Office Fit Out: Open Plan Vs Sectioned Off Space

If a wall falls in an office, and no one is hurt by the ensuing chaos, does it really fall?

I felt that was required.

Open plan offices are all the rage these days. As companies flatten their structure and push for more departmental integration and synergy they find a greater need to open their office space. Unsurprisingly, the physical layout of an office does a lot to change the mental perspective of an organisation. People who are in stylish, comfortable offices are more likely to be creative than those in rows of cubical sandwiched between fluorescent lights and standard raised flooring. Likewise, people who are crammed into small, divided rooms will have small divided views of a company. This is perfectly easy to do in most offices. Most purpose built office buildings are built as large floor plates and then spilt up by mountable walls and partitions. These walls are as easy to remove as they are to put up, so floors in large office buildings can be moulded to whatever your corporate culture needs.

Not all office buildings are purpose built, though. In fact, most buildings in London no longer have their original use. Churches are houses, houses are flats, horse stables are houses, other houses are offices, and warehouses are all manner of things. Often times this means that buildings will have retaining walls or fire walls that can’t be removed.

One way around this is to design your office to suit. You will probably need at least a few offices, a meeting room and kitchen. Try to use that unmovable wall to your favour with those sorts of needs. Or arrange desks and computer screens to run along the walls you can’t remove. As well, check to see which walls can be removed and how easily. What is now a divided office can sometimes be open plan without too much work? As well, consider how an open plan office should look. Open plan offices can be curved or S-shaped as well. This allows open access to everyone, but also makes allowances for unmovable walls and even a bit of privacy if needed.

Use your imagination, and figure out what can change and what can’t. Most architects, furniture designers, and office fit out contractors will come in a do a free site inspection. They will be able say what walls can come down, if the estate agent can’t. They will also have ideas you may not have considered. A suggestion from an architect doesn’t mean you have to hire him to do it. You may look at his plans and see if someone can do it for cheaper, or if there is something slightly different that works better for you. Get a few opinions about how much space you can open up and how to use the walls that can’t be moved, then see what you can do to modernise that corporate culture of yours.