Business Essentials : Three L-shaped plans, one perfect fit
What do you get if you divide an 80sq ft office by 16 people? Kate Hilpern goes back to the drawing board for an answer
Sunday 24 October 2004
Anyone who has worked in an open-plan office will know just how crucial it is to get the layout right. Get it wrong and staff can feel isolated or, at the other end of the spectrum, they can suffer from lack of any privacy. Meanwhile, noise levels can be unbearable or communal space almost non-existent.
Ian Peel, the director of the media and marketing consultancy MCC International, knows this all too well. Based just outside Winchester, the firm has trouble fitting its 16 employees - who work in five teams - around its L-shaped office.
"We want to make it as communal as possible," Mr Peel explains, "but also keep noise and interruption to a minimum. We've tried various arrangements, none of which we've been particularly happy with."
When the company first moved into the office in 1999, the desks were set up facing each other in pairs all round the room. "People got on well and worked fine, but the employees at one end of the room had no idea what their colleagues were working on at the other end," says Mr Peel. "We'd go down the pub on a Friday and you'd get people saying, 'Oh, you're working on a project very similar to me. I could have helped you with it if I'd known.'"
As a direct result, MCC set up Monday morning meetings for all employees to share ideas and views. "But it still didn't change the fact that one employee might ring a journalist, and another employee might ring them a few minutes later," he says.
The current arrangement is a combination of desk clusters, one for each team. Crucially, Mr Peel says, although three teams of three people do similar jobs, the other teams - one of four people, another of two and another person on their own - can all exist independently.
Although the inter-staff communication level is now higher than it was, the layout still isn't anywhere near perfect. "There is a physical problem as well," says Mr Peel. "During the summer, we had one day when an employee had her back to everyone all day. That's not on."
To make matters worse, one member of the team of four people has to sit on his own because there isn't room for four desks to fit together.
Mr Peel's preference is for what he calls "the classic model agency layout". "Whenever I see model agencies on TV, the desks seem to be in one big oval facing each other, and I can see how that might lead to very focused work chat. I'd be happy to try this, but my only concern is that you might get someone on the phone all afternoon sitting next to someone else who is trying to write an article."
He is also willing to try hot-desking, with staff using any available workstation rather than having one assigned to them. Alternatively, a "social corner" could be set up, where colleagues could chat over a coffee. But he is keen to stay clear of cubicles, "because they can create a feeling of isolation".
- 1 Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
- 2 Trevor Noah: Jon Stewart's replacement faces online criticism over 'anti-Semitic' tweets
- 3 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 4 Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Prince Charles ‘burns 1.3 tons of carbon’ in private helicopter after urging public to turn off lights for Earth Hour
Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
April Fools' Day 2015 live: The best pranks and fake stories from around the world
University of Cambridge: Remains of 1,300 scholars are found under building
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...
£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...