One of the best things about working with companies to design their commercial office space is their enthusiasm in creating a new professional environment. Perhaps it is this enthusiasm that also causes companies to forget what are often fundamental issues impacting how their new working space will function.
In the spirit of learning from previous experience, outlined here - in no particular order - are some of the top six issues that companies in the Middle East may overlook when designing their office layouts.
Overlooked issue one
Expansion needs for future growth. The Middle East incorporates some of the world's fastest-growing economies, yet companies often only plan to outfit offices for their current employee base. When designing a new space, management needs a clear picture on how many people are likely to be using it in the next six months to two years, based on the company's growth strategy. Otherwise, previously pristine offices can be compromised by new desks and other necessary expansion elements added haphazardly.
Overlooked issue two
Storage optimization. Many companies don't realize or account for exactly what needs to be stored in their offices, from marketing materials to sales collateral to employee belongings. In each new office layout, careful thought should be given to an appropriate level of storage space that can be easily accessed by staff who require it. And although storage space is not always necessarily overlooked, it often takes a back seat to work place aesthetics, which eventually results in untidy offices, cluttered desks, and a poor work environment.
Overlooked issue three
Communications equipment and flow. In today's technology-centric world, companies need to consider how to manage space for their IT equipment, including appropriate cooling and security if required. But communications needs are also more basic in office design, and need to encompass which teams work most closely together, whether the company needs separate meeting space such as multiple conference rooms and how large these should be, and even considerations such as privacy rooms for more sensitive phone calls to be made in open-plan offices.
Overlooked issue four
Traffic flow. Companies designing their office space should think about how both staff and visitors will make their way through the work space - including the ideal locations for reception desks, restrooms, kitchens, conference space, and fire exits should an emergency occur. Outlining smooth traffic flow helps ensure that colleagues can work more efficiently and effectively together. Remember, it is not about how many people can be fitted into an office space but more about the effective use of office space and the optimization of human resources, employee well-being and output.
Overlooked issue five
Acoustics and sound masking. Noise costs businesses money. Research suggests that office workers can lose up to two hours a working day through broken concentration. The worst offenders are vocal colleagues, mobile phone ring tones, and noise generated by arriving emails on computers. Summertown clients who have advocated open-plan offices or ones with trendy touches such as cement floors have often not considered the auditory ramifications of these choices. When looking at new office space, think about how sound carries in the office, and the effect that a team of excitable sales people all working the phones together may have on the rest of the company, for example. Sound masking technology and a well-considered design plan can alleviate acoustic issues from the very beginning.
Overlooked issue six
Price versus quality. Locally operating organizations often overlook the consequences of going with the cheapest option not necessarily the best. International organizations are installing more and more flexible work sites, each of which are used by more than one person. Desk sharing increases the occupancy of desks. Apart from wishing to promote flexible work styles, customers can also achieve cuts in operating costs. This involves the need to make intelligent use of office space and furnishing solutions. Intelligent solutions combined with a long working life lower the total cost of ownership even if the initial investment may be slightly higher. Too often is the price-only-approach the motivating factor in the decision-making process
In our years of experience in designing offices for some of the Middle East's most prominent businesses and multinational brands, the Summertown Interiors team have seen some fantastic client ideas, but we've also had narrow escapes in catching these overlooked issues and others before they became sources of contention. Before you invest in fitting out your new office space, give some measured thought to these considerations to ensure that it meets your current and future business needs.