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Avoid pitfalls in office space, system design

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by Ann Bucy

SBJ Contributing Writer

Designing an office isn't as easy as it may look. There's a lot of thought that goes into creating a space that meets the needs and wants of as many people as possible, according to local interior designers and office managers.

Marcia Davis is an interior designer with J Webb Design. In order to avoid design pitfalls, Davis first recommends hiring the right person for the job.

"You would want to hire a designer who's had job experience in this field," she said. "You also want to see what their references are and know they'll pick products that are designed to suit your needs."

For example, if there's a need for mobility and versatility in an office arrangement, "you'll want to go with a modular (plan) that will allow you to change things. If you don't need to move things around a lot, you can go with free-standing equipment," Davis said.

The designer should check your electrical system and see if there are adequate outlets, if they can be accessed through the panel system, the number of employees and what type of equipment they use, and what the company's needs are for special configurations: versatile systems or ones that are stationary.

"The designer should ask themselves, 'How will people function in these areas? Can people easily communicate with each other or within their individual cubicles?' and 'How long do they expect the products and equipment to last?'" Davis said.

"A lot of this is common sense," she added. "You want to deal with someone who has experience, communicates well with a client and can provide the finished product you want to see."

From the perspective of someone working in the office, Mike Bolin, general manager of Carpet One and the Carpet Barn, offered some practical tips he's gleaned from running an office for many years.

For example, Bolin said, he believes every employee needs a space they can call their own.

"It doesn't have to be much," he said. "it has to be a place employees can retreat to with some privacy a space that's available when they need it. It's something separate from a break room, but I think companies should have one of those too: a place where employees can eat lunch and warm up something in the microwave."

Bolin added that if someone is confined to their work space for most of the day and they don't have the liberty to walk around a lot, it's important for them to be comfortable.

"Even though you're sitting most of the day, you can be fatigued after long periods of time."

Comfort can be achieved through the choice of office chairs, desk heights and how the individual work space, and shared equipment, is arranged.

Regarding office communications, Bolin added, technology is not necessarily the answer to every problem.

"Voice mail isn't always good because it can get neglected during peak periods of business. When there's a sense of immediacy about their business, people expect a call back right away," he said.

And, in terms of communication between management, employees and co-workers, as well as with customers, "There should be a central information location," Bolin said, "somewhere where employees can let someone know about their days off, when they'll be taking lunch and so on.

"It should also be a place where customers can go for answers. This will save the customer time and eliminates confusion for them."

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