A few decades ago , offices were treated like
machines , catering only to organizational requirements , with
little consideration given to the ‘people’ factor which played
almost no role in determining the design of the office. Offices
are trying to move away from airless , box-like rooms , to better
ventilated , well lit , ergonomically sensitive spaces.
Increasingly these are being designed by professionals who , apart
from seeing that the spaces work with optimum utilization are able
to add an aesthetic touch.
Nowadays offices are considered to be a status of a person. In
India ,previously the offices were either a part of the home or
the royal court. The equipment that made these function were no
more than the pen , paper and ink. The first sign of automation or
mechanization came with the introduction of the typewriter in the
nineteenth century. Then the second bit of mechanization came with
the telephone and the cyclostyling machines. In the fifties and
sixties , offices were rather simply organized. A very strong
hierarchical system prevailed and the office was divided between
the bosses who had their rooms , the junior managers who had their
small personal cabins , and the general staff who sat in the hall.
Then the revolution started with the introduction of mainframe
computer in seventies and then there was no looking back , these
were followed by mini computers , then with the arrival of
personal computers in early eighties and the office set-up began
to change dramatically.
The strong hierarchical system was no longer relevant , and a new
office order , namely the open office , came into being. The open
office had light , air and privacy for all. Typically low height
partitions were erected between pieces of furniture to give visual
privacy but they were not able to provide the acoustic privacy and
the noise was the biggest hurdle. The open plan system can
accommodate a wide range of functions from reception to conference
room. Here ,both executives and staff are placed in an open area
divided into individual or shared workstations , defined by
independent storage units or partitions of varying heights. The
heights of the dividing panels will depend on their function. Low
panels upto 4’ , create a feeling of privacy when seated , yet
allow one to see or reach over when standing . 5’ high panels
offer more visual privacy and though the extra tall can still see
over are usually high enough for Indian users. Taller panels can
be used to define different departmental areas. Partitions can be
useful in concealed old unmatched furniture so that this does not
clash with modern additions , which would ruin the aesthetic
appeal of the office
Then there were so much developments in the designs and now is the
trend of modular offices. Designing new offices involves making
thousands of decisions . Some of these are easy , others may take
more time. Then the difference between a well designed office and
a poorly designed one is enormous . get it wrong and you are faced
with high overheads , little design flexibility and worst of all
the unhappy staff and in the last the work suffers. Space in the
office as always at a premium. The key is to use it as well as you
can. By coming up with an adaptable partition system to customize
your floor space , and full filling all the furniture needs , the
designer can help you maximize the use of the space available. In
recent years , India has been waking up to another genre of
furniture that has long been popular in the west well made modular
furniture in wood and particle board. So now the question comes ,
what exactly is the modular furniture ?? Quite simply , furniture
that can be broken down into modules and put back together at
will. Machine made for the most part , it is devoid of frills .
The advantage of this kind of furniture- often referred to in the
trade as CKD (Complete Knock Down) are many.
- For the largest segment , going modular is the key to
- Because it can be dismantled , it is ideal for people who have
to move a lot.
- It is cost-effective and convenient , and gives one the freedom
to play around with color and form.
- It being light and simply structured , is ideally suited to the
match box sized dimensions of modern day apartments.
The atmosphere in the office can greatly influence work output and
an increasing emphasis is being placed on making the modern office
as pleasant as it is functional. This is not always easy , given
the increasingly smaller work spaces to contend with. In such a
set-up , going modular is a great idea. Stylish , color co-ordinated
contemporary and both environment friendly and practical modular
furniture is here to stay. Most furniture lines come is a range of
models, to be selected as per individual requirements and budgets.
With multiple work surfaces and storage areas above and below the
working levels , space is used very effectively. One can add draw
units , cabinets , display panels and pin boards whenever and
wherever one needs them. All these systems are easy to install ,
upgrade or relocate and they adapt well to all modern
communication data and computer equipment.
Thus , Image is a subtle component that is affected by several
variables , some of which may not be possible to change; like the
location itself. Image also conveys an important message to those
who work in the office. Design requirements will vary from office
to office , according to function , organizational style , budget
and of course , the image the company wants to present to the
world. A pleasant work environment is the management’s way of
showing that it cares about its people.
Design of Office
The office , where we spend the most significant
portion of our working lives in our work places , which is the
reason that one should always be very careful about the
functionality décor of the working space. Our work space , where
we spend at least half our walking time , six days a week , is as
important a part of our lives as our homes. The working conditions
and the environment in the offices directly affect the way people
interact with the family and friends at the end of the day. These
also have an influence on our productivity , mental well-being and
PLANNING THE OFFICE : To plan
an office effectively , the designer should have a thorough
understanding of the functional and aesthetic requirements of the
client , followed by an in-depth evaluation of the possibilities
and constraints of the given space , including columns , beams ,
existing plumbing and so on. An office should ideally have enough
space not merely to seat its employees , but to locate ancillary
and support services , from the stately boardroom to the humble
pantry , as well as for circulation between these areas , with
adequate access to stairs and fire escapes. When planning a given
space , it is important to conceive a long term master plan ,
keeping in mind planned growth and future requirements , even if
the intention is only to implement part of the plan now and
execute the rest as needs and funds arise. The master plan would
ensure that what is installed now will not have to be dismantled
or relocated when new developments take place. This would help
eliminate unnecessary wastage of material and labour .
THE RECEPTION AREA : It is the
reception area that makes the first impact on the visitor and
which colors his expectation of the space ahead. If the business
of the company calls for continuous interaction with guests who
need to be suitably impressed , then it is important that the
reception area be adequately dressed.
The reception can be used to display the
company's product or operations with visuals or models.
Alternatively , paintings or aesthetic
accessories in the room can be chosen to reflect the company's
taste and style.
The receptionist should have direct visual
access to be able to keep an eye on office comings and goings
CONFERENCE ROOM : Conference
room is the central area of any office and can give impressions to
anyone new having meeting in that room
Conference should ideally be easily
accessible from the entrance , so that the visitors do not
have to travel all over the office.
The facility of a nearby toilet will be an
advantage for the same reason.
The equipment necessary for presentations ,
such as a screen , TV , video monitor , black board , flip
chart etc , needs to be provided .
The design should provide a calm , neutral
background for visual presentation and adequate lighting.
The furniture and ambience should be designed
so that the participants can communicate with each other
CEILINGS : It is well to
remember that ceilings , like any other surface , reflect light
and sound , and contribute significantly to the lighting and
acoustic qualities of a space.
Suspended ceilings are available in different
materials , and increasingly , acoustic tiles and panels are
becoming standard , especially in open offices and where no
special ceiling treatment is required. Usually made of
non-combustible which prevents sound waves being reflected
back into the room.
Holes for recessed lights can be cut out
Plaster or gypsum board is harder and
reflects more sounds then it absorbs .
Exposed structural ceiling are sometimes used
to create a hi-tech image , as a stylistic alternative to the
typical office interior.
LIGHTING : Good lighting is
crucial for effective work , besides which , lighting accounts for
a considerable part of the energy consumed in an office. Therefore
, two basic elements which the designer must keep in mind are the
cost and the efficiency of lighting . On the other hand , it is
lighting which makes design come alive and it should be exploited
accordingly. It can create a warm , inviting and dramatic interior
, or result in a cold and monotonous office.
One effective use of the standard bulb is as
a wall wash , which tends to imbue the whole space with
incandescence and makes the room warm and friendly.
Incandescent downlights , halogens included ,
can complement fluorescents and can be used to highlight
specific objects , such as desks , plants , paintings ,
objects , etc.
To reduce eye strain and fatigue , high
contrasts should be avoided . Use of job oriented , task
lights can be practical , if complemented by general lighting
Suspended or pendant lights can serve a dual
function in this regard , and while providing overall
illumination , can be lowered to concentrate on a given space.
A system of selective switching and
operational control areawise , or where possible even deskwise
, can help restrict usage and operating costs of lighting to
only as and when required.
FLOORING : Office flooring is
subjected to more wear and tear than any other surface in the room
, and it is therefore imperative that it be hardy and resilient.
Flooring materials vary greatly . hard
flooring , such as stone , granite , marble , kota , etc. Wood
, cement , terrazzo , ceramic tiles , are usually noisier
Soft coverings such as vinyl or carpeting ,
but they are hardier.
Choice of flooring material will depend on
the function of a given area and its requirements where
durability , appearance , cost and maintenance are concerned.
Flooring can be used as a design tool not
only in an obvious choice of material and color , but to
demarcate departments , private/public areas and circulation
paths , by a selective use of different hues and surfaces.
STORAGE : While providing
enough storage the emphasis today should be on eliminating
unnecessary garbage .
The basic storage units such as the cupboards
, filing cabinets , drawer unit , open shelf , are still as
useful as ever , whether they are free standing or built into
walls , or used in lieu of the partitions to save space.
In addition we have certain new innovations
such as filing shelves which move on tracks , and which
completely fill a given space.
Furniture too can be designed to save space ,
using the space above and below work tops..
PANTRY: For offices that can
afford the space , a clean well designed and pleasant looking
cafeteria or canteen will help employees relax.
Pantries should be designed to incorporate
all the essentials , such as a hot plate or gas burner with
cylinder space below and a sink , a stainless sink is hardy
and easy to clean.
A storage cupboard , shelves or hooks can
hold the cups and saucers , plates , cutlery , tea , coffee ,
sugar , etc. A small compact refrigerator is useful for
storing milk , cold drinks , preserving food items , etc.
A good garbage storage system will help
circumvent the inevitable mass of tea dregs , papers etc.
Disposable plastic cups , plates , if
economically viable can save on maintenance and cleaning.
ESSENTIAL SERVICES : coming to
the toilets , which perhaps more than any other room , reveals the
true class of a company , its attitude to cleanliness and the
activity of its employees and visitors.
Bathrooms don't have to be exotic , but they
do have to be adequate in number for the staff employed and
they have to be clean.
They should have tiled surface , preferably
in light plain shades which are not overpowering and which
cannot be scrubbed down easily.
Separate toilets for men and women are
statutory to a given number of employees . The traps , the
Indian and the western WC with the urinals to accommodate all
If ventilation is less than ideal , an
exhaust or ceiling fan may help , for there are few things as
off-putting as a smelly toilet.
Facilities for dispensing toilet paper ,
towel , hand dryer etc , should be provided.
Thus, planning the ideal offices large and small
, opulent and spartan , the professionals can help make the
complicated thing , simple to understand and to work out.