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Corporate Office Interiors : Small is the new big...



At one time, big used to matter.

Big meant economies of scale, profits and stability. Big meant service, reliability and solidity...

Not these days.

In the current economic climate – of recession and slow growth -- Big does not matter. Big becomes unaffordable. Big becomes difficult to maintain. Big becomes slow. Big means less transparency (Enron, Andersen etc.). Big computers appear inefficient. iPods outsell huge boom boxes. People prefer smaller cars that are easier to drive, park and save fuel.

A new way to work is emerging.

Small is the new big. Small means niche. Small means customised, personalised service. Small means more attention to the customer – which means more business and more profits. Smaller companies out profit larger ones. You succeed because you are good. Not because you are big.

THE NEW MANIFESTO: Get small. Think big.

Trends:

  • Traffic, fuel prices and office space rentals keep increasing. People like to commute less.

  • We can work anywhere, anytime. Executives are less ‘table bound’.

  • We have smaller devices for everything. We have TFT screens instead of chunky CRT monitors. We have laptops instead of PCs. Because of this, the footprint of a workstation is getting smaller. An 8’x8’ workstation is 7’x7’now.

  • We realise that we work more in teams. So we need better collaboration skills.

  • Companies realise that offices are huge branding opportunities.

  • Studies prove that people work better when they like where they work.

  • ‘Green is the new black’. Environment consciousness. Recycling. A Paperless Office.

  • New Corporate Design : Mobility, Flexibility and Sustainability.

So ... the Ideal Solution ?

Have smaller conveniently located offices with better meeting / collaboration facilities. The office should promote the brand, be beautiful and save the environment.

Design Implications …

  • Since the workspace footprint has reduced, have smaller workstations. Reduce guest chairs. Have common meeting rooms.

  • Since executives are less table bound and travel more, have shared ownership of ‘private cabins’. Each executive could get a personalised pedestal. But share closed cabins.

  • For transparency & interaction, lower partitions. Open up the work hall. Use more glass.

  • Vary the workstation sizes. Some need more space to work. Some less. One size need not fit all.

  • Create private enclaves and touchdown zones -- Bigger common spaces but private enclaves for occasional personal talk. After arriving into the office, people first check their mails (touchdowns). After that its team work throughout. So why waste space in all day touchdowns and private enclaves?

  • Have more informal break out zones. Smaller workstations but more leisure breakout areas. People meet more. Discuss more. Collaborate more.

  • Why not have conference rooms in the middle of workstations ? The buzz of one feeds the other. Visitors feel the office culture.

  • Divisible configurable space eg. Two smaller meeting rooms combined into a larger conference room. Pedestals being combined into a smaller meeting table etc. etc.

  • Multipurpose functional spaces. Combine e.g. Storage units become partitions. Reception waiting areas double up as meeting rooms. Perhaps have no reception at all.

  • Use technology to the max. Touch-screens, conference tables with hidden laptop stations, workstations with changeable heights (from sitting to standing), wiMAX, LEDs, laptops rather than desktops, glass that turns opaque at the switch of a button.

  • Since you have more and larger common facilities to promote interaction, provide better amenities for employees. Cafeterias, study lounges, play areas, gyms, prayer rooms, shower rooms. Leisure begets creativity.

  • Use glass and lots of reflective material to increase light. If possible, locate the office near an external wall to get the maximum natural light you can.

  • Use colour boldly. Colour is the cheapest makeover. A monochromatic colour scheme – in sync with the brand – makes the space look bigger.

  • Though small, offices should enhance employee and visitor experience. Play with textures. Surfaces. But maintain the story. Convey the legacy.

  • Save Energy. Dimmable lighting. Use mirror optic fixtures for efficient lighting. 5 star rated air conditioners. Automated, sensitive and intelligent systems for lighting, air conditioning, security etc. Go paperless.

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