OFFICE LAYOUT NOTES

Definition of an office

This is a room or set of rooms or building used as a place for clerical activities, administrative work or commercial work.

FUNCTIONS OF AN OFFICE

  1. Receiving information from within the organization or from outside source by word of mouth, telephone or written communication.
  2. Recording or storing of information that is received so that it can be accessed easily when required.
  3. Processing all information received so that the management can use it for making decisions.
  4. Distribution of information within and outside the organization so that it can be acted upon.
  5. Protecting the firm’s assets through records which are kept safely. The records account for the firm’s assets.
  6. Ensuring that the firm operates under the laws with which it was established to avoid legal action being taken against it.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN LOCATING AN OFFICE

These are factors to consider when deciding about a new office site, that is, the physical place where an office should be:

  1. Space available for current use and future expansion
  2. Security of the locality for both workers and assets in the office
  3. The cost of obtaining the office premises must be reasonable and within the financial resources of the business
  4. The public image resulting from locating an office in a certain area. Certain areas of a town are considered as high class while other areas are considered as low class areas
  5. Availability of labour. Some areas may have a shortage of qualified manpower
  6. Accessibility of the location by workers, suppliers and clients
  7. Proximity to ancillary services, e.g. electricity, water, banks, telephones
  8. Whether the office premises will be on rental or can be bought by the organization

WHY OFFICES ARE LOCATED FROM URBAN CONCENTRATION/CENTRAL BUSINESS LOCATION TO SUB-URBAN AND PRE-URBAN AREAS

  1. Higher cost – office space in the central business location is quite expensive while it is relatively cheaper in the outskirts of the town.
  2. Overcrowding and congestion – urban areas are overcrowded and congested with all their bad consequences.
  3. Required office space needed is limited – in urban areas and may not be suitable for a fast growing firm.
  4. Growing transport and communication facilities – the growth of modern means of transport and communication has facilitated the growth of suburbs where office building can be located.
  5. Shift industrial activity – there has been a physical shift of industry from urban to suburbs (or even in rural) areas. This also means that some parts of an office must go to suburbs along with the manufacturing unit.

SECURING THE OFFICE BUILDING OR SPACE – This is where one may ask whether to buy an office building so that you own it and is referred to as Freehold or whether to lease or rent an office building and is referred to as Leasehold.

ADVANTAGES OF  FREEHOLD – owning a building

  1. Creates a good image to the eyes of the customers
  2. Use it as security in case you want a loan
  3. Rent a portion of it and obtain income until such extra space is needed
  4. You can make modifications such as expanding in future
  5. Move if you with – you are not tied to a fixed term contract
  6. Profit from the building when you sell it, if it gains in value
  7. Building can be planned and designed to fit the exact requirements of the organization/enterprise

DISADVANTAGES OF FREEHOLD

  1. Ties up a lot of your capita and it may be difficult to recover the capital quickly
  2. Maintenance and repair cost are borne by the owner
  3. In case of mortgage, repossession is a threat if you cannot keep up with mortgage repayments

ADVANTAGES OF LEASEHOLD – RENTING A BUILDING

  1. Most convenient arrangement for medium and small offices and newly started firms
  2. Suitable where requirement of space is limited or the business is not stable or of permanent character or cost of owning, office accommodation is beyond the capacity of the firm in question
  3. Greater flexibility in terms of location, that is, change in location of the office can be effected with great ease, that is, the flexibility to shift to a better location as and when necessary
  4. It gives the management freedom to select the office space in keeping with its financial capacity
  5. It frees the management from maintenance cost and worries

DISADVANTAGES OF LEASEHOLD

  1. It is really possible to get the accommodation exactly suited to the requirement of the enterprise
  2. Office space cannot be adopted or altered to suite the requirement of the enterprise nor is it possible to sub-let the surplus space if any
  3. High cost renting – rents are generally very high for urban locations thus the operating cost of business may increase
  4. Lack of permanent rented building doesn’t lead to permanence of address. This may cause inconvenience to customers
  5. Wastage of space – since the building is not constructed on the basis of the lay out plan of the organization. Some area may go waste in process of layout
  6. The location may not be a suitable one

OFFICE LAYOUT

This is the arrangement of the floor space in an office in terms of placing of office furniture and fittings, office machines and equipment, office stationery, placement of workers.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN DESIGNING THE LAYOUT OF AN OFFICE

  1. Each worker should be allocated enough working space
  2. Avoid partition/walls when necessary to economize on office space
  3. The layout should allow free flow of work
  4. Equipment that are commonly used in the office should be set at strategic position for ease of accessibility
  5. Well designed pathways/gangways free from obstructions and should be sufficient in number and in width to be provided
  6. Planners should ensure that all rules and regulations governing the establishment of offices have been adhered to, for example, adequate lighting, sanitation, air conditioning and ventilation among others
  7. The office should be presentable as it creates the first impression about the organization, for example, flowers, plants, wall hangings should be placed at suitable places in the office

FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING THE LAYOUT OF AN OFFICE

  1. Nature of work – work of confidential nature requires private rooms, for example, certain meetings of the board where policy matters are discussed or work involving statistics or work that doesn’t require noise
  2. Status of workers to be accommodated in an office – top executives are to be provided with closed office for reasons of prestige
  3. Floor space available – if the floor space is limited open plan office is more favorable in order to accommodate more workers
  4. The need for work to flow smoothly form one point to another – taking shortest route for flow of papers and movement of people to avoid wastage of time
  5. Proximity to equipment which is commonly used being made accessible to workers
  6. Ease of communication – the flow of communication both oral and written should be quicker and easier with no movement of workers from one office to another
  7. The amount of supervision required for workers – supervision of many workers requires open plan office as it eases supervision

BENEFITS OF GOOD OFFICE LAYOUT

  1. Supervision is easier
  2. Easy communication
  3. Improves human relation among workers which reduces conflicts among employees
  4. Reduces conflicts among employees
  5. Better use is made of office equipment and machines
  6. Greater economy in the utilization of floor space
  7. Ensures efficiency in getting work done
  8. Provides conducive environment to workers which improves their morale

TYPES OF OFFICE LAYOUT

CLOSED PLAN OFFICE

  • This consists of an office with mainly one person or two persons sharing one room.
  • These small individual offices or private offices are today made use of primarily for top managerial personnel, work of confidential nature, or work that must be isolated in order to eliminate noise.
  • Under the private office systems, a small group of staff or an executive sits in a small room which may be constructed by using pucca walls/permanent walls or a part of the open office is converted into cubicles through ceiling-high or door-high partition walls usually made of light wood or hard board.  These small cubicles or rooms are allocated to the Managing Director, departmental managers, secretary of the company and whole time directors, etc

Nowadays private offices are made use of under the following conditions:

  1. Top executives are to be provided with private offices for reasons of prestige
  2. Work of confidential nature also requires private rooms, for example, certain meetings of the board where policy matters, work on important plans and strategies or mattes concerning legal and investment aspects of business are discussed
  3. Work requiring absence of noise can be done properly in private rooms, for example, accounting and statistical work

ADVANTAGES OF CLOSED PLAN LAYOUT

  1. Confidential matters are easily dealt with since there is only one officer in the office
  2. One is able to concentrate better since there is less disruptions of colleagues, visitors or machines used by others
  3. There is more security for documents and other assets held in the office since access is restricted
  4. Prestigious and business like – those working in these types of offices carry a status of prestige which makes working morale of the officers working there quite high
  5. It is easier to maintain such an office because there is less furniture in terms of cleaning
  6. One is able to give a personal touch like portraits, flowers, painting with any color, curtains, carpets and any type of furniture appealing to clients thus designing such an office is easier since they may not be conflicting ideas
  7. Ensures that workers can be served easily as the job titles on the door show who is in the office and anyone requiring hi/her services will easily go directly to the person

DISADVANTAGES OF CLOSED PLAN OFFICE

  1. There may be wastage of space, since only one or a few officers occupy the office
  2. Supervision is more difficult since the supervisor may not be in view of workers at all times
  3. There is little interpersonal relationship since the workers meet rarely
  4. The level of communication between the workers is low since they are in different offices
  5. The cost of partitioning the offices is very high
  6. There may be bottle-necks in the flow of work since one may have to move from one office to another to get something alone done
  7. There are high percentage/chances of absenteeism due to difficulty in supervision
  8. Officers in closed offices may idle about or do their personal work during the working hours since it may not be easy to monitor them closely
  9. Officers are forced to move from one office to the others to get information or document which lead to wastage of time
  10. It may enhance corrupt practices since confidential discussions can take place
  11. It is inflexible as it is not easy to redesign the office when changes arise

OPEN PLAN LAYOUT

  • Staff is put in a large room or hall instead of in separate rooms.
  • Every section or department is allotted a separate space within the hall and sometimes counter-high filing cabinets and shelves are used to demarcate (indicate boundaries or limits). However, some private rooms and offices are to be provided for the top managerial personnel and also for work requiring privacy and concentration.  There are no permanent diving partitions or walls.

ADVANTAGES OF OPEN PLAN LAYOUT

  1. Ease of supervision, since all the workers are in one office and employees can be viewed from one point. This tends to stop workers from slackening or indulging in unofficial activities
  2. It is cheaper since one large room is constructed and there is no portioning which is expensive and it is less costly to install lighting and heating
  3. Ease of locating a worker, since they are all in one office
  4. It facilitates more efficient use of machines and equipment as they can be easily shared
  5. Less movement by workers, hence less distraction and less time wastage
  6. It discourages absenteeism and lateness since one is easily discovered
  7. It enhances interpersonal relationships since all workers are in one office
  8. There is saving of floor space, since it is shared by many people
  9. There is better communication among the workers as there are no restricting partitions or doors to open and close
  10. It minimizes corrupt practices since no confidential discussions can take place
  11. It is flexible as it is easier to reorganize the office when there is need
  12. More smooth flow of work as documents can pass more easily from one desk to another rather than from office to office

DISADVANTAGES

  1. There may be constant distractions from colleagues, for example, noise making
  2. It may be difficult to handle confidential matters
  3. There may be no privacy in the work that one is doing
  4. Machines in such an office may distract people from their work, for example, the ringing of telephones
  5. The level of security in such an office is low, since it is shared by many people
  6. An office shared by many people may easily be neglected since no particular worker can be held responsible unlike an office used by only one person
  7. It may be difficult to provide a good working environment to all the workers since each of them may have a different view in relation to the amount of lighting, heating and ventilation
  8. It may be easy for infectious diseases to spread when many workers are put in the same office 

LANDSCAPED OFFICE

  • A landscaped office is similar to an open plan office but it has special features not found in open plan offices.
  • Landscaping also refers to an interior design concept focused on creating aesthetically pleasing internal office arrangement for organizations.

FEATURES OF A LANDSCAPED OFFICE

  1. The judicious distribution of indoor plants usually against walls.
  2. The floor is carpeted and the entire office air-conditioned and soft lighting.
  3. Working desks and chairs are arranged in clusters each facing a different direction.
  4. There is arrangement of screens both for acoustic purposes and to give privacy.
  5. There is a rest area where the employees can relax and have refreshments.
  6. The provisions of workspace for all members of staff up to most senior managers including even the Managing Director.
  7. Sometimes office equipment having the shapes of wild animals or birds can be used.
  8. Some natural sceneries can be painted on the walls of office.

BENEFITS OF LANDSCAPED OFFICE

  1. The office wears a smarter look and to that extent it provides as an advertisement for the organization itself at no additional cost.
  2. Landscaping of office influences the prestige of the organization. Outsiders view the organizations with a feeling of confidence and trust.  They form a positive impression on the organization.
  3. It enhances the morale of the workers. It influences the attitude of the workers towards its fellow workers work and the organization for which the workers become more interested in their work.
  4. It creates a pleasing work atmosphere which is conducive to work and thus improving efficiency levels of workers.
  5. It influences the health of the workers through use of soft lighting. It removes eyestrain and fatigue.  Air conditioning insures flow of fresh air which reduces tension and other effects.

DISADVANTAGES OF LANDSCAPED OFFICE

  1. As large areas are involved, air conditioning is essential because ventilation through windows cannot be relied upon for the whole office area.
  2. Artificial lighting is required in the office particularly for the people working in the centre of the office as the light from the windows would not be enough.
  3. Sound insulation that is achieved by fitting thick carpeting on the floor and applying sound absorbing materials on the walls and other surfaces are expensive to install.

REVISION QUESTIONS

  1. Highlight the benefits that may accrue to an organization from landscaping its offices.
  2. Outline the disadvantages of an enclosed office layout or there has been a decline in the use of enclosed office layout in the recent past. Explain the reasons that may account for this trend or many organizations are currently moving away from the closed office layout.  Explain the reasons that may account for this trend.
  3. Give four advantages of adopting the enclosed office layout in an organization
  4. Explain six factors that an organization should take into consideration when deciding on the type of office layout to use.
  5. Explain six factors that should be put into consideration to ensure a good office layout or highlight five factors that an Office Manager should consider in determining an appropriate office design or explain five factors that should be considered when designing an office layout.
  6. Explain four reasons why the open office layout may not be popular with some office employees.
  7. Explain the circumstances under which it would be appropriate to use a closed office layout in an organization
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