Exploring an Ideal Office Environment – Part 1

While I don’t believe there is such a thing as an ‘Ideal Office Design, I do believe a pick and mix approach can work. Elements of this Ideal Agile Office can be used and adapted to suit the specific needs of a business and encourage flexible working, but there is no “one size fits all” approach.  

The team were set the task of creating an imaginary Ideal Agile Office Design that took into account the key elements of agile working. No client, no restrictions, no building (which turned out to be one of the trickiest things to work out!). It may sound great but as it turns out, having no parameters or even a building makes things a lot harder. We started by creating little zones/groups with furniture. This included a collaboration set up, a private working area, meeting areas etc. However, we soon realised that one area impacts the surrounding areas and this type of grouping of furniture could not be done in isolation.

ideal office

We decided we needed the restrictions and consequently the design solutions that come out of working to an actual building. We wanted a space that was interesting, had a design feel in its own right, but was large enough to house a wide range of ‘zones’ / working style. Taking a bit of designer license (making it 10x its actual size), we opted for our own archive room at the Bradford office, with its industrial feel, strong statement beams, corrugated metal roof and exposed brickwork. With the location sorted, all we had to do was design it, populate the Revit model, select finishes, lighting, select acoustics and more.

Populating the building with furniture, rooms, ancillary items etc was the fun part. We had already identified the flexible working zones we required which were – Reception, Kitchen/Cafe, Individual Working / Quiet Spaces, Collaboration, Relax / Unwind and Meeting / Workstations.

ideal office planReception was the obvious one at the entrance. We then located the cafe area opposite the reception so it could double up as an informal / catch up space for people that didn’t necessarily need to go into the main office. This location also worked by keeping the noisier ‘cafe’ conversations away from the main office reducing distraction. 

Directly off the reception and still visible from the reception (which allows visitors in the reception area a glimpse into the dynamic side of the company), is a large collaboration area. This area includes tables that allow employees to have group discussions, various sizes of booths for more focused collaboration and 1-2-1’s and lounge seating for quick teamwork. 

collaborative agile working spaces

Rooms and designated areas were then added for relaxing spaces, areas where you can clear your mind and ultimately recharge. These spaces are important for employee wellbeing as well as productivity . In many cases, a happy employee often equals to greater output! 

Workstations were then clustered in 2 areas; these zones are dedicated to computer work where an ergonomic solution is needed. Task chairs are used for maximum back support and height adjustable desks are positioned in between the standard desks to allow flexibility and encourage movement. Storage has been kept to a minimum, some companies still have a large requirement for storage solutions i.e. legal firms, but with the move towards paperless offices we felt it important to reflect this. We opted for low level storage on the end of the workstations allowing it to provide dual purpose in terms of storage for employees and a way to separate the workstations.

Jot sit standing height adjustable desks

Several meeting pods were added for more private meetings throughout the space as well as large formal meeting rooms to the back. Quiet areas were then clustered around the office. These zones are for employees to use when they have work to do that requires concentration, focus and less distractions. 

I believe it is important for offices to offer flexible working when a variety of tasks are required. For example you can’t expect to get the best out of your staff if they have to write an important report whilst sat at a desk surrounded by people having a conversation about website design ideas. Ultimately the office design must fit with the company you are working in terms of needs and brand.

The next stage in our Ideal Agile Office, once populated, was to select finishes – which turned out to be the most time consuming element – which is a whole other blog! Read part 2 here.