Managing churn with office design and space planning.

The workplace revolution we foresaw 20 years ago was supposed to have eradicated some of the oldest challenges known to facilities managers. The most prominent amongst these was churn, described in the Facilities Design and Management Handbook by its author Eric Teichholz as “the basic driver of the facilities management workload.”

Defined as the proportion of employees who move within an office each year and the costs associated, churn was seen as a product of long leases, hierarchical office space planning, tethered technology, desk ownership and static working. So the solutions were perceived to lie in developing an office interior design that dealt with those issues.

The problem is that change is not only a fact of life, it is necessary. An office design that makes the office too static can hamstring an organisation. What is needed instead is intelligent office interior solutions that build flexibility into the building. Modern workplace design principles and contemporary office furniture can be especially helpful. If we take an idealised view of the modern office as a flexible focal point for a technologically literate, mobile workforce of self-motivated knowledge workers, its form must reflect that function.

The building’s floorplates must be capable of accommodating a wide range of office space planning models, and servicing must be appropriate both in terms of technology and in terms of having the right spaces for the right jobs.

At an office interior design level, most talk of flexibility in the past has centred around the need to reconfigure office furniture. The past few years have seen the best contemporary office furniture systems respond by becoming more adaptable. Other elements of the office interior that were once considered static or semi-static are also having to offer more flexibility, including lighting, storage and partitioning. Interior elements are now routinely expected to define space, portray corporate identity, comply with legislation and act as signage.

This demands a holistic solution that can only be provided by using intelligent office interior design and office fit-out to resolve the interactions between architecture, culture, technology, teams and individuals. Office space planning will integrate flexibility into every level of the building to meet the needs of firms who have the task of dealing with a level of complexity that was completely unheard of only a few years ago. The need to manage change is always with us so we should always be one step ahead of it.

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