David English of AJ Products explains how smart office storage solutions can improve productivity, plus a look at the rise of the ‘homey’ office
Well-planned office storage has an impact on employee wellbeing and productivity at work. Storage solutions that have been incorporated into the design and layout of an office from the start can improve the flow of the workplace, divide the space effectively and help staff to find what they need when they need it.
Storage furniture can double up as barriers and partitions dividing large open-plan spaces into smaller zones, giving employees greater flexibility in the way they work. Storage ‘walls’ can be used to create breakout spaces, casual meeting areas or quiet corners away from the noise and bustle of the office, in a flexible way that is easily changed.
Noisy offices are a common complaint of employees; noisy workplaces have been shown to affect productivity by increasing stress and making it hard for people to concentrate. This is a particular issue in open-plan offices due to the large number of people working in close proximity, and the lack of surfaces to absorb noise reverberations.
Office cabinets are a practical way to break up the space and shield against noise, offering many of the same benefits as floor screens but with the added bonus of providing storage facilities. Storage solutions can be tailored to the needs of the workplace – back-to-back cabinets will maximise storage space, but where floorspace is an issue fitting acoustic panels to the exposed back of a cabinet will do the same job.
Storage has an important role to play in workplace aesthetics. Storage solutions by virtue of their size tend to be a dominant feature in the office. One approach is to choose colours and styles that will blend into the background. However, you could turn your storage furniture into a design statement, selecting colours, finishes and designs that add visual interest or complement the office aesthetic. A homely office (see box) might use warm woods and natural hues to create a sense of comfort and welcome, while modern, brightly painted wall-mounted cubbies or shelf units are practical and fun, contributing to the buzz of a creative workplace.
FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
The needs of the workforce should dictate the choice of open or closed storage solutions. Open shelving makes it easy to access files and provides an ideal setting to showcase photographs, products or awards. If clients visit the workplace it might be better not to have paperwork and office supplies on display. Storage cabinets make it easy to present a tidy, uncluttered environment.
A balance of open and closed storage may be the best solution: open storage for company literature and reference books, but cabinets for stationery and supplies. Don’t forget to check whether your document storage needs to be lockable in order to comply with data protection laws.
It’s a good idea to provide staff with storage solutions that allow them to keep the files and supplies they use most frequently to hand, either on the desktop or in nearby drawers. Larger items should be stored in cabinets or bookcases that can easily be reached from people’s chairs; this saves time, avoids unnecessary bending, stretching or lifting, and reduces the risk of workplace injury.
The most important thing is to plan before you buy. Consider your office’s storage needs and how you can maximise storage space. Can the furniture serve multiple purposes? With good planning and a little creative thinking, furniture that was once considered a mundane necessity can play a key role in transforming the workplace into an efficient, flexible, visually appealing space that will benefit productivity and increase employee satisfaction.
One of the key trends in workplace design is the blurring of the work-home divide. Smart mobile devices are enabling people to work on the move, whether they are in an airport, on a train, in a coffee shop, or sitting at their kitchen table. According to office furniture supplier Euroworkspace, this is motivating designers to give the workplace a more residential, ‘homey’ appearance, where mobile workers can feel comfortable. That includes personal space where they can store their belongings.
Agile working can be alienating. A worker arrives in the office, checks in using a touch screen floorplan, then chooses where to work. The presence of their own secured smart locker to store their laptop and other belongings provides a sense of familiarity and ownership in an environment where they have no desk of their own.
A homey office design offers flexible space to suit the employee’s needs, whether that is a cosy breakout area, a social collaboration space or a sheltered, plant-lined quiet zone. Storage furniture can not only play a part in creating such zones and shielding them against noise, but individual smart lockers enable employees to move freely around the workplace without having to lug their belongings with them.