Q. What are the Factors to consider when planning the office layout?

What are the Factors to consider when planning the office layout?


The first thing to consider: Is the space large enough to accommodate the staff numbers required, with each staff member allocated enough desk/work space and adequate breakout and collaboration facilities?

It is important to workout just how much desk space a full time or hot desking staff member requires. This is usually governed by the amount of IT equipment required, coupled with any paperwork as reference material for the user at the workstation. As a guide, the minimum desk size that can accommodate two monitors, or a monitor and a laptop combination is 1.4m wide x 700mm deep. For a single monitor workstation, the usual size would be 1.2m wide x 600mm deep.  Whereas someone that only requires an occasional workspace for a laptop or tablet can work on a surface approx. 700mm wide x 600mm deep.

Once the numbers of staff and desk sizes have been agreed, it is then up to a space planner to see if the required amount of staff can be accommodated. However, there are still key factors yet to be considered before the design work can take place. Most desks will need to be close to a power source in able to power the IT. It needs to be ascertained if the power sockets are located around the perimeter walls or in a false floor, as this will have a major impact on where the desks can be located.

Routes to escape

Routes of escape,  sensible corridor/walkways and spaces behind the desks need to be considered carefully during the planning of the office space. A chair will take up approximately 800mm behind a desk but it is always better to allow a minimum of 1m. When you have two chairs back to back, a minimum of 1.8m should be allowed as an absolute minimum between the desktops.

Storage Requirements

Storage requirements should also be considered. Does each user require personal storage at their desk? Or would a centrally controlled locker system be a better use of space and also a more cost-effective solution. Shared storage can be housed in one location or medium height storage units can be useful in dividing up departments and space.

Natural Light

Natural light and good air circulation are important for staff moral and a healthy working environment. If possible, workstations should be close to natural light but glare on computer screens should be considered when orientating the desks.

Any enclosed spaces required i.e. meeting rooms, private offices, prayer rooms, tea making facilities etc. also need to be considered.

Creating an office plan is not an easy process, especially if you are not familiar with measuring and drawing in scale. If you are going to give it a try then you need to decide if you are going to measure and draw in metric or imperial. (meters/centimeters/millimeters or feet/inches) Most will measure and draw in metric. It is much easier to create an office plan using a CAD program which is usually done by a space planning expert. You can also create an office plan by drawing by hand.

The aim is create a representational drawing of your office space so that you can experiment with locating furniture within the space without having to do it in the real world. This allows you to plan in a much easier way!

Cellular Offices: Small offices within a larger space that contain one or more person working separately to others.

Open Plan Offices: Large offices where everyone works in the same area, regardless of their position or department.

Coworking Office: An office where you do not have a designated workspace. Often utilising breakout spaces, high benches and standard desks to provide a varied choice of workspace.

Virtual Office: An online environment where staff can congregate and collaborate.

The Coworking and open plan offices provide the most effective spaces for staff to collaborate and interact. This improves interaction between departments/positions and encourages teamwork.

Here are the main objectives of office space planning:

  • To ascertain that the space can accommodate the amount of staff required
  • To confirm that the amount of staff that are accommodated have a large enough workspace to their specific tasks.
  • To show that adequate space has been left for corridors, routes of escape etc. and that all standard regulations have been adhered to.
  • To provide an office environment that will inspire and increase productivity of staff as well as be a pleasant place to work.

Making your office space look fun isn’t just a matter of introducing lots of colour. Some offices are large enough to have breakout areas where colour can be introduced. Likewise, colour can be introduced in screens that divide up banks of desks. When introducing colour to an office, many factors should be considered. HR departments for instance would probably benefit from more subdued colours rather than bright or hard colours. Whereas a Sales team may well benefit from bright and uplifting colours. Discover other space planning challenges and opportunities here.

Artwork and elements from popular culture also serve to give an office a sense of fun. Pool tables, Table tennis or Foosball tables also serve to create fun element to the workplace but can also be distracting to others.

Office desks are normally located close to natural light to increase workers mood. Sometimes this may not be possible (if the office is located in a basement for instance) in which case lighting becomes increasingly important. Most desks are going to be located near to a power source. It used to be the case that a desk would also need to be located near a data point, this is not as important now with Wi-Fi being a lot more secure. All computers require power though, so when space planning it is important to know if the office power is located around the perimeter walls or in floor boxes so that the desks can be space planned correctly.

The other consideration would be the use of the desk. If the desk is to be used a s a reception desk then it should ideally face the entrance door. If the desk is located in an accounts department then it is likely that the computer monitor would need to be orientated away from public view.

Consider the smallest size desks that would accommodate the equipment needed for you to work. Integrate storage units into the desk space. Try and store filing digitally to keep the amount of paperwork to a minimum.

If space allows, a modern office will not just contain standard desks. You may wish to consider sit/stand desks as a proportion of the total desk requirement and also include a softer breakout area. Collaboration tables are popular solutions for staff that only require a small place to work on an irregular basis.

Try and cut down the amount of equipment required. For example, if you have a small office with three people working at computers, you can network one printer between all three, rather than have three separate printers, which would take up more space.

You will only need building regulation approval if you are making changes to the structure of the office space or changing use i.e .turning a garage into an office. Planning permission will be required if you are making changes to the external appearance of the office or sometimes for change of use as well.

Although not ideal, small desks may be better located facing walls around the perimeter of the office. When the office is small, there may not be more than one way in which to arrange the furniture in a restricted space.

In order to layout an office correctly, you will need to collect the following information to produce a space plan layout:

  1. How many staff do you need to accommodate?
  2. What equipment/technology does each person require?
  3. Do you have specific teams or staff that need to be grouped together?
  4. Are there any focal areas required that multiple staff would need to access i.e. storage or library, print area, refreshment area etc?
  5. Is there an acoustic question to be asked i.e. does any person or persons/team require privacy or quiet to carry out their duties?
  6. Are cellular offices, meeting rooms, breakout or collaboration spaces required?
  1. Open Plan Office – A large office space often populated by clusters of bench style desks
  2. Cellular Office – A space divided up into smaller offices to carry out confidential work
  3. Cubicles – A large office space that is populated by individual desks that are surrounded by mid height acoustic screens to designate the users personal space
  4. Team Grouping – Placing teams in benches or clusters together rather to encourage people with similar roles to improve workflow
  5. Co-Working/Collaboration – Office Space provided by a third party to multiple companies consisting of various working and breakout spaces
  6. Hybrid Office – A workplace that caters for all types of worker i.e. has video conferencing suite to engage with home workers, meeting rooms, collaboration areas, cellular offices, cubicles and team areas
  7. Virtual Office/Home Office – Workers that are situated at home or within Co-Working Offices that collaborate via video call

For a two person office you will need to consider the following in order for both people to be comfortable working together:

  1. Are both of the occupants performing similar roles?
  2. Is one or both occupants loud?
  3. Does one or both require any element of privacy?
  4. What equipment/storage is required for both occupants to carry out their duties?