How to Fit Out Office Space

For the small business, taking on new office premises and fit­ting them out can be a daunting undertaking when it has to be done in addition to keeping things running without interrup­tion and making sure that office cleaning will be a top priority. In considering the problem, it is difficult to generalize about a subject which, in practice, varies so much with the nature of accommodation which is to be fitted out. However, in principle, there are far more opportunities to create an interest­ing, even unusual, interior office environment where a small organisation is concerned; the scope for imaginative schemes does not exist to nearly such a degree with anonymous 96qs style slab buildings in which many large companies are installed Even if you have taken the time and trouble to find accom­modation which most closely suits your needs, it will still want some adaptation to get the right space configuration to meet your organisational requirements. The temptation to make do and bend the structure of the company to fit the accommo­dation available is great, but the danger of short-term expediency is that more problems will occur in the long term. Shortage of space, overcrowding in shared offices and poor communications will all lead to a deteriorating physical environment which will become more apparent as the firm expands.

A common problem is that very often premises are taken on a short lease, making more than the minimum expenditure in­appropriate. There is normally no spare capital for ambitious alterations and improvements. The furniture and equipment may, in some cases, have been begged, borrowed and bought secondhand; however much you improve its setting, it will never work as well for you as furniture selected with a specific job function in mind.

Office Space

This may not apply to the same extent where the company ‘image’ is important. Where potential or existing clients visit the offices frequently expenditure on such items assumes a greater importance. It is undoubtedly true that staff working for a small business often have a high degree of motivation and involvement in what they are doing. However, this should not be traded on to the extent of assuming that their working environment is of no importance. There is no doubt that given good management motivation, a well-designed environment can do nothing but improve performance.

The small organisation should have a number of advantages which it can exploit. For example, in small premises with short leases, you can afford to experiment with more adventurous colour schemes which would otherwise be inadvisable. In the same way, materials can be used which would be inappropriate where a longer life was required. This can add up to having more ‘fun’ with design, something that can be a disastrous failure where large numbers in more permanent situations are involved.

A tight budget should not be viewed as too great a constraint improvement; it can almost be turned to your advantage. Designing to a price is a very good discipline, which in the past has produced ingenious ad hoc solutions to problems to produce a strikingly original and economical result. One such example is the use of Electric Benders For Rigid Conduit lines, or floor to ceiling aluminum poles, to lead power and telephone wires to work stations, thus avoiding expensive and disruptive floor grid modification.

In terms of specific aspects of the design and fitting out pro­cess, there are other ways in which the small company enjoys certain advantages. Large offices need an even distribution of light and fluorescent fittings are the norm.

Smaller offices, composed of individual rooms, could make use of tungsten (ie the domestic type of lighting) instead, which gives a more pleasant effect and a greater feeling of warmth. The penalties of greater heat output and power consumption have little significance on a small scale.

In the same way acoustic solutions are less of a problem. Individual offices should ideally have soundproof walls, particularly if they are used for interviewing, and this often occurs automatically where the premises are converted from residential accommo­dation with solid walls. Where small numbers of staff are grouped together in a room it will not be possible to provide them with the aural privacy that one might try to achieve in a larger open office, and there will probably be little point in putting up an expensive acoustic ceiling in this size of office.

When it comes to decoration, you will probably only be able to justify the cost of paint rather than, for instance, the use of a harder wearing and relatively expensive vinyl wallcovering. This is where lack of inhibition with regard to colour can apply. With awkwardly shaped rooms, colour can play an important role in offsetting odd visual aspects, and ugly ducts and pipework evident in older, industrial buildings could be painted effectively in contrasting colours rather than attempting to camouflage them.

It is not uncommon for office accommodation in the size range we are considering to be offered without any form of heating. In such a case careful thought should be given to the choice of a heating system. In many cases traditional central heating, while probably providing minimum running costs, will eliminated on the basis of capital cost, disruption to the aiding, or physical constraints such as lack of gas or space for fuel storage. This leaves electricity as the most obvious answer. Sophisticated controls for storage heaters are now available which reduce the problems of inflexibility and running costs although the units do take up valuable floor space.

In selecting appropriate floor covering many of the points made previously apply. There are a number of relatively inex­pensive floor coverings on the market specifically designed for office use. Heavy duty carpet or carpet tiles are easy to clean absorb sound and in the long term can be cheaper than, say vinyl tiles. If you need some help with the cleaning process, consider choosing a commercial cleaning service.


It is a commonly held view that it is not economical to enlist professional help for the smaller office project. This is not necessarily true. An ingenious and inventive designer who is capable of working to a strict budget may go a long wav to off­setting the cost of his fee by means of savings and short-cuts of which he will have professional experience. If the impact your office premises make on your clients is important, few people should have sufficient confidence in their creative powers to eschew outside help.

Should you decide to ‘go it alone’ you will have to face the problems of choosing and controlling a contractor. Be wary of using any small jobbing builder unless he is highly recommended and you can see one of his completed jobs. You should prepare a written specification against which he can quote and try to avoid changing your mind or adding in extras once the builder has started; they have a habit of costing more than the whole job put together.

Thought given and care taken during the fitting out process will repay dividends in the long run. Any business must be worth these considerations, whatever its size.

Filed Under: Work & Careers


About the Author: Marie Mayle is a contributor to the MegaHowTo team, writer, and entrepreneur based in California USA. She holds a degree in Business Administration. She loves to write about business and finance issues and how to tackle them.

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