Our new office fitout brings minimalism to our workplace

I’ve previously written about whether it’s possible to practise minimalism it work, and while I would sometimes talk to my colleagues about this concept, I was pessimistic about the likelihood of many people actually practising it without being forced to. That pessimism turned out to be justified, and fortunately for the minimalism cause circumstances came about that would force people down that path…

New office fitout required

Unfortunately our office was damaged some time back (don’t ask, it’s a long story), and this meant that the existing workstations needed to be replaced. As soon as I heard this I was pushing for smaller workstations, as the former arrangements were overly generous and designed in an era where every design wish was granted.

An independent review of our workstations actually determined that our people seated per square metre was ridiculously low compared to all other offices in the network, and the days of the large workstations were therefore numbered.

The review actually concluded that not only would we need to forfeit some of the space that we had leased in our building (and this space might have been 10-15% of the total), but with redesigned workstations in the remaining smaller space we would still be able to fit something like 30% more desks than we had previously.

Now as soon as I saw the proposed new workstations I knew that a lot of people would be forced down the minimalism path, and I was quite happy about it actually, even as I was imagining a few of the hoarders stressing out about what they would do with all of their crap. For those of you who are interested, the new workstations look something like this:

Modern workstation design: Note that there’s absolutely nowhere to hide your useless crap. It’s paperless or nothing now!

The staff reaction

You won’t be surprised to hear that plenty of the staff were freaking out as soon as they heard about the new workstations, with some immediately trying to secure alternative storage space so that they wouldn’t have to pare back their stuff.

While we did allow them to use some alternative storage (almost like a pigeon hole type arrangement in some centralised shelves that are still quite a way from their desks), I believe that most of them have actually received the message and genuinely trimmed back the amount of crap that they keep. This obviously wouldn’t have been as possible if we weren’t working in a paperless office, but some of the staff who hadn’t embraced this as well in the past obviously needed to become more paperless in the process.

Staff also raised concerns about noise given the higher density of people and the drastic reduction in the height of dividing partitions, but those concerns turned out to be unfounded as everyone I’ve spoken to has said that they don’t have any noise issues in the new arrangements at all. So much for all of the panic, although I’ve openly admitted that it would be a fair change for me to leave an office and sit out in an open area after being in an office for all of these years, but demolishing offices for partners would have increased the cost phenomenally so I don’t think I’ll have to cross that bridge for a long time yet.

Is our more efficient fitout part of a wider trend in the industry?

If we were to compare to some other changes that have happened in the industry in recent times (e.g. the rise of cloud accounting), there’s an overwhelming trend of trying to make the industry more efficient (increasing outputs while reducing inputs), and our office fitout is another good example of this.

Obviously there was a cost to our fitout, but the significant reduction in rent, along with the efficiency dividend from forcing staff to cull the crap that surrounds them every day, should mean that the payback period won’t be significant.

So what do you think of this type of fitout and the trend of increasing efficiency? Have you experienced this in your firm? If so then I’d love to hear from you.


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