Technology is not just a boon for the speed and efficiency with which we work, but it frees us from the anchors of our past working lives. Cubicles are going by the wayside as employers and employees now have the entire office building at their fingertips. Meeting rooms are becoming more open "gathering spots" akin to office cantinas and collaboration spaces. Shared spaces have become creativity and innovation hubs as the physical boundaries of offices past have been relaxed and reshaped by the work habits of younger generations.
With the ability to save an increasing number of documents to a cloud based storage system, file rooms, printer nooks, and supply closets bearing boxes and boxes of paper are on the endangered species list. They shouldn't be considered exempt from the workplace design revolution of the past several years, but their size is prohibitive. So what can those areas be converted into to make the most use of your office square footage? Here are a few ideas.
Technology has forever changed the way presentations are given. Gone are the days when the printed and bound color copy of a presentation gets handed out around a closed-in conference room. So in the space that once housed the dinosaur sized printers and paper supplies, small as it may be, could be used as a coffee nook, where employees can quickly refill on their way to and from other areas within the office. Printer stations are numerous in larger offices, so not having to walk a far distance for a caffeine recharge helps people get back to the business at hand with only minor interruptions.
Biophilic Quiet Areas
Storage rooms are closed in and cramped, usually filled with shelving and cabinets to keep office supplies. Without the need for staplers and reams of paper or notebooks, you can reimagine those rooms as a nature-inspired oasis. Perhaps a water feature wall and the installation of plants can turn a small storage room into a quiet area, somewhere people can go to focus, away from a bustling open plan room. They can even make phone calls or hold teleconference conversations with coworkers and clients. Turning the space into a relaxing setting, a quiet area for lunch with a good book can help workers recharge batteries to tackle their afternoon with renewed vigor. Add acoustics to dampen sound, and your employees can find any number of productive ways to use such a space.
If your file cabinets line one wall of a large, open room, or stretch the length of a hallway, they aren't conducive to making the space into a room. Ridding yourself of the clunky, uninspired storage drawers gives you room for a few work stations. With today's increasingly mobile workforce, this is an ideal place to put a couple of sit-stand desks for employees who need a quick place to park or those out-of-town visitors looking for a workstation. Make quickly plugging into your company's network simple at this location, and you have a ready made place for your contractors and visitors to get right down to work.
For filing cabinets that are along a wall, perhaps ramping up the technology is the way to go. Consider setting up an interactive media wall where several people can collaborate on digital media at one time, brainstorming ideas and sharing larger group discussions for creative solutions to existing problems or building new innovations to move your company forward.
Every inch of square footage can be utilized to benefit your employees, whether that's providing an oasis from the sometimes chaotic open-plan spaces, giving room for more technology in the form of a teleconference room or media wall, or simply reducing the time it takes to get a cup of coffee. Giving these smaller areas within your company some consideration, even if it's to place a cluster of armchairs for impromptu tête-a-têtes, can fill a need where paper storage once occupied the space. A little creativity, some careful consideration, and you can turn these small but wasteful spaces into something useful and beautiful for your workforce to enjoy.