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A Guide to Workplace Planning

Filed under: Uncategorized — emitaliablog
Posted on April 11, 2010 @ 1:16 pm
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In the current economic climate, it’s not just employees who will be coming under scrutiny in lots of organisations, but the effective use of work space as well.

With major advancements in the use and accessibility to mobile technology, it’s rather easy and in some instances a lot more efficient for the employer and employee to agree a flexible working arrangement. So in addition to the more traditional accommodation for office based personnel, employees are now able to operate from home and work from several places during the working week. Even when in an work place, hot-desking, touch-down areas or hotelling are all common arrangements being designed for the mobile worker.

In providing this flexibility, it is critical that the company considers how to ensure the business premises are employed to their maximum efficiency. It’s a major task for just about any employer, who will not wish to view rows and rows of empty workstations day after day.

Successful workplace planning is one thing that many organisations are now considering. There exists much to consider for instance minimum space requirements, lighting requirements, fire exit and disabled access criteria , to name but a few. So purchasing the help and advice from a expert workplace planning designer and installer can be a worthwhile investment decision.

It is not just about efficient planning and utilisation of space. Is mobile working and the creating of hot desking areas best suited for the company? In some organisations, the company culture as well as the flexibility of employees means that such projects work. In alternative companies it may not. There are many areas to consider in preparing the workplace environment. No two firms are identical. For one company, it might be determined that a rousing working situation for employees is needed, whereas with other organisations effective use of area around the office area will be a priority. Which ever is the best for your personal company, you will want to make sure the company’s culture and values are clearly understood by workers.

The job schedule can take several weeks or in the case of bigger plans several months in order to complete. In either case, from the beginning the process needs to display a distinct plan to maximise the use of area, office and layout design, construction timescales and management of trades-people whilst on site. The company’s workforce will also have to be temporarily relocated when the work is carried out. Additionally , there are stringent health and safety rules in regards to the work place, which have to be adhered to in the planning of the project.

Work environment planning companies will carry out a site survey of the business premises to try and fully grasp if this type of system is likely to be a winner. From the contractors perspective, it is a valuable practice, to make the time to discuss and agree the specifications with the client in order that once the course of action is agreed, work will be scheduled to ensure the bare minimum disruption to the business. Taking time to assess your workplace planning requirements is an essential element of any office reorgansiation

There are specific companies to undertake professional office fit outs with really economical rates.One such company’s website can be found here.

What should be taken into consideration when planning the workplace area?

One of the most critical considerations when undertaking workplace planning is to be absolutely clear about what tasks will be performed in the designated areas. Different layouts, different furniture, the amount of space required, should all be considered depending upon the tasks to be employed in the area. So whether the workplace is to be for permanent staff or mobile workers, consideration needs to be given to the comfort of the working environment, to aid productivity.

Permanent workers will spend many hours at their work station so it is important that consideration is given to individual work areas. The correct provision of the appropriate office furniture and equipment all aid productivity and efficiency levels. Each employee will require their own personal space around their work station. No one likes to be closed in and there are many variations of desk design, from single to multi desk designs to ensure enough space for each employee.

Comfort at the work station is a key priority to ensure that health problems are avoided through being in the seated position for long periods of time, so a comfortable chair is essential. Lighting is also a key consideration. A more pleasant office environment is created where the office has good natural light , but consideration will also need to be given to avoid glare on computer screens. Telephone communication also needs to be well positioned on the desk. Equally, for the flexible worker, ease of connecting up a laptop and mobile phone will be essential.

It is important to consider all of these issues to, as far as possible avoid distractions from other areas of the office which could interfere with work. However, employers need to get the balance right, as it is just as important to maintain good communication and working relationships within the office. Ensure that every employee has sufficient space to effectively and efficiently undertake their tasks, without being distracted by other workers close by. Therefore, in some cases, the provision of a conference room to enable one-to-one or group discussions to be held, may be another effective element of the office design.

In my opinion, the most effective way in which to ensure that employees buy-in to what the employer is trying to achieve is to involve with the employees. Through consultation, the employees can give their views on what type of workstation will be best suited to performing the tasks.

For example if the environment is to be used by a sales person, where regular communication with clients is required, then a slightly more secluded working environment may be preferred to avoid background noise, particularly if discussing detailed proposals or contracts. A sales person is one type of employee who will have mobile working requirements, where a small amount of their working week will be spent in the office, whilst the rest of their time will be spent out on the road visiting potential and existing clients.

If the environment is in a finance department or call centre, then the use of system desking or multi seated work stations may be a more appropriate solution, where a number of employees can be seated in a work area together. Whatever the intended working environment consider the views of the employees.

Together with virtually any refurbishment undertaking ergonomic office space planning guidelines must be stuck to.

Health and Safety in the office

Whatever the office conditions, the employees should be allowed a degree of flexibility to arrange their work station to suit their own needs. As long as the employer has provided and considered the requirements of the working environment to allow employees to undertake their work effectively, employees will want to add a personal touch to their own work area. As long as employees do not place their own health and safety or that of others at risk, then there is nothing wrong with the employer allowing some flexibility with this.
Guidelines for use of equipment at the workstation

Taking time to ensure the comfort of employees at the workstation can eliminate health and safety problems in the future. Every one enjoys working near a window and if this is possible, the glare from windows onto a computer screen can make reading of the screen difficult. Therefore, window blinds or shades need will need to be supplied to enable employees to control lighting conditions.

In situations, where the workstation is to be used for longer periods of time, guidelines recommend that the use of computers may require an anti-glare filter to be placed across the screen to eliminate problems with reflection. A computer monitor is recommended to be at least 25cm from eye level.

It is also necessary to ensure that enough electrical points are available, for additional communications equipment such as mobile phone chargers and laptops.

Employees may also require printers or scanners to be located on their workstation.
The correct seating is critical of any workstation design. Perhaps the most important feature of the workstation is the provision of the correct type of office chair. Many hours will be spent seated at the workstation, so the better the quality of office furniture, the less likelihood there will be of receiving complaints from employees about discomfort in the back, shoulder or neck area of the body. The chairs comfort and design can impact upon how effective or productive the employee will be. So it is good practice to test some office chairs for comfort before purchasing too many.

Good morale amongst employees is positive for your business and a comfortable working environment will help the cause. I was recently involved in a project to set up a new contact centre to house eighty call centre agents. Following much discussion with the office design contractor and consultation with around twenty existing agents, plans for the new look office were formulated before the contractor went away to draft the plans. The existing agents felt that team working was important and therefore it was agreed that the most effective office layout would be for the call centre agents to be grouped in teams of six around a circular desk system.

Once the plans were finalized, over a three month period the office layout was developed. Taking time to involve the existing agents has proved very effective indeed, with all call centre disciplines showing good signs of improvement. Another major plus point is that in a call centre, staff turnover can be high, but any new starter is quickly integrated into a ‘team table’ and through training, conversation and listening to team colleagues, quickly adapts to the requirements and targets of that team.

Space designing coupled withoffice construction constructions ought to be performed by way of a good accepted building contractor.

Fire Exit Considerations

No matter what type of business you operate, employers must comply with regulations around safety at work, and this includes what to do in the event of a fire.In today’s health and safety led environment whether it is at home or in the office, the installation of fire alarms is common place.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, was introduced to provide advice for businesses on what reasonable steps should be taken to reduce the risk from fire, to occupants of the building . More importantly the Order contains advice to business owners to ensure that a safe escape plan is in place should fire occur.

Generally speaking, ensuring fire safety within premises is a common sense approach. It is important that in any workplace planning programme, that time is taken to identify for example, where the nearest exit routes are for employees to safely leave the building and where employees should congregate upon evacuation of the premises.

In some premises of course, hazardous materials may be in use within the building and therefore it is wise to seek further advice from the fire service who can advise on how to take specific precautions. Equally, office buildings on several levels will also require advice from fire safety experts to ensure safe exit routes are identified. Many businesses now appoint fire marshals whose responsibility it is, to make sure that every one within the building is informed about what they should do in the event of a fire.

In any work place , escape routes should be safely and immediately accessible at all times and suitable for the number of people likely to use them. They should not be obstructed in any way and accessible for emergency services.

Guidelines do recommend that at least two fire exits should be available if a premises is to be occupied by more than 60 people. The guidelines also extend to the number of flights of stairs and passages of corridors, so your workplace planning considerations will need to comply with the regulations.

Disabled Access

There are many considerations for employers to be mindful of when planning to accommodate disabled people within offices and premises. Under the Disability Discrimination Act every business is required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the working environment to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against.

These include making adjustments to the workplace to ensure ease of access for the disabled and providing suitable modified office furniture to provide the same level of office comfort as able bodied employees.


It can be a cost effective solution to engage with a workplace planning specialist to review the layout of your current office environment. There are many rules and regulations to comply with, so taking time to consider the implications of precisely what is required is imperative. Do not under estimate the amount of issues to consider in making your workplace a pleasant working environment.

Unfortunately we live in a society where employees are quick to point the finger of blame at their employer for failing to provide the correct workstation or office furniture. So the contractor and client should take time to undertake a site survey, establish what is required from both the employer’s point of view and that of the employee to ensure that the end result meets both the needs of the employer and the employee. Productivity and morale will be greatly improved in a pleasant working environment.

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