saving Ideas for Your Business, paperless solutions exist for almost every common administrative need. Digital apps can handle everything from file storage to office communications to accounting to visitor management. Digital tools also give you access to lots of helpful reports and make it easier to find files when you need them.

Flexible Style and Decor

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about how important it is for your office to make a good impression. You can impress visitors and potential hires with statement-making wow features like murals or living walls, for example.

However, another school of thought would be to avoid anything too permanent in your office and keep the design as simple and classic as possible.

The goal should be to create a space that’s beautiful and appealing, but that can quickly and easily adapt to changing office needs (staff levels, cultural shifts, branding changes, and more). This will help your office stand the test of time, and keep you from spending unnecessary time and energy updating it.

The goal should be to create an office space that’s beautiful, but can also easily adapt to changing office needs. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet

For example, most companies re-work their logo or their colors every so often. If your brand colors are all over your office, that means a lot of extra redesign work (and expense) each time your brand changes. Another example: Permanent murals may look really great when a room is configured for one purpose, but when you start to rearrange the furniture for other things, it might no longer work.

Similarly, bright, modern furniture styles can be great for making a distinct impression, but it’s also an expense that you might have to reconsider as styles change and as your internal brand evolves. More classic styles won’t suffer the same fate and can be used more interchangeably throughout the office.

Usable Outdoor Space

To add even more flexibility to your office, look outside.

If your office has any outdoor space or is situated on a lot with a little land, you might be able to encourage workers to use the space for meetings, breaks, or even exercise.

Fresh air and time in nature can help ease stress and boost energy.

Office Policies That Encourage Flexibility

Office infrastructure (architecture, furniture, wiring, decor) is just the first step in establishing a truly flexible office.

The other essential component is office policies and leadership. To improve flexibility, organizational leaders will have to dictate things like:

  • whether workers will have assigned desks, or are expected to float to whatever workspace suits them
  • whether workers can ensure they have access to the right kind of space when they need it (such as by reserving certain spaces ahead of time)
  • whether there’s the right mix of private space for uninterrupted work, space for small group collaborations, and AV-equipped space for larger meetings
  • whether workers feel comfortable working where they’re most productive (such as in a private space instead of in the visible group work area)
  • whether workers feel like they can take advantage of the adaptable office space by moving furniture and room dividers around for their own purposes

If you’re doing away with assigned desks and adopting a completely activity-based workplace model, there’s an even greater need for leadership. Expectations need to be clear about how employees can signal that they’re busy and don’t want to be disturbed, how and when employees should make phone calls, and which areas of the office are designated for quiet work vs. collaboration.

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