Micro offices: the next small thing?

Archilogic helps office providers better understand and visualise their spaces through 3D floor plans, office design simulations and data analytics. Here we look at how office designers can take inspiration from the micro living trend and use 3D floor plans to optimize their design.

Less space, more light

Complaining about lack of living space is so outdated – micro-living is now a real estate trend to embrace. Sure, city dwellers have always had to compromise on square footage, but the new tiny houses and micro-apartments (along with cluster apartments, co-living spaces, and variations) make a virtue of necessity.

The appeal of living a decluttered life is profound. “Less stuff, more light” is the mantra; and more lightness, too. A tiny home forces you to strip down to the bare essentials, and promises to reduce your carbon footprint as well as your rent. It also makes it easier to pack up and go somewhere new. With an increasingly mobile workforce, and geographically independent work, it just makes sense.

The new micro-living places value on quality, not quantity, of the space. Living in a shoebox can be great – as long as it’s a really well-designed shoebox. That means paying attention to form as well as function; a space for everything, and a touch of flair. All aspects that are just as important to office design as housing.

Small space, big business

The way we work is changing as much as the way we live. Laptops and smartphones turn every coffee shop into an informal coworking space, and yet companies still need offices. But instead of being the place to access corporate infrastructure, the office is the place to connect. And it’s being redesigned accordingly.

Modern office design is heavily influenced by the rise of coworking spaces. That doesn’t just mean bright colors and “inspiring” quotes on the walls, though. The main lesson learned is that employees need spaces to collaborate, to communicate, to refresh and to focus. A successful office should incorporate zones to serve all these different functions. But carving out large chunks of communal space means slashing personal space to compensate, although solo concentration time is still a must. Hot desking reduces the number of workstations needed, of course, but can you go further? Perhaps micro-living can provide some solutions.

Consider your goals

The number one hero of stylish micro-apartments is cunningly designed furniture. Be it a sofabed, a cupboard door that folds out to become a desk or bookshelves slotted in beneath stairs, it’s all about making the most of every corner. Similarly, Lund University students thought laterally (and vertically) to design some brilliant space-saving office solutions.

These ideas make for great photo spreads, but how helpful are they really? Custom-built fittings, like niche design products, will be beyond the reach of many smaller businesses (exactly those most likely to need to save on space and related costs). And for a lot of workers, the jerry-rigged feel of a foldout desk could be a turn-off. But as long as you put employee needs front and center, the micro office can work.

What’s striking about the Lund students’ ideas is how many of them address the challenge of needing to separate from the herd. A vertically stacked “bunk desk”, a zip-up chair or angled light doubling as an acoustic screen – all are geared to create privacy. So make that a priority in your own tiny office. Bookcases can screen off a quiet work corner while providing storage, for instance.

Since the modern workspace is above all about connection, make the most of multi-purpose furniture in your social areas. A bar counter that extends from the kitchen to the workspaces can provide a row of standing desks as well as a coffee hub. That’s no substitute for more private focus spaces, but as a collaboration zone, it could reduce the reliance on desks.

And in a small space, looks really matter. Small details will stand out more; bad proportions will make themselves felt. So spend a little more time on getting it right, to avoid feeling crowded. Archilogic’s 3D office floor plan software will help you test fit a range of options, and measure the resulting space per desk. You can take inspiration from these home offices , squeezed into odd corners, on how to maximize the sense of office space using just color and furniture choices.

Make it work for your office floor plan

How can you plan for your own micro office? These tips will help you get the most out of your space.

1.   Think vertically. Use wall-mounted storage units; look for hidden storage space underneath desks. Can you incorporate a floating staircase?

2.   If suitable, tuck desks away in cupboards or behind folding doors to maximize floor space (and light) when they’re not in use. But take care not to make employees feel like a nuisance.

3.   Be sure to make space for a few plants, perhaps with hanging or wall-based planters. Greenery improves air quality and morale.

4.   Consider how your people work, and what they will need – sometimes that’s a space for collaboration, sometimes it’s privacy, so include both. And remember the practicalities. You can cut the number of desks, but not the power outlets.

5.   Trick the eye to create an impression of more space. Scale all features, from desks to plants, to your environment; just a few inches can make the difference. Use see-through or “leggy”, frame-based desks/chairs, and mirrors to increase light flow.

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