Reducing the rentable area of an office through the elimination of unneeded
space is an effective way to lower overhead. It is also a method of providing
growth capacity without increasing the leased area. Wasted space can be
found in many areas of the office and can be reduced or eliminated. Productivity
in the workplace can be maintained or improved. The first options presented
here for reducing the size of an office can be applied to an existing office.
The latter ones are applicable only to a new or remodeled office.
Off-site Storage of Records: Over time records accumulate. Eventually,
an organization is maintaining outdated, unnecessary records, which occupy
expensive office space.
First, purge unnecessary records. Then consider moving records that are
infrequently accessed to an off-site storage facility. The rental for this
type of storage is a fraction of the cost of office space. Records can be
retrieved and delivered within a day. The cost of retrieval is minimal.
An analysis of retrievals per year will indicate which records can be economically
Mobile Storage System: A mobile storage system provides high density
storage of files, reference materials and supplies. It consists of shelving
units that are placed on moveable carriages using a wheel and track system.
Each carriage has several shelves of back to back storage. A single aisle
can be created between any two carriages whenever needed for access. Carriages
not being accessed are rolled back to back with no aisle in between, creating
a densely packed storage area. As much as 45% of storage and filing areas
can be saved.
There are two drawbacks to mobile storage systems. They require an up
front capital expenditure. They also require a floor structure capable of
carrying heavier than normal loads. However, in one case we demonstrated
the economic benefits of reinforcing the floor structure in a leased space
to carry the loads of dense filing. The payback period was well under the
period of the lease.
Just In Time Supplies: Storage for office supplies can occupy
as much as 5% of the total office area. Today, vendors will deliver supplies
within one to three days after they are ordered. Do not pay for expensive
storage space. Instead, maintain a reduced inventory of supplies and order
smaller quantities more often.
Evaluate Conferencing Needs: In the past the number of conference
rooms was often determined without regard to efficient use of space. When
our firm plans a new space we often use a queuing theory model to simulate
the usage of conference rooms. Performance can be predicted. This allows
the number and size of conference rooms to be optimized.
The measure of performance for conference rooms is the proportion of
meetings which can be accommodated when desired because an appropriate room
is available. Performance can be improved by increasing the ratio of scheduled
to impromptu meetings. Also, scheduling all rooms centrally increases the
number of rooms in the pool, and therefore, increases the probability that
a room will be available when needed. Remember that it is unrealistic to
avoid all deferrals.
Without a computer simulation, it is still possible to improve conference
room utilization and free up conference rooms for other uses with a trial
and error or another heuristic method.
Zero Based Programming: When relocating or reconfiguring an office,
develop a program of requirements starting with no assumptions. This can
ensure effective use of space. For example, instead of basing the filing
requirements on a percentage increase over existing files, start from zero.
What do we need to file? How long do we need immediate access to this information?
How many filing inches are required? Translate this into filing cabinets
and then into square footage. Usually the requirement will be much less
than derived by adding an allowance for growth to the existing area.
Careful Selection of Leased Space: The efficiency of an office
layout will be limited by how well the space matches the needs of the tenant.
A dramatic loss in efficiency can result from too little perimeter; too
much interior space; too great a dimension from the corridor to the exterior
wall; inappropriately shaped space (too long or too square); excessive columns;
or a complicated plan shape. This means it will take more area to accommodate
the same set of requirements. For one large client, we determined that the
space efficiency varied by over 40% within their facilities all due to the
physical characteristics of the space.
Correctly Size Offices and Workstations: Often workstations and
offices are larger than they need be. Sometimes this is due to having used
reporting level to determine office size and furnishings. Additional space
is ordinarily required because the standard for each level must be based
on the most stringent requirements.
Designing offices to support each specific job is an effective way to
reduce square footage. It requires that the activities and tasks performed
at each workstation be clearly defined and understood. These then determine
the physical requirements for each workstation or office.
Shared Work Areas: Infrequent tasks and activities can often consume
valuable area within a workstation. Consider creating shared work areas.
When tasks are moved to a shared work area, redundant equipment is eliminated
and each workstation can be smaller. For example, shared computer printers
or terminals, or an additional conference room in place of meeting tables
in 8 or 10 workstations.
Time Sharing or Hoteling: Advances in technology are dramatically
changing the office. Many workers do not need to be at the office to do
much of their work. A worker can log on to the computer network at any workstation
within the company's office, from a client site with a lap top, or at home
with his own P/C. Telephone calls can be forwarded anywhere in the world.
With video phones one will be able to attend meetings without being physically
present. A document can be transmitted instantaneously by fax.
In the future, technological advances will make all this simpler, quicker
and better. Today it is already worth considering whether all workers need
to be at the "office" daily, and whether it is necessary to provide
dedicated work space for each employee.
Some organizations have transferred staff out of the "office"
and back home, including managers, word processors, sales persons and data
entry clerks. These workers can maintain contact with the office by telephone,
fax, computer links and voice mail.
Other firms are providing work areas that are assigned to staff only
when they are in the office. This concept is called "hoteling."
In organizations such as consulting and accounting firms, or in sales groups,
the staff is out of the office more often than they are in the office. For
these types of firms, the office space can often be reduced by over 50%.
These savings can significantly contribute to increased profits.
Systems Furniture: Over the past fifteen years, systems furniture
and open planning have gained almost universal use. Once only available
in moderately priced furniture lines, system furniture is now available
in high-end (and expensive) wood furniture and in very inexpensive lines
Systems furniture has innate space saving features. Vertical storage
(using panel hung files and shelving) reduces floor area required and makes
better use of work surfaces. The inherent openness allows stations to be
much smaller than offices without creating a claustrophobic setting.
Other advantages of systems furniture are flexibility; ease of cabling
and power distribution; better tools for organizing information and supplies
and therefore, encourage more productive work.
Efficient Circulation: The system of corridors, aisles, and hallways
is important to the success of the overall plan. It influences operational
efficiency, communication among staff, and understanding of the organization.
However, inefficient circulation can easily add 10% to the size of an office.
When reviewing a proposed plan look for redundant corridors and circuitous