The changing need for office property is being
influenced heavily by the universal adoption of information and
the vast array of mains and signal cables
needs to be managed
extra heat from the equipment needs to be
controlled or removed
new health and safety risks include
electrical hazards, sitting positions, eyestrain, lack of
breaks and RSI (repetitive strain injury)
information security needs to be considered
amongst other security needs
constantly changing businesses and processes
demand flexible accommodation.
Older buildings (and older furniture) are
increasingly difficult to use effectively, and costs of
adaptation are being driven higher and higher. Organisations are
seeking to escape from long leases on older buildings, either
moving into newly built offices or entering into agreements to
strip and refurbish, or in the extreme demolish and rebuild.
The combination of continuous change in
technology, processes, working methods and the competitive
environment make it virtually impossible for organisations to
forecast their property needs a few years ahead, let alone over
the 25 years of a typical business lease.
As a consequence there has been an increase in
demand for modern, flexible space on short-term leases, fuelling
the success of the business centre sector.
The need to route power, telephone, and data
cabling to every workstation puts a severe strain on the hidden
ducting in buildings. Pressures to move people in response to
change increases that strain. Various techniques have been
adopted to ease the burden, such as structured or flood wiring,
cordless telephones, and wireless data networks.
The way in which workstations are placed, and
the consequent capacity (efficiency) of the building, is also
determined by the structure. Various techniques are employed to
minimise rigidity and space loss, such as peripheral, ceiling or
floor fed wiring, with wiring cabinets on each floor.
Technology also has an impact on the furniture.
It is unlikely that a building will be able to support wiring
for technology at any random point where a desk is to be placed.
The furniture therefore has a role in distributing the wiring
from the nearest point to the desks in the cluster.
Furniture also provides noise attenuation and
visual barriers and supports the safe working environment
demanded by health and safety regulations.
Cellular or open plan:
Debating the merits and disadvantages of
cellular and open plan offices is guaranteed to inflame passions
in many organisations. Cellular offices allow for a high level
of concentration and privacy. Open plan environments are more
flexible in coping with changing demand, supporting better
communications and team working, but can be more distracting to
Many organisations operate a mixed environment,
with large, smart cellular offices for executives (who may
rarely be there) and open plan offices for everyone else.
Heat, light and sound:
The very best modern buildings incorporate zoned
temperature and air quality control, natural lighting and good
sound insulation. Unfortunately this all comes at a price that
many employers are not prepared to pay. Most people end up
working in office environments that are sub-standard in some
There is a difference between the highly
structured working environment of the telephone call centre or
forms processing unit and the less structured approach of the
more general office. In the former work processes and flow are
clearly defined as are all jobs. In the latter there is usually
the need for support in the form of administrative assistants,
secretaries, personal assistants, etc.
In spite of the technology-enabled de-skilling
of many office functions - e.g. document preparation,
communications, information filing and retrieval, etc. - many
office practices and roles remain much as they were before the
advent of information and communications technologies.
Planning for the future