One of my favorite pastimes is traveling. It doesn’t matter where, I just like to get out of the house and explore new places. As a little girl, my mom would pack some snacks, gather my brother and sister and hop in the car and head off while my dad sat in the navigator seat with his oversized Rand McNally map in hand.
We took many trips over the years, exploring all corners of the country, sometimes more than once. We’ve traveled out east along the coast visiting the Nation’s Capital, the Big Apple and Niagara Falls. We’ve been out west stopping to see the Corn Palace, Wal-Drug, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. We drove through the Redwoods (literally through a redwood tree) and down the coast to Big Sur. We saw Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and a re-enactment of the OK Corral in Tombstone, AZ. I’ve been to Disneyland and Disney World many times over, all along my dad carrying his trusty map.
Keeping Us On Course
As I sat in the back seat keeping peace between siblings, I often wondered why he needed this map. If you paid close-enough attention, the signs along the highway would guide you wherever you wanted to go throughout the country. But he always carried the map, studying it closely from the passenger seat of the car, so in case we needed to make a detour or got off track while stopping to see Ruby Falls or some deserted ghost town, he would be able to guide us back to the main stretch of road.
Drawing An Office Map
Designing an office map is very much like taking a road trip in that it allows you to plan out all the details ahead of time while looking at it from a bird’s-eye point of view. And this is why it is part three of our eight part series in organizing your contracting office. You can think of it as your road map and should be carrying it around with you at all times as you navigate your way through your organizational journey.
Since most of you reading this post do not have the luxury of starting from scratch, I have put together nine steps (and plenty of tips) to start you off on your new journey. And if you happen to read this post before designing your office, then consider yourself lucky. This post will be saving you thousands of dollars and many sleepless nights.
1. Start by determining the size of your space based on your current needs and your projected growth of the company. Since you don’t want to be redesigning your office, again anytime soon you need to be sure to account for those added employees down the line.
2. Next, measure your facility from the outside, carefully drawing it out and writing down measurements as you go. Don’t try to draw the building and then measure. This will only lead to you missing important bump-outs and irregularities and many eraser marks. Don’t forget to mark any mechanical equipment, utilities or out buildings on the property along with the parking lot and spaces.
3. Now head inside and do the same. Be sure to take into consideration any small bump- outs and closets, even if you use it only for the furnace or water heater. Measure furniture and system panels carefully to keep from having cramped walkways. Maybe you have a bay window area or use a space below the stairs for storage. All need to be taken in for consideration during these first steps of the planning stage.
4. Determine how you plan to use your space. How many jobs do you have in your office, and how many employees for each job? (refer to Part Two: Creating a Business Organizational Chart). What are the primary and secondary work areas for each of these jobs? For instance, your CSR’s primary job is answering the phones, while her secondary tasks may include sending out sales letters or filing paperwork. Should there be separate work areas for each of these tasks or can you accomplish this at the CSR desk?
5. Plan for accessible filing systems. This would include customer files, vendor files, employee files, project files, reference files and, last of all, electronic files. Which leads me to this following note: In this day and age of the “paperless office,” I would still recommend having a space planned out for all paper files. If you haven’t gone completely paperless, then there’s a reason for it, you’re not ready to go completely paperless. Let’s face it, it can be scary. So instead of losing sleep over whether or not you ran Mr. Johnson’s credit card before shredding the ticket in the document shredder, take baby steps and use a file system for the time being.
6. Don’t forget to designate space for office supplies. Personally, I like to keep these items inventoried in the warehouse, where one person is in charge of restocking these items. This saves you money because you are only paying one person to restock inventory, which can be anything from toilet plungers to toilet paper, and are not overpurchasing, like we tend to do when it comes to office supplies. Especially when we find a really good deal at Costco on 100 multicolored Sharpie Markers. Let’s face it, how many yellow legal note pads do we need? This allows the space many uses for office supplies to store much needed other items.
You can also save space and start the “paperless process” by not purchasing things like letterhead, business cards and company literature and only printing it out as you need it. Also, forget about storing fax supplies. Opt for one of those multifunction printers and have your faxes e-mailed to you through a service.
If you feel you must have a storage cabinet or supply cabinet within the office environment, even against my advice, then you should be planning on allowing enough space for pens, pencils, staplers, staples, calculators, paperclips, clipboards, highlighters, sticky notes, envelopes, letterhead, company literature, fax supplies and printing supplies, just to name a few. Be sure to organize these items on the shelves in labeled bins with a reorder log out in plain site.
7. There never seem to be enough electrical outlets, so here are a few things you should keep in mind when considering how many electrical outlets you need.
Answering Machines, Telephone Systems, Cell Phone/Radio Chargers, Back-Up Drives, Computers, Computer Screens, Copiers, External CD Roms, Digital Camera Charger, External Hard Drives, External Modems, Electric Pencil, Sharpener, Fans, Fax Machines, Lighting, Printers, Scanners, Paper Shredders, Space Heaters, Surge Protectors Speakers for Computers, Uninterrupted Power Supply (Ups) Systems, Miscellaneous Equipment
Lack of planning will result in a miscalculation of adequate data connection cabling requirements for computers, telephones, and fax machines. Try to keep in mind the intended use of each room and also in the future so that you will not have to run cables at a later date. Also refrain from running cables down the walls, under desks or across the aisles.
8. Lighting is often overlooked when designing an office and can have a direct effect on an employee’s productivity. There are three different lighting effects to keep in mind:
a. Natural Light coming into a building will not only affect the employees’ productivity and mood but can also have a direct effect on the interior and exterior aesthetics of a building. Since electricity is costly, and lighting is usually the largest consumer of electricity, natural lighting can help reduce and save energy. The one downfall to natural lighting is that it is not always available and can fluctuate throughout the day in the amount of time it is available and the actual quantity of light coming through.
b. Ambient Light in an office setting is generally referred to as the artificial light. This may be fluorescent lighting, hanging lights, spotlights or even canned lighting. Ambient light is great in doing computer work.
c. Direct or Task Lighting is used specifically for doing certain tasks or paperwork so the eyes do not have to strain while reading or writing. Each work station should really contain its own direct light.
All three types of lighting have very specific purposes, and you should arrange them throughout your office in order to create a pleasant and productive environment.
9. Ergonomics has been around since the 1950s, but if you are anything like me, you probably really never gave it much thought. Until now. Ergonomics is the study of the relationship between people and machines and is the key component when planning your office. This can be anything from the height or distance of your computer screen to the height or depth of your chair to the amount of breaks taken throughout the day and can contribute to pain or discomfort in your back, sore eyes or headaches, stiffness or cramps in your legs, and of course it seems we all know someone who has carpal tunnel syndrome. These are just a few of the syndromes that poor work and the home environment cause.
The following should be considered when drawing your office map work stations for each employee.
a. Eyes need to be 24 to 36 inches away from the computer screen with the neck bent at a 15 degree angle, up or down. The top of the screen should be just below eye level.
b. Back and shoulders need to be relaxed and in a natural position, sitting firmly against the back of their chair.
c. Elbows need to be at a 90 degree angle and should comfortably rest on arm rests while close to the sides of the body. Wrists should extend from the arms at this same angle.
d. Knees should also be at a 90 degree angle with the feet on a footrest securely on the floor.
Try Before You Buy
Before you begin to tear down walls, try it out. You can do this by simply using blue masking tape and taping it out on the floor. If you have enough space, I recommend using your warehouse or parking lot. Use different colored tape to symbolize different items. Maybe blue is the outer walls, windows and doors while yellow is the office furniture and equipment. Red can be your filing system, and green can be your electrical and lighting. Walk through the taped doorways and hallways as an employee or a technician and see if the traffic pattern works.
Be sure to investigate all code requirements through your local city and county along with ADA code requirements in order to avoid fines or lawsuits. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.
Carry Your Map With You At All Times
Drawing an office map is not something you do in an hour or a day or even a week necessarily. Drawing an office map takes time and careful planning in order to create comfort, efficiency, communication, productivity and effectiveness. You should have your map with you at all times so when a new idea sparks or a concern comes up from one of the employees, you are able to see how it will fit-in in the overall scheme of things. Or just when you realized you have veered a little off course, the map can guide you back safely.