October 18, 2022

Office planning: Step by step to the ideal office

Good, successful office planning means much more than creating a space utilization concept and selecting office furniture. Changing work environments such as New Work and Hybrid Work have a considerable influence on the design of modern offices. One of the big keywords is therefore flexibility - not only of individual workstations, but also of entire floor plans.

Reasons for professional and competent office planning

The basis for a well-thought-out office planning is a strategic space concept, which should be worked out by experienced professionals. 

Professional office planning is a valuable investment that will pay off in the long term - in the motivation of employees, their efficiency and willingness to perform. 

The following aspects are particularly crucial in office planning:

1. Space efficiency

Desk sharing and home offices mean space savings: efficiently planned areas can accommodate 20% more employees.

2. Ergonomic aspects

Back-friendly and preventive work not only increase employee health and prevent back and neck complaints, but also increase the willingness to perform. 

3. Motivation & well-being

Highly qualified employees are not only attracted by the appropriate salary. Soft factors such as a well-planned office with a homely atmosphere are also crucial today. In addition, a beautiful working environment promotes motivation and willingness to perform.

Questions before office planning

Before planning the floor plan and workstations, a number of fundamental decisions must be made. For example, an overall concept must be defined in advance, which includes the desired working environment and culture.

Office planners must therefore sit down with the company at the beginning of the planning process and clarify the following questions:

  • What space does the new office need? What floor plan should be aimed for?

  • How many employees need how much space each?

  • How much space should be used individually, how much should be used collectively, and what should be the ratio of open spaces to enclosed spaces?

  • Which employees work primarily in teams, and which need various options for retreat?

  • To what extent do new work concepts and hybrid working play a role in planning?

  • What legal requirements need to be met?

  • Which workplace concept is being pursued and what furniture does it require?

  • Should office planning take shared desks into account and are there rooms that are used more than once?

  • In what form should there be modern communication zones such as a cafeteria or library for informal, social exchange?

  • What else does modern office planning need to attract new employees?

Office planning: Planning rooms correctly

At the beginning of office planning, the first thing to do is to look at the spatial conditions. Does the existing floor plan need to be changed to accommodate the desired way of working? Or is flexible, agile working possible without any problems? 

Once this has been clarified, the office planning can get underway.

Office planning according to intended use 

First, the floor plan must be divided into different areas with different purposes. In this way, the office planner uses a space program to determine which functional areas are planned at which points in the building.

This is based on the number of individual workstations and then plans functional workstations as well as reception, central zones and retreat zones.

Essential for this step of office planning: The structure of the office workstations must be oriented to the workflow of the employees. After all, the more individually a workstation is tailored to employees, the more effectively they can work. 

1. Reception and waiting area

The reception conveys the first impression of the company to guests and customers and should be designed accordingly in a representative manner. 

The reception should be planned centrally at the entrance so that it can have an impact on everyone who enters the office space. A bright, open interior always has a positive and inviting effect.

In addition, it should be clarified whether a permanent or temporary workstation is to be set up at the reception. 

2. Conference room and retreat zones

Meeting rooms for longer conference calls or internal appointments are an important part of office planning. The type of use should be clarified in advance so that the technical equipment, any blackout options and multifunctional office furniture or room dividers can be included in the planning.

In addition, so-called middle zones are required for short meetings and informal meetings in between.  

Conference Room
Stableton Project design by Upscale

3. Workplaces

Employee workstations are the heart of every office. Regardless of whether the workstations are located in classic individual offices, group offices or open-plan offices: For successful office planning, individual workflows determine the functional and innovative design. 

It is imperative that the legal requirements for minimum working areas, room sizes and heights as well as circulation and movement areas are observed. In case of non-compliance, the employer is liable. 

For example, it is important that the workstation is planned parallel to the window so that the light falls at a 90° angle to the screen and employees are not dazzled.

4. executive room

Many modern offices today do without the classic executive office and integrate the workplace for CEO's or managers in the open office space in order to keep hierarchies as low as possible.

If an office for the boss is nevertheless to be planned, there are no legal regulations on room size or arrangement of workstations for this, in contrast to employee workstations. Therefore, there are no limits to creativity in the design.

5. creativity zone

Creative zones are multifunctional spaces that offer employees enough room for brainstorming in pleasant surroundings without disturbing other employees in their day-to-day work. 

The various functions of creative zones are also reflected in the furniture. For example, mobile room dividers, flexible tables and seating, and writable walls are all part of the inventory. 

6. break room & kitchen

Feeling good is a top priority when it comes to planning areas that are primarily used for social interaction. 

Break rooms are where employees recharge their batteries and recharge their batteries for upcoming tasks. Break rooms such as libraries, cafés and kitchens must therefore be designed as genuine feel-good places so that employees also like to retreat there to communicate and relax. If this succeeds, beautiful break rooms not only increase motivation and creativity, but also the willingness to perform.

A coherent colour concept, good lighting and plants should therefore be an integral part of office planning for these areas.

Extra plus: If outdoor areas such as a terrace or balcony are available, these should also be designed as invitingly as possible.

Office Kitchen
Margherita Project design by Upscale

Office planning for open space offices

Open space offices are the modern alternative to classic open-plan offices. The difference: areas for concentrated work as well as lively communication zones are integrated within open spaces.  

Acoustic elements or room dividers divide the open office into individual areas, creating a pleasant, quiet working environment. 

Whether open-plan office or open office: When planning the office, care should be taken to ensure that each employee has enough privacy. To ensure sufficient individual space, room-in-room solutions can be useful. Meeting or telephone boxes as well as areas for longer phone calls and video conferences serve as individual retreats. 

Office planning & room sizes 

Since 2004, there have been no specific requirements for minimum workstation space, but there are recommendations. For example, 8-10 square meters should be planned per workstation in a small-space office, and 12-15 square meters in open-plan offices. 

There are also specifications for room heights in the workplace ordinance to ensure adequate air quality: 

  • up to 50 sqm: at least 2.50 m
  • more than 50 sqm: at least 2.75 m
  • more than 100 sqm: at least 3.00 m
  • more than 2000 sqm: at least 3.25 m

Good office planning is geared towards economic key figures, but also creates a high feel-good factor that pays off in the long term in terms of employee satisfaction and their willingness to perform.

Office planning & desk sharing

Shared desks are a cost-effective option for making the best possible use of expensive office space. Since we are in the age of New Work, more and more workplaces remain empty.

Desk sharing therefore makes sense in that employees no longer have fixed desks, but share their workstations with other employees. The advantage for employers: lower rental and ancillary costs, as well as cost savings on inventory.

Tip: When introducing shared desks, it is advisable to involve employees in the planning in order to take all needs into account. 

Office planning: IT infrastructure

Proper office planning also includes planning the IT infrastructure. This means considering in advance where printers and copiers are best placed. Ideally, they should be accessible from every workstation. In addition, paper and toner supplies should be located in the immediate vicinity, as well as a small retreat area for informal conversations should be connected.

Office planning & well-being

The be-all and end-all for satisfied and healthy employees and a productive working atmosphere is an environment in which everyone feels comfortable and which can be flexibly adapted to the individual needs of each person.

Lighting in office planning

Good lighting is not only easy on the eyes, but also promotes concentration and improves performance. 

Adequate basic lighting using ceiling lamps should be taken into account during the office planning phase, as ceiling spotlights in particular are not so easy to install afterwards.

According to legal regulations, work surfaces must be illuminated with 500 lux. The best solution is a combination of pendant luminaires and desk lamps that emit glare-free light and are ideally dimmable so that each employee can regulate his or her individual lighting needs. 

Additional floor and table lamps create islands of light at different heights, giving the office a more homely feel.

Tip: Equip all light sources with energy-saving, long-lasting LED lamps and set cool light for workplace lighting, which promotes concentration.

Acoustics 

Are there areas in the office where a lot of phone calls or discussions take place? The primary goal here should be to reduce the noise level to create a pleasant working atmosphere. 

Office partitions such as movable wall systems or hanging acoustic partitions are ideal for swallowing disturbing noises, depending on the spatial conditions.

Tip: Carpets are equally well suited to further reduce noise levels.

Ventilation & heating

A healthy room climate not only prevents headaches, but also has a direct influence on well-being, creativity and productivity.

Ventilation and heating options should be planned by the architect at the very beginning of the office planning process. In principle, it is necessary to decide whether natural ventilation through windows, electrical ventilation or full air conditioning is the most sensible option. 

With regard to heating, the question arises whether classic radiators or underfloor heating is the better choice.

Floor coverings

Should hard or soft floors be installed in the office? It should be noted that the floor covering has acoustic effects: Soft carpets dampen sound, while hard floors such as parquet, stone or linoleum have the advantage of being easier to clean and therefore more hygienic. 

It may also be possible to install different floors in different office areas. In the entrance area, however, hard floors that are easy to clean are generally preferable due to the high throughput and weather-related dirt, while soft carpets look more comfortable and inviting in cosy lounge areas.

office with cozy flooring
ADIA Project design by Upscale

Design concept for office planning

A coherent design is essential for successful office planning. Only with a well-thought-out colour and furnishing concept can employees feel comfortable, which results in an increase in motivation and productivity. 

Colour design

An important part of office planning is a coherent colour concept. After all, colours have a subconscious effect and influence both well-being and performance. In general, it is advisable to use colours sparingly and to rely on matte surfaces - this has a calmer effect. A colourfully painted accent wall or a single colourful stripe is enough to give the rooms a colour accent and a homely touch.

Feel-good ambience

The often mentioned feel-good factor is essential and should also be part of the design concept. When you feel comfortable, your thinking is stimulated, and you feel less pressure and stress. A better mood in turn results in a higher willingness to perform. A beautiful office also strengthens loyalty to the company.

In office planning, the best way to create a real feel-good ambience is to choose not only functional but also beautiful, homely furniture and to use plants and natural materials. 

When offices are designed more like the living room at home, companies take a big step toward feeling good and keeping employees happy.

Office planning: furniture

The final step in office planning is the selection of office chairs, desks and storage furniture. For the most homelike ambience, it is recommended to focus not only on functionality, but also on 

appearance and comfort.

Office chairs

Beautiful, ergonomic swivel chairs are ideal for office planning. Height-adjustable office chairs are essential - especially in the New Work office, where several employees share a workstation, chairs must be individually adjustable. This promotes the back health of employees as well as their motivation.

Desks

Beautiful office desks in warm wood tones are ideal for creating a warm ambience. It does not have to be real solid wood by any means. Thus, there are enough less costly alternatives in wood look. 

The size of desks is also regulated by law. Thus, a minimum working area of 1.28 square meters per employee is prescribed. In addition, there are regulations on desk depth that must be taken into account in office planning.

Tip: The modern office should also be equipped with height-adjustable desks or standing desks in combination with conventional desks.

Office cabinets

For a calm ambience, various storage solutions are indispensable. It's best to choose cabinets with closed fronts for this purpose - they ensure a tidy look and visual calm. 

Office planning: movement areas & user spaces

To feel comfortable, you need not only good equipment, but also enough space around the workstation. For example, there must be at least 1.5 square meters of movement space behind it. 

In addition, there are various regulations on rear space areas for activities while sitting or standing, as well as on space requirements for cabinets. In the course of office planning, it is therefore advisable to obtain a precise overview of the legal guidelines.

Mistakes in office planning

The most common mistakes in office planning can be easily avoided if you know them:

  1. Set yourself up in the low price range
  2. Planning without a strategic concept (from a professional)
  3. Rushing the office planning

To get office planning right from the start, it is therefore advisable to call in an expert. This is a worthwhile investment, because proper office planning is not something that should be left to amateurs. After all, many legal regulations have to be complied with and a working environment has to be created in which a wide variety of work processes can be combined without any problems and which also has the effect of a second living room for the employees.

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