6 essential tips for a successful workspace fit-out

Here’s how to create the perfect workspace for your team, clients and business – setting everyone up for success.

Space planning is essential

An empty space can seem huge but will be filled quickly once you start adding cupboards, cabinets, desks, chairs and tables. Consider how you’ll use your space: Will you need a meeting table? Will clients be arriving and if so, what will they see as a first impression? Do you need a kitchen or break room area? What storage requirements do you have?

There’s no hard and fast rule as to how much space is required per person, but take the time to go through each team member’s role and responsibility and consider specifically how they will use the space you have them in – for example, a designer may need different light to work with than an accountant and a customer service manager might require a mailing station to prepare and pack products for clients.

Understanding how the space is used will make planning and setting up both easier and more effective but try not to think simply of your immediate requirements. Allow room for growth – new team members and increased client meetings.

You may also want to consider how different zoned set ups create different types of workspaces – an open, collaborative space can help foster creativity, whereas breakout rooms or enclosed meeting spaces will allow for privacy, discretion and concentration. The mood and morale of your team will be directly impacted by how they’ll interact in the space and with each other.

Get the right furniture the first time

If your business is set up to succeed, you will ultimately be more effective so once you know what your space needs, select the right pieces to facilitate and support that. Understand what types of desks your team needs to do their jobs best – do they require free areas to map things out, for example?

As your business grows, you tend to add pieces of furniture as its required which can create a chaotic look overall. Matching or colour co-ordinated furniture gives a clean, polished look to a space and classic pieces and styles allow you to continue to add to your furniture without it seeming too disjointed. Plus, a good set up isn’t just for visitors arriving and looking at your space, it’s for your team as well. Mismatched, lumpy chairs or wobbly desks aren’t great for morale.

Don’t forget the overall look and feel

Also consider the aesthetics of your space – the way it is styled. If you don’t like the way clutter looks, create a locker zone out of eyesight, with a dedicated locker for each team member to store their personal belongings like handbags and jackets. You can also avoid bulky waste paper bins shoved under each desk by designing a custom larger bin area in the kitchen zone, where people can dispose of their garbage.

Greenery is a great touch to brighten things up too – plus it’s been found that workspaces with plants can make teams more productive and happy.

Embrace your ergonomics

Ergomomics are focused on arranging and designing things so people use and interact with them in the most efficient and safe way. Rather than being simply about aesthetics, they are also a consideration under good Workplace Health and Safety guidelines. It’s important you provide a safe environment for your team that limits risk down the track – so that dodgy chair that leads to a bad back doesn’t end up costing you more than the price of a quality new one.

Ensure your desks support the inclusion of items that are used regularly, so they’re within hand reach and you don’t have your team constantly getting up and down. Adjust monitors so they’re at eye level. Make sure there’s ample space for chairs to be pushed in and out and for people to be able to move around the office. Ensure you have supportive, quality chairs so people are comfortable and safe and consider the benefits of sit and stand desks. Sometimes, it’s just a tweak or an addition to an existing piece of furniture that makes a much safer change and purchasing products that are tested by AFRDI will ensure your fit out is contributing towards meeting duty of care requirements.

Add a little spark

Electrics are often thought of later in the piece when it comes to office set ups and yet most offices are extremely dependent on electrical connectivity for internet, phones, lighting and charging. David Vineberg of Dvine Electrics says getting a good electrician in to prepare your workspace won’t just ensure you have the right plugs and connections in the most appropriate places, but also ensure you are creating a safe environment. “People often weave extension cords around office chairs or overload powerpoints,” he explains. “I have even seen companies where employees bounce between using Wi-Fi and taking turns connecting to an ethernet cable because there aren’t enough leads for everyone. Getting an electrician to come through and sort out the right cabling and lighting is actually a low cost way to develop a much more efficient and productive workspace. Plus, it usually looks a lot cleaner and more professional when you can’t see cords and wires everywhere!”

Focus on setting up for safety and inclusion

Hazards in the office may not be obvious, but there are a range of factors that can impact the health and safety of your employees. Poor ventilation or lack of natural light can lower concentration and impact positivity. Jobs and tasks which require prolonged work and limited movement can leave team members sluggish and ultimately, risk their health and wellbeing. Direct physical hazards like glare from screens, or unsteady furniture with sharp edges can put them – and ultimately your business – in jeopardy.

There are also legal requirements you need to be aware of. The Disability and Discrimination Act covers accessibility rights - which includes offices. Workplace Health and Safety acts and regulations ensure you consider ergonomics, minimise risk and promote good health, among other factors. Ensure you are fully across your obligations before you start mapping things out.

You can create inclusive workspaces for those with added challenges with changes such as ramps or curves over steps or small inclines, so those with mobility issues can move around freely. Ensure bathrooms are wide enough for wheelchairs or walkers to fit through and basins can be reached. Adding simple acoustic battening to walls or ceilings, or even rugs and curtains to big open spaces, will help deaden audio “bounce”, which helps those with hearing impairments or sensory issues to focus better.

Having conversations with all the right people – your electrician, handyman, team, clients and more – before you even begin setting up, will save you money and time down the track as you will identify issues, requirements, legal obligations and even essential safety regulations like fire escape access and exit signs.

Ultimately, a safe, inclusive, comfortable and yes - stylish, workplace will help set you and your company up for a big future.