Shrinking office footprints and space optimisation are hot topics in office fit out circles. Startups Magazine recently published an article claiming 37% of business leaders are considering downsizing their primary office space, while in February 2023, a survey of 500 London workers conducted by Bloomberg Intelligence found 25% of London companies were downsizing office holdings

Whether you are thinking of downsizing - or simply want to make better use of the floor space you have – MPL can help you with a small office refurbishment. Read our advice on optimising layouts, maximising storage and working in a more streamlined way, then contact MPL Interiors for smart, small-space office designs.

Assessing Your Space

Taking an inventory of your existing workplace is an essential place to start. The basics, such as the size, the current division of space and the composition of internal walls, will all inform a small office refurbishment.

The next step involves people as opposed to the property. An occupancy analysis will tell us how many employees there are and their working hours. It’s a crucial process if you’ve switched to flexible working - a topic explored in our blog ‘could you manage with just half your desks?’ Once we have established who clocks on and when, it’ll be clear if you have too many desks for your style of operation.

Another analysis that is required concerns workflow and processes – we call this a user study. Our team will want to know whether there are defined departments, communal areas, shared pieces of equipment, such as photocopiers, a lack of storage or underused areas/desks.

We’ll also ask about future ambitions and direction – we may feel activity-based working is best for the space you have and your business goals - or it could be apparent that expansion is on the horizon and any space optimisation should result in extra capacity for people or equipment.

Strategies for Maximising Space

A small office refurbishment should be designed to make the space feel more practical, intuitive and navigable. MPL Interiors will look at the following areas:-

Optimising layout and flow

Some of the most successful small office refurbishments involve replacing a series of pokey rooms with an open plan environment. Where possible, internal walls can be removed to reconfigure the space but that doesn’t mean one echoey void. Half height partitions, storage dividers, such as this wooden example at our project for Robinson Jackson Ebbsfleet, and even drapes can help create different zones and provide a degree of privacy.

Small offices can usually benefit from an increased amount of natural light, so we would explore enlarging window openings, adding roof lights and sun tunnels, and replacing obscured glass with clear panes. If workplaces have a tendency to feel stuffy, we’d also improve the ventilation. Finally, our user study will help us optimise traffic flow where there are bottlenecks and minimise dead spaces.

Smart storage solutions

Digitising documents and reducing paper storage is sensible in small office environments but we know it’s not practical in every industry. As well as client files, there may be essential case notes, historical documents, reference books and hard copy resources.

Going up instead of out is common when we’re planning a small office refurbishment. Floor-to-ceiling storage units can have a very slim footprint, while wall-to-wall shelves can be installed above desk height to keep floors clear. Storage that’s custom-built is a great way to utilise awkward, underused areas and nooks, while multi-functional furniture with built-in storage – such as desks with integral filing cabinets or cupboards, will keep spaces streamlined.

Collaborative and flexible workspaces

Our changing working patterns call for a different approach to work stations. If the workforce is mainly hybrid or agile, a small office refurbishment will need shared workspaces and hot desking zones instead of fixed desks.

An alternative is to have items and areas that double up – a big kitchen table that can also be used for meetings, or a breakfast bar that’s fitted with sockets and charging points so people can perch with laptops, for example. Break out areas can have multiple uses too – sofas and a screen can serve as a video call area but they can easily be a place for employees to watch sporting events or hold film nights.

Optimising technology and equipment

Look around almost every office and there will be a host of equipment – printers, photocopiers, shredders and maybe even a dusty fax machine sitting in the corner. Consolidating equipment is a great space-saving measure and if items are bulky, it’s worth investigating new models that will likely be smaller and more streamlined.

The same thinking can be applied to staff kitchens. A kettle can be replaced by a hot water tap and an integrated coffee machine will free up worktop space if you’re replacing a pod machine. Don’t overlook bins either – integrated cupboard-mounted bins will make the space roomier.

If you’re super serious about a small office refurbishment, you could encourage staff to adopt a greater degree of remote working to reduce the number of desks required. If this is a style both the employer and employees favour, a fit out may need an enhanced video conferencing solution to keep collaborative efforts and team spirit alive.

Resource Management

The skill of an office installer or retail designs specialist to link space optimisation with resource management. Sometimes practical changes have a dramatic impact but in other cases, it’s how an office design influences employee behaviour that has the biggest effect.

Reducing waste and resource consumption

Our article on the environmental benefits of sustainable office refurbishment details ways in which an office can become more sustainable, and the principles apply to every refurbishment - no matter its size. A small office refurbishment can still feature a recycling and composting program, choose to lead with sustainable materials and finishes, and include energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems. It’s our job to ensure such elements don’t compromise the space available.

Streamlining procurement and inventory management

If your office is on the more bijou side, the duplication of anything will result in more ‘stuff’ than your company needs. If procurement and inventory management can be centralised, only what’s really needed will be obtained – good for space optimisation and good for the budget.

Maximising Productivity

Most employees are simple to please: they want to be comfortable, appreciated and stress-free, and a small office refurbishment from MPL can help achieve this and maximise productivity.

Creating a comfortable and productive work environment

A small office can bring about unique refurbishment challenges but delivering optimum working conditions isn’t one of them. With the right space optimisation, a degree of soundproofing and acoustic control is achievable, as is the creation of a space for relaxation and socialisation. Of course, all office furniture can be specified for maximum user comfort – just because a desk is ergonomic, doesn’t mean it will be massive.

Encouraging collaboration and communication

If you’re encouraging people to come into the office and work as a team, your small office refurbishment should include an informal communication and/or collaboration area. There are some really good ways of getting around space limitations, such as pods, booths and temporary ‘zones’ that can be screened off using full height curtains.

Working with a smaller square footage isn’t a barrier to a productive, efficient workplace. Clever layout designs will result in space optimisation, while a bespoke approach to fixtures, fittings and even furniture will ensure the office flow isn’t interrupted. Businesses with smaller offices can also go all-out on energy saving and sustainable measures – simply include this in your brief and our team will work its magic.

If you’d like to see examples of our small office refurbishment projects and shop fit outs, get in touch with MPL today.