Between the chairs: An A to Z for establishing central zones
Establish the middle of an office space with social furniture and make optimal use of a challenging space
Furniture for flexible office space design
In large offices one often finds oneself seeking to balance openness and calm. Room systems and communication modules that divide large rooms into individual functional areas are ideal for enabling communication and concentration in equal measure.
The days of massive filing cabinets are over. Instead, the trend is for airy areas with a light look and dynamic furnishings with mobile containers, multifunctional furniture and mobile zoning elements - preferably with integrated sound insulation. Functional structures can also be created within the open space with relaxation zones, think tanks and telephone booths.
To ensure that the furniture in the central zone is more than just filler, a needs analysis for individual room planning is recommended. Reversible structures are considered to be particularly advantageous for companies on a growth course: furniture systems such a Vario, Gerriets or USM can not only be individually planned, but also subsequently converted and adapted to changing needs.
The best place for stand up meetings
A stand-up meeting is a short meeting where people get together in an informal setting. The special feature: you stand. Stand-up meetings are considered an efficient way to clarify issues in the shortest possible time. Central zones where many paths cross are thus an excellent place for stand-up meetings. In addition to bar tables and think tanks, arena structures are also suitable for holding short meetings in a relaxed, open atmosphere. Half-round arena solutions can be built, for example, with Vario storage elements.
What furnishings for office meeting points?
There are many ways in which communicative places can be created in the central zone of the open-plan office, and range from small meeting points to barista stations. In order for meetings to be held effectively in the central zone certain furnishing elements are essential: in addition to a bar table and/or flexible seating options, a whiteboard, a screen and connection and charging options for laptops are musts. Combined seating furniture with integrated storage space is also suitable for the open structures in the central zone.
Spatial planning from the middle
One of the biggest challenges when setting up central zones is the noise level; noise not only caused by conversations, but also by room reverberation. The visual stimuli are also decisive for a concentrated atmosphere in open office spaces. A well thought-out room layout in an open-plan office is therefore of enormous importance.
Tip: Meeting zones should not be set up directly next to individual workstations. In addition, paths for external people (customers, suppliers, etc.) should be taken into account and not routed through the middle of the workplace.
From Acoustics to Zoning: the ABC of the central zone
For good acoustics in open office spaces the sound must be stopped and reverberation avoided. This can be achieved through classic acoustic elements, but also through a variety of furnishings in the central zone: the use of different heights, shapes and materials automatically have a positive influence on the room acoustics.
Where once there was the tea kitchen, today large offices rely on a café atmosphere – complete with barista and espresso machines. However, so that the work café is not only used for breaks, but is also perceived as an enriching element in everyday work niches for concentrated work, separated from the hustle and bustle, are necessary.
While clutter in the office can be uninviting and disruptive, certain irregularities seem natural and therefore comfortable: the state of perfect chaos in the central zone is achieved through the measured use of different colours, dimensions and angles, as well as patterned accents.
A functional central zone can be set up even in a few square meters. For example, with a shielded think tank or a bar table for stand-up meetings.
Large offices should ideally be designed with experienced interior planners. The furnishing professionals from smow design tailor-made solutions for the individual requirements of a company on the basis of a needs analysis
Contemporary workspace concepts always focus on people and togetherness. One result of this development is furniture specifically designed for communicative exchange. Social furniture offers the ideal furniture for central zones: they are characterized by flexibility and multifunctionality and are perfectly suited to dividing open spaces into different functional areas.
Plants are an integral part of offices. They are indispensable not only because of their air-purifying effect; rather, plants are also perfect as room dividers, sound insulation and decoration. The all-in-one solution are partition walls with real moss.
Hybrid models are seen as the future of everyday office life. The home office is becoming increasingly important and is often used as a place for concentrated work. It is thus all the more important that personal exchange is promoted in the office through deliberately created meeting places.
Large office spaces are best divided into different islands. In addition to an area for concentrated work, retreat islands and well thought-out meeting places should not be neglected.
A safe choice for central zones are lounge areas. High-quality sofas and armchairs, elegant tables and a pleasant lighting atmosphere create a relaxed atmosphere through their appearance alone.
The middle of the office is ideal as a meeting place, for example in the form of a market square: the area should be clearly visible and accessible, warm materials, subdued zones and corporate-compatible accessories and decoration are inviting. A small range of drinks and snacks as well as a small kitchen make for the perfect canteen 2.0
Configurable furniture and room dividers are excellent means of choice for furnishing central zones. Modular systems enable permanent flexibility and rapid adaptability.
In order for meaningful, efficient networking in the office, the furnishings must also focus on communication. Social furniture and flexible structures form the best framework for good interaction within and between teams.
Whether open space or activity-based working, all office concepts designed for openness face the same challenges of an open-plan office. Anyone who does not invest in a balanced relationship between classic workplaces, meeting places and retreat areas prevents teamwork instead of promoting it.
Open-plan central zones continue the principle of open space: They encourage collaboration and creative exchange, but also offer structure and privacy through clever room planning.
Partition walls are essential for setting up central zones. They structure the space, insulate the noise level and ensure more peace and privacy when working. Modern partition wall systems not only absorb sound, but also have several functions as a pin board, storage space, coat rack or holder for hanging plants.
A room must be optically and acoustically shielded in order to be accepted as a retreat in the office. To this end, half-open meeting corners can also be used in the central zone: with acoustically effective walls and ceiling elements, they counteract excessive noise levels and allow for retreat without completely isolating oneself.
Digitisation has taken the place of files, post office and a media library. However, you cannot do without filing completely in the office. A semi-open or closed room for documents, receipts and office utensils as well as the printer and copier is perfect for the central zone in the office. The storage space should be easy to reach, but it does not need daylight and is therefore best placed in the middle of the room.
Even if the personal individual desk is slowly losing importance, individuality, personal decoration and plants are important feel-good ingredients in open-plan offices. Not everything has to be perfectly coordinated for a friendly atmosphere!
Unpopular office space
Desks in the centre of a large office space are often unpopular. Clever room planning with a combined lounge/conference area and shielded touch-down workstations in the middle zone can be an excellent alternative.
Modern office systems think for themselves and offer variable solutions from mobile containers to shelving systems. Thanks to the uniform design, a visually coherent image can be created even on large surfaces.
A work lounge is a screened-off work area in the middle of the office. However, for a work lounge to be meaningfully used as a temporary desk, the areas must be ergonomically furnished and equipped with good lighting, sufficient sockets and functioning WiFi.
If a very large area is available in the middle of the office, the central zone can be used as a market square. A good market square requires around 150 to 400 square meters of space. With more than 200 employees, one meeting place per floor is recommended, as different meeting places tend to lead to the formation of small groups instead of a big get-together.
Thanks to flexible structures, the area in the middle of the office can be used in a variety of ways. So why not host cross-team yoga sessions in the central zone and start the working day with a Sun Salutation?
Room dividers can be used to divide open-plan offices into functional areas. However, these should not be more than hip or chest level so that the lines of sight remain and the incidence of light is not disturbed. This way you keep the overview and the feeling of openness.