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    Low-Cost Office Makeovers: Redesign on a Dime!

    by Donna Chaney / June 29, 2017

    By Donna Chaney, Senior Consultant

    Furniture Concept Illustrations by Susan L. Ruby

    Office renovation projects are a great opportunity to transform a traditional office into a modern, updated office that provides new ways to work and collaborate. But what if you don’t have the time or money for a major space transition project? Or what if you’re not sure the commitment and effort are right for your organization? Then this is the blog for you! Following are easy office makeover projects that don’t require a big budget or a major effort.

    Small Changes with Big Impacts

    In touring offices for facility planning projects that I work on, one thing I see in nearly every office is unused space. Sometimes this is an empty office, other times it’s a space that’s too small to be used as an office or one that’s inconveniently located (perhaps tucked away in a remote corner). These spaces often sit empty for months or even years, accumulating the usual office litter – outdated computer accessories, storage boxes, even old files that should have been shredded years ago. If you have a room like this, one of the easiest things you can do is to repurpose it as a space that can be used by multiple people in your office. Here are several easy and inexpensive options for office makeovers.

    Create a getaway booth.

    If it’s a small room, consider creating a getaway booth for teleworkers or visitors who need a private space to work for an hour or even a whole day. A getaway booth simply requires a desk and chair. If you have the budget, other accessories – such as a monitor, and laptop docking station – could be provided.

    Office Makeover_Getaway Booth.jpg

    Getaway Booth in an Unused Office 

    Create a collaboration room.

    If the space is larger, you have more options. Consider creating a collaboration room – a small meeting space where two or more people can meet. This type of space only requires a table and chairs. But again, if you have the resources, you could provide a whiteboard or an easel and flip chart, and perhaps a telephone for group conference calls.

    Create a technology hub.

    Another option for a larger space is a technology hub where employees can hold videoconferences or share files from their laptops during in-person meetings. This type of space would need some technology – a large monitor, a conference phone, and a laptop docking station or connections for laptop computers. 

     Office Makeover_Technology Hub.jpg

    Technology Hub 
    Completely repurpose a space.
    A colleague related a story about how her former company completely repurposed an unused lunchroom and gained a valuable workspace in the process. When the division she worked for needed a large training room for a special project, they found an unused lunchroom on another floor in the building and arranged to use it temporarily. They turned the existing tables into a classroom-style setup and used an old coffee stand as the lectern at the front of the room. Without spending a dime, and with just a little effort, they created a very functional space that they used for several months. Best of all, when their project ended, the company decided to continue using the room as a training room for other teams and projects.

    Minor Construction with Major Returns

    The previous options required little or no expense. If you have a small budget, there are even more possibilities for small projects that have the potential for a big impact. Here are some low-budget office makeover possibilities.

    Knock down a wall between rooms to create a collaboration area.
    You may have two adjacent rooms or offices that aren’t used. More likely, you may have one unused room next to another space whose occupant can be relocated to free up two adjoining spaces. Knocking down the wall between the two rooms creates one larger space that can be used as a collaboration space, project workroom, or small meeting room. You’ll need some minor construction for the wall deconstruction, drywall repair, and painting. The space will also require some furnishings – a table, chairs, and possibly a whiteboard – and you may also want to consider some technology, such as a large monitor and conference phone.

    Create touchdown areas in unused spaces.

    Touchdown desks are small workstations, typically 36 square feet or smaller, where remote workers or visitors can sit and work quietly for a short period of time, typically a day or less. The small footprint of these spaces allows them to be placed in many locations and in any quantity, from one to a cluster. All that’s really needed is a small surface area for a laptop and work papers.

    I’ve seen some really inventive concepts up close and personal and even more creative ideas online. In one case, a countertop and three stools were installed in a wide corridor, instantly creating space for three workstations. A large whiteboard was also added to the space above the countertop, extending all the way to the ceiling, giving workers another place to jot notes and ideas. As a bonus, the space has also been used as a small collaboration area for a handful of employees. 

    Office Makeover_Touchdown Area_1.jpgTouchdown Desk Counter in a Wide Hallway 


    In another instance, an upholstered bench was placed along an unused wall and several small rolling carts were made available for use as mobile desks (think tray tables on wheels). In yet another facility, the organization had a larger dead space in a corner next to a bank of windows. They installed a four-person table and purchased a tabletop divider system, immediately creating four semi-private cubicle workstations – perfect as a temporary workspace for visitors. The dividers are high enough to provide visual privacy but low enough to allow window views from any of the four workspaces. 

    Office Makeover_Touchdown Area_2.jpg

    Touchdown Desks at a Table with a Low Partition Separator


    Create a relaxing work nook with a unique piece of furniture.

    I recently visited a facility where the organization had undergone a major space transformation project. The entire office was a spectacular example of innovative concepts but one area in particular caught my eye. In a small corner nook that might normally sit vacant or perhaps house a filing cabinet or bookcase sat an upholstered chair with a side-arm desk large enough to accommodate a laptop. There was even a matching footstool, and the chair faced a window with a relaxing view. This area was designed as a unique type of focus space very different from the typical desk/chair combination. I tried the chair, so I can vouch for its comfort!) For the relatively low cost of the furniture, this unused nook was transformed into an innovate work area for employees who may want to relax while they need to concentrate.

    Office Makeover_Work Nook.jpg

    Work Nook (and the author enjoying an actual, and relaxing, work nook in a newly updated office)


    Update your employee break room to create an employee café/work lounge.

    An area that many people often overlook when considering space projects is the employee break room. While many organizations have lunch rooms or break rooms, these spaces usually have white walls, perhaps a microwave, sink, and coffee maker, and some utilitarian tables and chairs. Not exactly a pleasant space to spend one’s lunch hour. Updating this space to create a relaxing area would be an easy and relatively low-cost effort. Updates could potentially include:

    • Painting the space in warm colors
    • Purchasing comfortable and inviting tables and chairs (perhaps combining some that are regular height with some pub-style tables and bar stools)
    • Installing pendant lights above the tables and countertops
    • Installing an island that can be used as a countertop or, with the addition of bar stools, as an eating area
    • Purchasing updated appliances (if you’re still using a filter-style coffee maker, consider purchasing a Keurig for your employees!)
    • Adding artwork, books or magazines (perhaps a free lending library), or even games (a chess set, puzzles, etc.) – there’s no law that says office spaces can’t provide warmth and entertainment!

    For a higher cost, and depending on where your break room is located, you may be able to remove one or two walls to create a more open lounge-style area. The office I mentioned above located its break room next to its main conference room. They installed large sliding doors to the conference room so that the space could be opened to create a larger area for office gatherings. You may not have the resources or space for this type of layout, but even on a budget, there are many options for upgrading an employee break room and creating a warm and welcoming café-style environment.

    Office Makeover_Break Room.jpg

    Updated Break Room


    There are tons of reality shows on TV these days that show all kinds of home makeovers. From minor redecorating projects on a budget to major construction involving an entire house, the possibilities are indeed endless. So why not take this same approach to your office? After all, as reality television has shown us, you don’t need a huge budget to make a big difference in your space!



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    Tags: Flexible Workspace Open Office Design Space Transition Mobile Workforce Solutions

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    Donna Chaney

    Donna Chaney

    Donna Chaney has been with Fentress since 2001 and provides senior project management, analytical, and program support. She has experience developing communications and operations strategies, analyzing and presenting data, and performing quantitative and qualitative analysis and research. She also supports the company’s business development and marketing activities and provides technical writing and editing support to other company projects. Donna has a bachelor’s of science degree and a master’s degree, both in business administration. She enjoys reading, cooking, exercising, and spending time with her children.