Office Security

views updated Jun 08 2018

Office Security

Office security can be broken down into two main areas: 1) protecting your office and employees from vandalism, theft, and personal attacks; and 2) protecting your office from corporate sabotage, both from inside the company and out. The first area deals more with the actual office itselfits layout, the use of security guards, alarm systems, and so on. The second area is primarily concerned with protecting a firm's intellectual property through the introduction and utilization of such measures as shredders, computer security, and employee surveillance.


Office security is an issue for every business, no matter the size. There are many steps that can be taken to improve security, many of which require relatively inexpensive outlays. To find out what is best for his or her company, a small business owner should hire a security consultant to visit the business premises and conduct a thorough security analysis. This review can identify weak spots and provide a clear plan for upgrading security.

The best place to start when examining office security is the physical layout of the office itself, or the layout of the larger building of which the office is a part. Office design should stress wide, open areas with clear sight lines. Hallways and offices should be open and have no nooks or crannies where an intruder could hide in the shadows. All areas should be well lit, especially after hours when employees might be working alone or in small groups. Mirrors in stairwells and inside and outside of elevators allow employees to see around corners or past obstructions.

Doors and windows are the most obvious access points to an office and should be secure. Avoid double doors because they are easily hinged open. Ideally, entranceway doorsparticularly those used for deliveries, etc.should be steel, or steel-sheathed. This helps with security and also aids in fire prevention. Door hinges should face inward whenever possible; use non-removable pins and screws if it is not possible. Simply upgrading hinges and door locks is one of the cheapest and most effective security steps a business can take. Deadbolt locks are best, whether they are electronically controlled or manual in nature. Combination locks on washrooms and other common areas are also an excellent option. Employees don't have to carry keys and the combination can be changed frequently. All windows should use key locks, and windows near the ground level or fire escapes should have steel bars or lockable gates that meet local fire codes.


Improvements in electronics, computers, and other high-tech security features have given business owners new tools to fight crime in recent years. Perhaps the most common electronic tools are closed-circuit surveillance systems and access-control systems.

Closed-circuit surveillance systems use television cameras to monitor specific areas of a company's workspace. Signals from the cameras are fed back to a central monitoring post, where a security guard or company employee watches for signs of abnormal activity. These systems are effective both during business hours and after hours. But while video technologies can be an effective deterrent and investigative tool, a closed-circuit system only works as well as the people monitoring it. The guard or employee must give the video monitors his or her complete attention.

Access-control systems start with establishing "point of control" access over an office. That means that all tenants and guests are routed through a control area before admittance is authorized. The control point can be as low-tech as a sign-in sheet or as high-tech as an elaborate system to scan the fingerprints or retinas of visitors (most security experts understandably cite the former as an inadequate measure, in and of itself). Most common is the use of access cards, or "swipe" cards. These cards are electronic "keys"the user passes a part of the card through an electronic reader stationed outside a door, and, if the person is authorized to enter, the door is unlocked. Newer versions of the swipe cards include video imaging. A central computer stores a photo of the employee and as much pertinent information as the company desires, including work hours, emergency contact numbers, license plate numbers and make of car, and other information. Electronic cards are preferable to metal keys because an electronic key can be deactivated at a moment's notice if an employee is fired or deemed a security risk. If metal keys are used, every lock in the building has to be replaced if a security breach is suspected.

Other electronic systems that are being used by security-conscious firms include tiny hidden cameras, panic buttons that summon security when pressed, and electronic door chimes that make it easy to tell when someone has entered a workspace. The tiny cameras are perhaps the most popular innovation. They are small enough to be hidden in a clock face or a heating vent, yet provide a powerful tool for monitoring employees in areas where employee theft is suspected. Use of the cameras only works if their existence is kept a secret from the employees that are under suspicion.

Finally, identification tag systems are an increasingly popular tool in many businesses. Laminated photo identification cards are inexpensive to produce and update, and they can instantly identify employees and the department from which they hail. These photo ID cards can be particularly useful for larger, diversified enterprises in which employees may not know or interact with every other member of the workforce.


Alarm systems are another popular office security tool. There are two primary types of alarm systems: those that sound a loud siren or other noise when a break-in is detected, and those that send a silent alarm directly to a security company or to the police, who then respond to the alarm. The type of alarm chosen depends in large part on where the business is located. Loud alarms work well in small towns or in low-crime areas, but businesses located in urban or high-crime areas have found that nearby residents have often become so used to alarms going off that they ignore them. In that case, a silent system linked directly to the police may be preferable.

Systems can range in complexity and price. However, any alarm system must cover all the doors and windows into a business to be effective. Most common are motion sensors that detect movement where it is not supposed to be occurring, or window glass bugs that are activated when glass is broken. Examples of advanced systems include combined audio and video alert systems that are triggered by noise. When the sounds of a break-in are detected, the security company is alerted and can listen in to what is occurring at the site. The security company can then activate video monitors to see what is happening at the site, or the cameras can be set up to begin recording automatically when the first sound is detected.

As with the closed-circuit television systems, the key to a good alarm system is that it must be monitored at all times. If an alarm goes off and no one is there to notice, or if it is ignored, then office security has not been enhanced at all. In fact, the alarm may have provided a false sense of security that kept a company from pursuing other security measures.


Using security guards is an increasingly popular form of office security. Guards can be used in two ways: to monitor the front desk of a company or building (the access control point); or, to patrol the grounds of a larger company or office complex.

The old image of the security guardan elderly gentleman who slept as much as he monitored the groundsis a thing of the past. Today's guards, especially those who monitor building access, should have good communication skills and be able to handle many roles. Guards often act as concierges and goodwill ambassadors, greeting the public as they come into a company and answering questions and providing directions. Ideally, they should present a positive public image for the company and/or building that employs them. With this in mind, traditional uniforms have given way to a casual but professional wardrobe of blazers and trousers at many security firms. Guards are almost never armedthe practice has come to be regarded as just too danger-ousand they are primarily expected to do four things at all times: deter, detect, observe, and report. Today's guards can also be expected to help out by arranging for building maintenance or even assisting in life-threatening situations.

The other type of security guardthe type that patrols the grounds of a larger company or an office parkreceive conflicting marks from security experts. Some feel that simply driving or walking by each part of an office complex every hour or half-hour does little to prevent crime because such measures still leave large windows of time for criminal activity to occur. Others argue the very presence of the guards is enough to deter all but the most professional or determined criminals. The question of whether to use such guards is one that each company will have to answer for itself.

Small business owners should know that using security guards is not cheap. Round-the-clock coverage by a team of guards can cost upwards of $100,000 annually. Additionally, theft by the guards themselves has been a definite problem for some businesses. Many security firms pay minimum wage, so turnover is high, and background checks are not always thorough. To ensure that you are really hiring the best firm possible, screen prospective choices carefully. Look for firms that perform thorough background checks, pay better than minimum wage, and have low turnover. Fellow members of the local business community can be a valuable resource in this regard.


It is common knowledge that a security system is only as secure as its weakest link. In many cases, that weak link is the company's employees. Untrained in security measures and prone to the attitude that "it can't happen to me," many employees are their own worst enemies when it comes to security. When a company installs a new security system, it should take the time to bring in a security consultant to speak to employees about what they can do to increase their own safety and improve the company's security. Among the measures the consultant will advise are:

  • Do not leave valuables unattended.
  • Lock doors after hours.
  • Do not go into poorly lighted areas after dark.
  • Bolt down or secure equipment if possible.
  • Engrave identification numbers on office equipment and keep a list of serial numbers to give to the police and insurance companies in case of theft.
  • Provide each employee with a drawer that locks.
  • Verify identification and purpose of visit before letting non-employees into office space.
  • Deposit checks and cash daily.
  • Never leave visitors unsupervised.
  • Try to leave with at least one other employee if working late.
  • Do not advertise vacation plans.
  • Keep emergency numbers posted at every phone.
  • Make sure confidential files are secured when the office is closed.


As computers have become an everyday part of almost every business, companies have found it harder and harder to protect their proprietary information and their money. (Only failed attempts at espionage lead to arrests and quantifying the problem is difficult.) According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, espionage and espionage-related matters cost the nation an estimated $100 billion per year. This does not include the estimated $250 billion American companies lose to copyright piracy annually. Much of that theft occurs electronically.

Unfortunately for most companies, the greatest risk of theft or sabotage (conventional or computer), often comes from the firm's employees themselves. In fact, many experts believe that a significant percentage of small business failures are directly related to internal theft of money, property, information, and time. Few occurrences are as potentially destructive to a business as employee theft, embezzlement, or misappropriation of company funds.

Business security experts warn that employee theft can take many forms. Examples include:

  • Forgery of company checks for personal gain.
  • Using a "ghost payroll," which occurs when one or more employees create "phantom" employees, submit time cards for those employees, and then cash their paychecks themselves.
  • Outright theft of cash from a register drawer.
  • "Sweethearting," at the cash register, which can mean granting a friend or other person a discount at the register when they pay, undercharging them, or ringing up fewer items than the person has actually bought.

Internal computer theft has become one of the most common forms of employee theft now that computers have become more common in nearly every industry sector. Indeed, employees often are more computer literate than their supervisors, which may strengthen the temptation to abscond with proprietary information or otherwise engage in illicit activities. Computer theft can take many forms, including false data entry, which is almost impossible to track; slicing off small amounts of data or money that add up over time; superzapping, which occurs when a computer network security bypass code falls into the wrong hands; and scanning, or using a high-speed computer to locate data that would be impossible to find by hand, then using that data for illegal purposes.

Sabotage, which can also cost millions, almost always involves disgruntled current or former employees and can take almost any form, from defacing company property to deleting or altering important company data. As mentioned above, using access-control cards for employees that can be easily deactivated makes it easier to keep ex-employees out of the workplace and track the activities of current employees.

Because employee theft is so prevalent and so costly to businesses, a business owner needs to take every precaution and use every means possible to stop employee theft. Some of the steps that can be taken include:

  • Making sure that security starts at the top. Executives must set a good and honest example. Establish a clear policy on theft and security and distribute it to all employees.
  • Install a security program that meets your company's needs.
  • Follow up on references provided by prospective new hires.
  • Keep checkbooks locked up.
  • Control cash flow and have good documentation on where money is spent.
  • Do not leave bookkeeping to just one person without checks and balances.
  • Audit internal financial documents frequently using independent auditors.
  • Only allow a few people to have authority to sign checks.
  • Check all invoices to make sure they match what was delivered.

see also Computer Crimes; Crisis Management; Firewall; Workplace Safety


Mackenzie, Kate. "Big Danger Lurks in Small Things Portable Memory Devices: Portable mass storage devices contain huge threats to security." The Financial Times. 9 November 2005.

Marshall, Jeffrey, and Ellen M. Heffes. "Small business: security issues rise as automation gains." Financial Executive. October 2005.

"Office Building Security Getting Smarter." Access Control & Security Systems Integration. 20 March 2006.

U.S. Department of Commerce. "What's New In StopFakes." Available from Retrieved on 28 April 2006.

U.S. Department of Justice. Federal Bureau of Investigation. "FQAWhy do we so seldom hear about arrests for espionage?" Available from Retrieved on 28 April 2006.

                               Hillstrom, Northern Lights

                                updated by Magee, ECDI

Office Romance

views updated May 18 2018

Office Romance

Office romancesromantic relationships between two people employed by the same employerare as common now as they have been throughout history. The long hours many people spend at work make for a situation in which those with whom we work are for many not only colleagues but our primary source of social contact. Therefore, romantic relationships are bound to develop. In fact, according to an article on the Discovery Health Channel Web site, 4 out of 10 people now meet their spouses at the office and more than half of those partaking in a survey reported to having had at least one office romance. Many office romances end happily, but not all. For businesses, workplace romances carry with them the potential to complicate the work environment and cause difficulties of various typeslost productivity due to distraction; accusations of favoritism; jealousy among co-workers; the potential for an antagonistic mood should the relationship end poorly; and, in a worst-case scenario, allegations of sexual harassment in the event that one of the parties asserts that he or she was coerced. Because of these potential pitfalls, many firms have policies that were established to try and discourage or even prohibit such liaisons from forming. The question for the small business owner or manager becomes: how best is one to manage such relationships so that they do not have a negative impact on the company without infringing unduly on the privacy of employees?


Most experts suggest that a company establish some sort of policy addressing this issue so that it is not put in a position of being reactionary when confronted with the first such romance. By planning ahead, incorporating guidelines on workplace romances into the employment policies, and publicizing these policies, a company can remove confusion and in most cases the concern about favoritism.

Small companies may be in a more difficult position than larger firms when it comes to managing workplace romances. In a large firm, an office romance may be more easily worked around. A large firm has multiple departments into which employees who are romantically involved may be transferred so that they do not work as closely together. Arlene Vernon, a human resource consultant with HRX, explained it this way in an interview with journalist Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, in a Pool & Spa News article, "It becomes an issue for a smaller organization because everyone's watching and wondering if this one's going to last. It becomes this whole saga. You might as well turn it into a sitcom. I think it is actually harder for the smaller organizations than the larger ones. It can be more invisible in the larger ones."

Knowing what to include in a workplace policy on dating or romantic relationships is not easy. Banning dating among employees may not be a reasonable solution, although exceptions can certainly be made in instances where one of the principals involved has a supervisory role over the other. One concern with a newly forming romance in the workplace is that it will be accompanied by inappropriate displays of affection in the office. This, in turn, can cause an uncomfortable environment for others and certainly presents a less than professional image. A company may address this concern by establishing an on-the-job code of conduct that specifically addresses a professional work environment and prohibits "public displays of affection."

As a minimum, any policy designed to regulate dating or office romances should be designed to protect the company against sexual harassment liability and ensure a professional work environment. Actions to consider when preparing such a policy include:

  1. State what is not acceptableDefine in the policy exactly what types of relationships will and will not be tolerated. Most human resource professionals recommend establishing policies that prohibit supervisors from dating a direct report. Policies may also note that staff members are expected to behave professionally and that romantic trysts should be kept out of the work environment.
  2. Make penalties clearDefine what actions will be undertaken if the policies are violatedtransfer, demotion, termination.
  3. Address sexual harassment head onState outright that any alleged sexual harassment will be handled in a legally proper manner. Managers must make employees aware that the company has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. Information should be provided about the consequences of such behavior. Companies may even require that their employees sign documentation indicating that they understand and will abide by the policy.
  4. Reinforce policies on sexual harassmentProvide training for all supervisors/managers about sexual harassment in all its forms. Educate them on the various signs that an office romance is having a negative impact on the company's efficiency (these signs can range from increased workplace friction to unprofessional displays of affection, anger, or other emotions).
  5. Show respect for privacyDo not overstep boundaries of employee privacy. A company needs to make it abundantly clear that workplace performance is its primary concern.
  6. Encourage open communicationsConsider requesting employees to disclose a relationship if it becomes romantic. This may be a difficult task for employees if the penalties for such a relationship are severe. If, on the other hand, the company is willing to work with the couple then it is more likely that they will communicate their involvement in an appropriate manner.

Do not flinch from intervening promptly in situations where a workplace relationship is having a detrimental effect on business productivity. In cases of sexual harassment claims, more often than not, court decisions on liability have little to do with whether a company had a dating policy in place and everything to do with how a company responded when a complaint was lodged. Prompt response to workplace issues that arise from an office romance gone sour can go far toward addressing the problem.


Given the increase in sexual harassment lawsuits that have exposed an ongoing problem in many businesses, it is not surprising that small business owners have expressed concern about the sometimes blurry boundaries between office flirtationswhich may lead to full-fledged office romancesand ugly instances of sexual harassment. While businesses can take certain steps to define inappropriate office conduct, many of them quite effective, stopping sexual harassment is often a more complicated issue if the two people involved were formerly romantically involved. Indeed, some people resort to harassment in the wake of a breakup, while others have been known to level false harassment charges after being jilted. If an office relationship degenerates to such a point, it is important for the business owner to maintain an impartial stance and make sure that decisions are made on the basis of the evidence at hand.


Assessments of the dangers of office romance vary dramatically. Some observers view it as a wholly undesirable condition that should be avoided by business owners and managers if at all possible, while others view it as a potential positive development, provided that the relationship lies within certain parameters. But what happens when a philanderer dates and discards casually within a company, leaving angry, litigation-prone employees in his/her wake? Reasons for dating policies to address supervisors, subordinates, and clients, not to mention patients and vendors, are understandable.

The risks that a deteriorating romance pose for a company that employes both parties are undeniable. Perhaps, however, the benefits of happily partnered employees is another possible outcome to an office romance. Famous cases abound: Microsoft's founder Bill Gates and opera impresario Luciano Pavarotti both married employees of their organizations. Obviously, businesses create dating policies to try and manage the negative aspects of office romances, and those that crash and burn. But, since perfectly happy relationships may result from office romances, policies that are clear and specific about exactly what they prohibit are best.

see also Employee Privacy; Human Resource Policies; Nepotism


"The Downside of Office Romance." OfficeSolutions. March-April 2006.

Feeney, Sheila Anne. "Love Hurts: Romance may be in the air at your company, but passion can have its price." Workforce Management. 1 February 2004.

Greenwald, Judy. "Office Romances May Court Trouble." Business Insurance. 14 February 2000.

Gurchiek, Kathy. "Be Ready for Slings, Arrows of Cupid in the Cubicles." HRMAgazine. March 2005.

Littlejohn, Jancie Rhoshalle. "Risky Business: In the first installment of this two-part series on office romance, we explore ways employers can deal with workplace dating and avoid potential liabilities." Pool & Spa News. 7 May 2004.

Moses, Jeffrey. "Office Romance in the New Millennium." National Federation of Independent Business. Available from 21 June 2005.

Penttila, Chris. "In the Hot Seat: One person's promotion is another's harassment claim." Entrepreneur. January 2006.

Weiss, Donald H. Fair, Square, and Legal. AMACOM, 1 April 2004.

                               Hillstrom, Northern Lights

                                updated by Magee, ECDI

Office Supplies

views updated May 23 2018

Office Supplies

Office supplies encompass a wide range of materials that are used on a regular, daily basis by businesses of all sizes. The standard set of office supplies utilized by even the smallest company or home office includes pens; writing paper; notebooks; Post-It notes; scissors; erasers; staplers; computer diskettes and CDs; binders; file folders; labels; tape; basic reference materials (dictionaries, etc.); envelopes; toner cartridges; to mention but the most common. In addition, equipment that is used in most office environmentsprinters, copy machines, fax machines, often included under this umbrella term.

Despite the growth of technologies that had promised us a future in which we would operate in "paperless offices," most offices today are still filled with paper and with all the accessories needed to keep paper organized. In fact, a paper shredder is a common item in offices these days. Although the cost of office supplies is relatively small when items are purchased separately, in the aggregate this cost can amount to a substantial quantity. Consequently, small business owners should make sure that they pay attention to office supply costs and keep all receipts of such purchases, since office supplies are a legitimate business deduction for tax purposes.

Entrepreneurs and business managers also need to take care to ensure that they get what they pay for. Most companies engaged in selling office supplies and equipment are scrupulous and reliable, but fraudulent suppliers do exist. For this reason, experts urge small businesses to proceed methodically, especially if dealing with a new supplier. "Prevent supplier swindles by adopting a written purchasing policy, which includes a list of your approved vendors," stated Scott Clark in Pugent Sound Business Journal. "A specific credit check procedure must be completed for a new vendor to be added to this list." Small business owners should also insist on written confirmation of all supplier claims and demand an opportunity to review sample goods before placing an order.

Procurement Options

In recent years, office superstores and catalogue supply houses have emerged as the most efficient and inexpensive way to purchase various types of supplies. The average client of these superstores is the small- to medium-sized business, as well as the home office market. The convenience of being able to find virtually any office supply at one location is one of the primary reasons for the increased popularity of the superstores. In addition to convenience, these stores and catalogues offer merchandise that is very competitively priced since they are able to purchase their goods at bulk rates. Some of these savings are usually passed along to small business customers, especially if the stores are operating in a competitive environment.

The proliferation of Internet shopping has opened up a new avenue for office supply procurement as well. Most large office supply chains not offer online shopping sites through which a business may order supplier for pick-up or delivery.

Finally, many small (and large) businesses are choosing suppliers who offer materials made from recycled materials. This trend towards "green" procurement can be seen in all types of paper products (computer paper, envelopes, tablets, file folders, etc.) as well as big-ticket items like office furniture. In the latter case, remanufactured, refurbished or reused furniture has emerged as a particularly attractive option for cash-strapped start-ups and growing businesses because they are able to garner savings of 30-50 percent by pursuing used items. According to some experts, furniture recyclers now represent almost 10 percent of the $13.6 billion commercial furniture industry.


Atkinson, William. "Buyer Demand for Green Office Products Blossoms." Purchasing. 13 July 2000.

Belyea, Kathryn. "Purchasing Exec Urges Peers to Embrace E-Buying." Purchasing. 13 July 2000.

Clark, Scott. "Don't Let Fraudulent Suppliers Rip You Off." Puget Sound Business Journal. 14 July 2000.

Cullen, Scott, and Ellen Gragg. "Top 20 Trends, Office Innovations, and Products of the Past 20 Years." OfficeSolutions. July-August 2004.

Jeffress, Charles N. "Ergonomics Standard Good for Business." Business Insurance. 23 October 2000.

"Quiet Revolution: The working environment will be revolutionized over the next decade and office products companies need to get their strategies in place if they are to survive." Office Products International. July 2004.

                              Hillstrom, Northern Lights

                               updated by Magee, ECDI

Office Layout

views updated Jun 11 2018


Office productivity is influenced by a number of factors, one of which is office layout. Because office layout influences the entire white-collar-employee segment of the organization, its importance to organizational productivity should never be underestimated. Office layout is based on the interrelationships among three primary factors: employees, flow of work through the various work units, and equipment.

Efficient office layout results in a number of benefits to the organization, including the following:

  1. It affects how much satisfaction employees derive from their jobs.
  2. It affects the impression individuals get of the organization's work areas.
  3. It provides effective allocation and use of the building's floor space.
  4. It provides employees with efficient, productive work areas.
  5. It facilitates the expansion and/or rearrangement of work areas when the need arises.
  6. It facilitates employee supervision.

Planning the layout tends to occur in two steps, a preliminary stage and a final stage.


When designing office layout, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration during the preliminary planning stage, which is generally carried out by administrative office managers, employees, or consultants. Among the factors to consider during preliminary planning are these:

Work flow:

Studying the flow of work vertically and horizontally between individuals and work units is critical in designing office layout. The goal is to design a layout pattern in which work moves in a straight-line direction with minimal, if any, backtracking or crisscrossing patterns. The major source documents found within the various work areas are often considered in analyzing work flow.

Organization chart:

Studying the organization chart, which visually depicts who reports to whom as well as the relationships among and between employees, is also considered in the preliminary planning stages. Generally, the organization chart helps determine which units should be physically located near one another.

Projection of number of employees needed in the future:

Having a good understanding of the possibility of expansion helps assure that layout is designed to accommodate future growth. Among the factors to be considered are the potential need for additional work units as well as the number of additional employees likely to be needed in both existing work units and new work units.

Communication network:

Studying the organization's communication network identifies who within the organization has considerable contact with whom, either face-to-face or by phone. The more contact employees have, the greater the likelihood that they or their work units need to be located physically near one another.

Departmental organization:

Studying departmental organization also helps determine which departments should be placed in close proximity to one another. For example, those departments with significant responsibilities for the accounting and financial aspects of the firm should be located near one another; those with frequent contact with outsiders, such as personnel and sales, should be located near the entrance to the structure; and noise-producing departments, such as copying/duplicating and the loading dock, should be located near one another and away from areas where low noise levels are required.

Ratio of private to general offices:

Increasingly, many organizations are opting for more general offices and fewer private offices. This trend probably helps reduce the amount of total office space needed, and it facilitates the rearrangement of office areas. A number of advantages result from using general offices rather than private offices. General offices are more economical to build than private offices; general offices make it easier to accommodate change in office layout; and it is easier to design efficient heating, cooling, and lighting systems for general offices.

Space requirements:

The total amount of needed space is determined by the amount of space needed for each employee (including projections for growth) in each work unit as well as the amount of space needed for various specialized areas. The amount of space each employee needs is determined by the employee's furniture/equipment requirements, the location of such structural features as windows and pillars, and the employee's job functions and hierarchical position.

Specialized areas:

Many organizations have a number of specialized areas that must be taken into consideration in the preliminary planning of office layout. Included are such needs as a reception area, board or conference rooms, a computer center, a mailroom, a printing/duplicating room, a central records area, and a storage area.

Safety considerations:

A number of safety considerations play an important role in the preliminary planning of layout, including aisles/corridors of sufficient width, door openings, stairwells, and exits. Providing for quick evacuation of the premises in case of an emergency is a critical aspect of the preliminary planning of office layout.

Barrier-free construction:

A number of federal laws require that office layout accomodates individuals with disabilities. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act requires "reasonable accommodation" of individuals with disabilities. Perhaps most significant in office layout is designing office/work areas in which individuals can easily maneuver wheelchairs.


To stay abreast of developing space needs, many organizations undertake a yearly space analysis, just as they prepare a yearly budget. Doing so enables these organizations to be proactive rather than reactive in anticipating future space needs.

Equipment and furniture needs:

The amount of equipment and furniture that needs to be accommodated in an organization must be taken into consideration during the preliminary planning of office layout. Failure to take these needs into consideration often results in inefficient office layout.


Perhaps the most critical decision that will be made in planning office layout is whether private offices only or a combination of private and general office areas will be used. The trend is toward a minimum of private office areas and maximum use of general office areas. Typically, the general office areas make use of the open office concept, which overcomes a number of the disadvantages of conventional private offices. Whereas private offices tend to be based on the hierarchical structure of the organization, open office areas are based on the nature of the relationship between the employee and his or her job duties.

Open office planning takes into account the cybernetics of the organization, meaning that information flows and processes are considered in the design process. Information flows pertain to paper flow, telephone communications, and face-to-face interaction.

Three different alternatives are used in designing space around the open office concept. These include the modular workstation approach, the cluster workstation approach, and the landscape approach. In each case, panels and furniture components comprise work areas. Typically, the panels and furniture components are prewired with both electrical and phone connections, which considerably simplifies their installation. Panels are available in a variety of colors and finishes, including wood, metal, plastic, glass, carpet, and fabric.

Modular workstation approach

A prime characteristic of the modular workstation approach is the use of panelhung furniture components to create individual work areas. Storage cabinets and files of adjustable height are placed adjacent to desks or tables. The design of modular workstations enables employees to have a complete office in terms of desk space, file space, storage space, and work-area lighting. Modular workstations are designed according to the specific job duties of their occupants.

In certain situations, the modular workstation approach is preferred to either of the other two open-space concepts. It is especially well suited for those situations that require considerable storage space, and the work area can be specifically designed around the specific needs of the user. Also, changes in layout can be made easily and quickly.

Cluster workstation approach

An identifying characteristic of the cluster workstation approach is the clustering of employee work areas around a common core, such as a set of panels that extend from a hub, much like the spokes in a wheel. The panels define each employee's work area, which typically includes a writing surface, storage space, and filing space. As a rule, cluster workstations are not as elaborate as either modular workstations or landscaped alternatives. Cluster workstations work well for situations in which employees spend a portion of their workday away from their work area.

Two distinct advantages of the cluster workstation are economics and the ease with which layout changes can be made. The cluster workstation is less expensive than either of the other two alternatives.

Landscape approach

Originally developed in Germany, office landscaping is now used extensively throughout the United States. In a way, office landscaping is a blend of the modular and cluster workstation approaches. One significant difference, however, is the abundant use of plants and foliage in the decor. Plants and foliage, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, provide a visual barrier. Whereas both the modular and the cluster approaches tend to align the components in rows, landscaping arranges work areas in clusters and at different angles.

In its original form, landscaping eliminated all private offices. However, most organizations that make use of landscaping use a hybrid approach in which a ratio of 80 percent open office areas to 20 percent private offices is common.

In conventional office layout, status was accorded employees through their assignment of a private office. Because the open-space concept removes a considerable number of private offices, employees are accorded status through such other aspects as their work assignments, their job duties, the location and size of their work area, and the type and amount of furniture they are given.


The actual preparation of the layout is carried out using a variety of tools, including templates, cutouts, plastic models, magnetic boards, and computer-aided design (CAD). For more complex layout projects, CAD is most likely the tool of choice. For simple layout projects, any of the others work well. Regardless of which tool is used, a primary concern is making sure every aspect of the layout, including perimeter, structural features, and equipment and furniture components, is scaled properly and consistently.

see also Ergonomics


Allcorn, Seth (2003). The dynamic workplace: present structure and future redesign. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Rappoport, James E., Cushman, Robert F., and Daroff, Karen, eds. (1992). Office Planning and Design Desk Reference. New York: Wiley.

Shumake, M. Glynn (1992). Increasing Productivity and Profit in the Workplace: A Guide to Office Planning and Design. New York: J. Wiley.

Turner, G., and Myerson, J. (1998). New Workspace, New Culture: Office Design as a Catalyst for Change. Aldershop, Hampshire, England: Gower.

Vischer, Jacqueline (2005). Space meets status: designing workplace performance. New York, NY: Routlidge.

Zane K. Quible


views updated May 21 2018

of·fice / ˈôfis; ˈäf-/ • n. 1. a room, set of rooms, or building used as a place for commercial, professional, or bureaucratic work: computers first appeared in offices in the late 1970s | [as adj.] an office job. ∎  the local center of a large business: a company that has four U.S. and four European offices. ∎  a room, department, or building used to provide a particular service: a ticket office a post office. ∎  the consulting room of a professional person.2. a position of authority, trust, or service, typically one of a public nature: the office of attorney general. ∎  tenure of an official position, esp. a government position: a year ago, when the president took office he was ejected from office in 1988. ∎  (Office) Brit. the quarters, staff, or collective authority of a particular government department or agency: the Foreign Office.3. (usu. offices) a service or kindness done for another person or group of people. ∎ dated a duty attaching to one's position; a task or function: the offices of a nurse his family had escaped to Canada through the good offices of a Jewish agency in 1923.4. (also Divine Office) Christian Church the series of services of prayers and psalms said (or chanted) daily by Roman Catholic priests, members of religious orders, and other clergy. ∎  one of these services: the noon office.ORIGIN: Middle English: via Old French from Latin officium ‘performance of a task’ (in medieval Latin also ‘office, divine service’), based on opus ‘work’ + facere ‘do.’


views updated May 18 2018

office duty, (obligatory) service; position to which duties are attached; †introit XIII; form of divine service; place for transacting business XIV. — (O)F. — L. officium, orig. performance of a task :- *opificium, f. opus work + -fic-, facere DO1.
So officer (-ER2) one who holds office XIV; (in army, navy, etc.) XVI. — AN. officer, (O)F. officier — medL. officiārius. official (-AL1) sb. XIV. Partly — (O)F. official, partly sb. use of adj. (XVI). — L. officiālis. officiate XVII. f. pp. stem of medL. officiāre perform divine service.


views updated May 14 2018

1. Place for the transaction of private or public business, e.g. room or department in which the paperwork of an establishment is dealt with.

2. Building or set of rooms in which the business of a department of Government is carried out, e.g. Foreign Office, Home Office, etc.

3. Privy (i.e. House of Office).

4. Authorized form of ecclesiastical service, i.e. Divine Office, Mass, or Holy Communion.

5. Ecclesiastical tribunal for suppression of heresy (Holy Office, otherwise known as the Inquisition). 6. In the plural, those parts of a house, or buildings attached to it, used for the kitchens, pantry, laundry, scullery, etc., sometimes including stables, barns, out-houses, etc.