Small Office Strategies: Modular Design to Enhance Even the Smallest of Spaces



If your office is currently furnished in a style that was popular more than a decade ago, you are probably doing yourself, your company, and your employees a huge disservice. Back-breaking chairs, clunky desks, and archaic filing cabinets that were designed to support equally clunky technology from ten years ago are not only wreaking havoc on your employees’ health and decreasing their productivity, but they are also a complete waste of space.

Companies often have significantly more space than they think, but many of them haven’t figured out how to utilize it to its full potential. Cubicle panels, large storage spaces, ridiculously large desk surfaces, printer-fax machines, and even desktop computers are destined for extinction as newer technology, tablets, laptops, smartphones, is changing workplace rules, and with it, space allocation and design.

Not only that, studies conducted across a wide range of industries, including business services, electronics, banking, etc., have also shown that workers are using the space differently compared to a decade ago. Work is no longer conducted solely at work: this is the conclusion furniture manufacturer Herman Miller reached after using wireless sensors that recorded how often chairs in offices were occupied throughout the day. The results were surprising: 77 percent of the time, private offices were vacant; workstations were unoccupied 66 percent of the time, while meeting rooms were rarely used to full capacity. It seems fairly obvious that, in a constantly-evolving work environment where employees become more mobile, conventional office layout becomes obsolete.

Office Design, Catching Up with the Demands of Technology

Office Interior Design

Across the world, the work environment is changing. Employees’ expectations are changing. How they work and what they do is changing. Mobility is becoming increasingly important, and workers are more likely to step away from their desks and move towards more social, collaborative spaces to perform work-related tasks. Offices are expected to become more dynamic and versatile in order to sustain this sudden influx of communication, but how can this be achieved without making considerable structural changes?

Enter modular office design. Modular design is an approach that ‘subdivides a system into smaller parts (modules) that can be independently created and then used in different systems to drive multiple functionalities’. Instead of expecting work patterns and styles to adapt to the existing office layout, modular design allows managers to build workspaces based entirely on employees’ needs and functions.

Modular (architectural movable) interior elements, walls, floors, and furniture, have adaptable connections that enable multiple combinations and integrate seamlessly with the existing building. In addition, existing buildings can be remodeled without having to modify infrastructure or make significant structural changes. Without requiring large investments, modular furniture design allows office environments to keep up with technological advancements and evolving dynamics of the workplace.

Benefits of Modular Design

Modular Office Furniture


In terms of functionality, most modular furniture solutions provide “room for plug-and-play power, data, plumbing and technology integration,” according to WorkDesign Magazine. “When technology changes (as it always inevitably does), new components, wiring or wireless components can be updated within that cavity quickly and easily with little to no disruption to the rest of the structure.” Separable, interchangeable, functionally superior, and non-damaging to existing structures, components of modular furniture make the pass from isolation and low performance to openness and collaboration. They also:

  • Transform the workplace to match various employee work styles and user requirements and align it with company culture
  • Allow flexible and sustainable office space planning without requiring companies to make expensive changes as they expand
  • Offer unparalleled value for companies preoccupied with reducing unnecessary waste
  • Improve air quality and ensure employees’ long-term health through the use of UV-cured, non-toxic materials
  • Enable the natural interaction between co-workers, turning the workspace into a hub of creativity and innovation
  • Bring down long-term real estate expenses by enhancing the physical space required for job performance

Smaller, flatter, simpler technology is creating a need for less-customized, less-expensive, simpler furniture. Focused on costs but also on employee attraction and retention, managers have shown a preference for systems that can be easily installed and managed. They are also geared towards adaptable solutions that support the shift from static to mobile, from a conventional workplace to a space with fewer individual desks, shared workstations, benching systems, and soft-seating areas.

If you need help establishing a professional environment that responds to and sustains new work styles, contact an experienced office space planner to talk about ways you can utilize the existing space to its full potential.

About the Author Lynne Lemieux

Lynne Lemieux, Founder and President of Alliance Interiors Inc., has devoted more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing growth opportunities for some of Canada's leading office furniture dealers. Her ability to provide clients with inspiring and versatile interior solutions for both business and home office environments has garnered her title of Aboriginal Business Woman of the Year in the city of Toronto for 2012. In her spare time, Lynne takes an active interest in politics, public speaking, and philanthropy, but also enjoys gardening, interior decorating, cooking, yoga, and traveling.

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