How Office Layout Impacts Wireless Network Design

With office design evolving over time, enterprises must rethink their wireless networks to meet the needs of an ever-evolving and increasingly connected workforce. 

For today’s workforce, the environment you work in is almost as important as the job you do. Employees are on the hunt for workplaces with positive culture, sophisticated technology, and, last but not least, office designs that speak to their needs. In fact, research shows that 37 percent of job candidates will voluntarily take a job with a lower salary if the company offers appealing workplace facilities.

The problem is, what workers consider an attractive office design is always a moving target. Too private and employees will feel siloed off. Too public and people will feel like they have to find someplace to hide in order to be productive. For companies of all sizes, figuring out what works for their employees — and what works for their overall business — is a challenge that will require some experimentation.

While it would be ideal for every company to try out various arrangements of public spaces and private workstations to strike the perfect balance for productivity, there are huge logistical challenges that come with changing your office design. First and foremost, IT professionals will need to consider how different layouts, density of employees seated in any given area, and architectural adjustments will impact network assets distributed across the office.

WiFi network design, in particular, requires careful attention. Major office redesigns may boost worker productivity and benefit your company as a whole — but without the necessary wireless network infrastructure to support employee devices and workstations across your new layout, team members will face more problems in their revamped environment than your redesign was meant to solve.

Office Design Over the Years

Business leaders, architects, and interior design professionals have debated what makes for a productive workplace for decades. Early on, junior employees were afforded little privacy in the office, while their bosses enjoyed perimeter offices that reinforced company hierarchy. Designers endeavored to change this by giving all workers their own space, thus freeing them to focus on their work rather than their lack of autonomy. And so, cubicles were born.

Originally designed by Herman Miller chief executive Robert Propst in 1964, cubicles were taken to the extreme in the United States decades later. By the 1980s and 1990s, the freeing personal space that Propst had in mind had been mass-produced into the cramped boxes we think of today. While they may provide employees with their own semi-enclosed offices, cubicles also block out natural light and make it difficult to communicate with peers.

Rebelling against cubicles, the open-plan office came into vogue in the 1990s and early 2000s. These spaces — fueled in part by tech startups striving to shake things up — were intended to foster the kind of community and collaboration that these companies depended on. However, recent studies have shown that open-plan offices are actually having the opposite effect on employees.

In fact, a recent Harvard research study shows that, on average, face-to-face time decreases by up to 70 percent among workers in open-plan offices. In direct contrast, email use can rise by 50 percent. Rather than motivating employees to interact and collaborate, tearing down these barriers and leaving employees without personal space has caused team members to turn inward and seek alone time. As designers take on the challenge to once again rethink open-plan offices, hybrid spaces that mix immersive communal spaces with private work areas seem to be the compromise that everyone can agree on.

Wireless Networks for the Modern Workplace and the Modern Worker

Whichever office plan is right for your business, it’s important to put careful thought into the design. Research demonstrates that 69 percent of businesses reported gains in employee satisfaction and overall engagement after implementing health building features. What’s more, 85 percent of workers expect to see more mobility in the workplace going forward due to the rise of “agile” or activity-based workplaces. These agile workplaces represent the hybrid space, which provide open spaces for large groups to collaborate as well as enclosed spaces meant for focused, solo work.

As the preferred types of office design continue to evolve over time, decision-makers will have to consider what IT adjustments they’ll need to make to fit these preferences. From access point placement to cabling infrastructure, changing the way employees work in your office — including how many are working in a given area, what they’re doing in that area, and how they’re distributed — will require subsequent changes to your networking assets. Access points will need to be added and shifted to meet changing needs. In addition, updating cabling infrastructure can offer another method in which you can deliver the best possible performance to users working in an entirely new way.

For instance, zone cabling is a popular way to distribute cabling assets based on user density. Whereas cubicles and assigned workstations traditionally meant that IT teams planned for individual outlets, zone cabling accounts for the ways that employees will be accessing the network in an office where they’re likely to be on the move. Additionally, businesses should consider investing in a minimum of Cat6 cabling — with Cat6a and even Cat7 depending on when employees are moving within the space and what demands they’ll be placing on their network.

Ultimately, the best office design for your organization is the one that balances the needs of your employees with the needs of your business. Whether your team loves the dynamism of open-plan offices or prefers the mobility and flexibility of hybrid spaces, it’s crucial that you ensure your wired and wireless networks are designed to match with your office layout.

For companies considering how they might better align their network with the unique needs of their workforce, the networking specialists at Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) can help. With nearly 30 years of experience designing custom networking solutions for teams of all sizes, industries, and needs, TTI can work with you to ensure that your employees can properly reap the benefits of your office redesign. From cabling questions to ongoing managed services, reach out to the award-winning IT professionals at TTI today.

By Tony Ridzyowski

July 31, 2019

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