For nearly two decades, law firms have been consolidating office space and maximizing efficiency, but following the year of COVID-19, many have accelerated those efforts, evaluating how to reduce their office space footprint while supporting productivity. With some employees remaining in a part-time work-from-home arrangement and many expecting an increased level of flexibility from their employers, how are law firms boosting efficiency and keeping everyone safe?
In a recent white paper, we asked Office Movers Express General Manager Jim Durfee to help answer this very question. As part of that discussion, he identified ten of the most effective ways to optimize office space for a law firm. Let’s take a closer look…
There are no hard and fast answers to office optimization. So it’s important to start by asking key questions about how you currently use your space. Common questions to consider include:
Storage rooms of all kinds are moving to the basement or being removed entirely. This includes supplies, mail and mail supplies, and storage for other materials that may not be needed on a regular basis. Evaluate how the current space in your office is being used, and if a room is frequently unused, empty, or out-of-date due to technology improvements, consider whether it can be moved or eliminated.
Rooms used to be designed to indicate who was in charge. If you entered an office space, you knew who the boss was based on the size of the offices. That’s less the case as many offices have focused on equalizing office sizes to avoid inefficiencies. While this will depend on the structure and culture of your firm, eliminating unused space in large offices can help improve efficiency dramatically.
IT closets remain a persistent challenge in many firms. The parts and materials needed by IT need to remain on-site, but it can create excess clutter. Some firms are addressing this by moving the supplies to the basement or coordinating with off-site providers to get parts and supplies on-demand.
The conference table itself is an inefficient use of space, taking up entire rooms, often in windowed corners of the floor. Smaller conference rooms, open collaboration spaces, and meeting hubs are being implemented to offer those meeting options in the form they are most likely to be used.
Paintings and art installations are still common on many law firms, representing the taste and aesthetic of the firm, but many of the open, welcoming spaces in which they might have been displayed in the past are being removed. Consider whether current installations and paintings are necessary.
Interactive glass boards are being installed to replace whiteboards and make for a more efficient space for groups to collaborate. Rolling whiteboards and blackboards are far less common, as glass boards are a more efficient use of space.
Hanging screens, large TVs, and monitors are decreasingly common as people can participate in meetings or watch training sessions on their own monitors via conference software. That said, there are more frequently TVs mounted in shared spaces for collaboration.
With the majority of workers saying they get more done at home, and COVID-19 resetting our relationship with remote work in general, consider the benefits of supporting a work-from-home initiative for your employees when it makes sense. Upgrades to networks to support secure access at home, productivity tools, and open office places that support people spending time in the office when necessary can reduce the total amount of space needed without impacting productivity.
Supplemental to shifting work patterns, work within the trends currently sweeping through modern offices. Open floor plans are being replaced with flexible floor plans that focus on the space people need when they need it. Forget about a certain amount of square footage per person, and consider the way in which those people will use the space.
This means, of course, that how much space you need will depend on your firm. It requires a more proactive approach to the way in which you optimize that space. Different types of workstations for different tasks and types of employees are needed. “Quiet areas for focused work, open space for robust collaboration, booths for hushed conversations, and phone booths or pods for private conversations are increasingly common for this reason. You may even consider an elastic office model or coworking supplement to scale your workspace as needed.”
Whether you are restructuring following the impact of COVID-19 or have been actively optimizing office space for several years, it’s important to maximize efficiency in ways that will reduce costs and support employee productivity.
Learn more from Jim’s take on office efficiency optimization in 2021 in our white paper, Maximizing Office Efficiency Post-Covid. Download a copy here.