Office Design

When I was appointed the Deputy Manager of an IT Department serving a Secondary School, Sixth Form College and 2 Primary Schools, the department was set to grow from 2 people to 6 and so a new office was required to accommodate us all. The school building was originally constructed as a Benedictine Convent and so the layout, whilst a beautiful place to work, presented its challenges.

There was really only one option when it came to a suitable room. I wanted one that gave us a central location and this one is right outside the main library and near the staff room, so that all users could find us easily. I wanted to capitalise on this location and make an inviting room that was enjoyably to work in and encouraged people to visit. IT offices in schools have a reputation of being dark and dingy and hidden away!

The room’s dimensions presented a huge challenge. 5.5m long by 2m wide and nearly 3.5m tall it was an unusual space that was being used as a small IT room for pupils to use.

It had benches along both sides and loads of shelves and felt somewhat tunnel-like and uninviting.



We needed to fit 3 staff in there on a full time basis and provide a hot desk for the technician responsible for the primary schools and the infrastructure engineers to use. It quickly became apparent that standard furniture would not fit so I employed my maker skills to design the room’s layout and furniture itself.




I also used my Project Management skills to communicate with the budget holders and departments that would be responsible for building the furniture. I had a company in to present their range of modular bespoke office furniture, but even that would not fit very well.

I designed a number of options, using SketchUp to the full to allow me to play with layout.

Example Proposal Document

I wrote several proposals, including costs and project scopes/timescales. Visual methods of communication were key here – as well as a couple of rolls of masking tape to mark the proposals out in real space on the floor! An example of one proposal document is available to the right; it shows renderings of the proposed final layout, detailed views for construction purposes and technical plans to allow electrical/data cabling to be installed.

The furniture itself was built by the organisation’s highly skilled carpenter, with whom I worked very closely to agree finer details and material selection.

A standard ‘small desk’ is 1200 wide by 700 deep, giving a surface area of 0.84sqm. I managed to fit 3 desks that are 1100 wide by 800 deep, giving an equivalent surface area of 0.89sqm, so whilst a little narrow, once I got used to the altered dimensions, I found my desk to be very comfortable. Monitor arms were a requirement to make the most of the space and proved to be very ergonomic and flexible to suit a range of heights of the personnel using them (I am 5’9″, one colleague is 6’2″, and another who hot desked, is 5’2″!).

The final design I came up with is shown below.

We needed quite a lot of storage too and so it was essential to include this otherwise the room quickly got messy – the mantra of “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place” was key here. Trying to plan it all on paper to maintain the inviting atmosphere and not make it feel cramped was almost impossible, so I decided to design the storage area after the main desks were fitted and ‘live with it’ for a while so we could get a good understanding of what we needed and best utilise the space.

I designed a storage unit that provides gallons of storage for cables, components, computers and accessories as well as personnel storage for coats and bags. There is also a compact fold out work bench to allow for workstation imaging, lightweight tasks such as swapping hard-drives and RAM etc, but most of all a seating area that users can come and comfortably rest on to discuss with us their issues and feel welcome whilst we advise on solutions and fix their issues. This unit has yet to be built, but is set to be constructed soon.





Becky Thornton
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