Planning the Office Space Layout

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The ability to plan an effective and efficient use of office space will be a skill that is useful to you throughout your career. You can refer to Military Handbook, Facility Planning and Design Guide,

MIL-HDBK-1190, for the space criteria to be used.

Planning an efficient layout requires a great deal of thought, study, and a thorough knowledge of the functions for which facilities are to be provided. When a revised plan is not too radically different from the present layout, it maybe possible to make the changes at once. When extensive revisions are indicated, expensive changes may be required and may have to be postponed until a future date. Strive for the best possible solution at the least possible cost. Many times inexpensive substitutions can be made by using familiar items in a new way or by capitalizing on available talents.

Some important items to be considered in preparing layouts are discussed in this section. No effort is made to present a magic plan that can be adapted to fit every situation. To some extent, a good layout depends upon having an efficient organization in the beginning.

The effective use of office space is an important consideration of the supervisor. Like any other part of supply, the office should be designed for production. A poor arrangement of office space wastes time and energy by failing to provide the means for effective work habits. When conditions are such that there is no place to put needed documents or publications, the telephone is on the wrong desk or on the wrong side of the desk, lighting is inadequate, personnel are seated beneath a ceiling vent or facing a window or wall, the flow of work is uneven. Again, when personnel who do detailed or repetitious work are located so that they are constantly interrupted by traffic flow, then the result will obvious] y be less productive.

An office could be defined as a work area for handling information or a production area with data processing equipment. Office planning could then be defined as determining the arrangement of all physical components into a coordinated unit that can most effectively handle the volume of work and the type of information necessary to carry out a mission.


The movement of paperwork into and through the office is a fundamental consideration in determining the arrangement of the physical units. Careful planning is required to provide a minimum amount of travel from desk to desk and to prevent the basic circulation patterns from becoming clogged. In an office where large volumes of documents are handled on an individual basis, the flow of work will usually form a constant pattern. The arrangement of components, therefore, can and should be designed to accommodate the flow of paperwork. In contrast, in an office where there is less volume and/or the paperwork is batch processed, the flow of paperwork should not be the dominating factor in determining the office layout.


Office layout consists of several objectives that should accomplish the following:

1. Produce a smooth flow of paperwork

2. Use space effectively to assist good supervision

3. Locate equipment, machines, and aisles conveniently

4. Add to the comfort of the people who work there

5. Present a favorable appearance

6. Provide for future expansion, reduction, or moving, as the case may be

Factors for Consideration

While many unique situations may be encountered in planning office layout ashore or afloat, it is not practical to outline a standard procedure to follow here. Some general guidelines are as follows:

Use one large space in preference to an equal area of small spaces. This permits better lighting, ventilation, supervision, and communication.

Keep desks, filing cabinets, and other equipment at uniform size in any one area to improve appearance.

Use straight, parallel lines in the layout. Avoid offsets, jogs, and angular arrangements.

Provide for paperwork to flow in straight lines, if possible.

Provide for expanding workloads.

Keep layout flexible, anticipating future changes.

Keep related and similar components close together.

Place supervisors at the rear of their work groups, so they can easily observe problem areas.

Have working personnel facing in the same direction, not each other.

Arrange desks so that ample natural light comes over the left shoulder (or right shoulder for left-handed personnel).

Avoid having personnel face a window or wall, be close to heat sources, or be in line of drafts.

Provide sufficient electrical outlets for equipment.

Locate components that normal] y have many visitors near the entrance to avoid disturbing

other personnel.

Locate tiles and frequently used equipment near those who use them.

Place filing cabinets back to back.

When possible, provide a lounge area (including vending machines and bulletin boards) so that personnel may relax during rest periods away

from their work area without disturbing other working personnel.

l Allocate the prescribed number of square feet per worker as discussed in the following paragraphs.

Spare Standards

When computing the required space for an office, 60 square feet is a desirable standard floor area for each clerical worker. This figure should be doubled for the division officer and the division leading CPO. To illustrate, suppose an office force is to be composed of eight clerical workers plus the division officer and CPO. The space requirement for this office would be 720 square feet (8 x 60) +(2 x 120). An office 20-feet wide and 36-feet long would meet these standards. This standard is based on using double pedestal desks, standard aisles, and the normal accumulation of tiles. There is, of course, no fast rule for the number of square feet per office worker, so this is only for estimation or comparison. The space that can be used is influenced by the nature of the work, the available total area, the number and type of office equipment used, the shape and exposure of the space, and obstructions within the space.

Adequate space may not be available aboard ship to meet these standards. This is overcome partially by using smaller single pedestal desks and by reducing the volume of files. However, the basic considerations are still people, workload, and workflow. The fore, crowded and awkward working areas should not be tolerated if any other solution can be found. Some temporary solutions that might be considered are staggering working hours or establishing a night shift so that some of the desks can be used by two workers, using vacant storage space for office work, taking advantage of school quotas, and borrowing space from other divisions.

Space standards may be broken down in individual items such as desks, chairs, and files. For example, when standard double pedestal desks (60 inches by 34 inches) are arranged as single units with aisles adjacent, or when they are arranged in pairs, end for end, with aisles adjacent to each desk, the minimum space standard from back to back of desks is about 72 inches. This allows a 3-foot space for the chair and for getting in and out from behind the desk. When three or more desks are used end for end, with aisles adjacent to outer desks only, the minimum standard per desk is increased by 1 foot, providing a chair space of approximately 4 feet. The extra foot is required by the middle person for entry and exit.


Figure 2-5 illustrates space standards for various desk arrangements. Generally speaking, the two-desk,

Figure 2-5.-Space standards for desk arrangement A. Single-desk; B. Two desks, end-for-end; C. Three desks, end-for-end D. Two-end aisles; E. One-center aisle.

end-for-end arrangement (plan B, fig. 2-5) requires the least space per worker, and the single-desk arrangement (plan A, fig. 2-5) requires the most. The best arrangement is sometimes influenced by the dimensions of the space as shown in plans D and E in figure 2-5, Aisle space standards should range from 3 feet for secondary aisles to 8 feet for main corridors, depending on the traffic.

The space requirements for filing cabinets depend on the size of the cabinet, the frequent y of use of the material filed, and the arrangement. The standard legal file cabinet is 18- inches wide and 30-inches deep. The drawer opens out an additional 28 inches. For inactive or dead files, no additional aisle space is necessary. For active files, 24 additional inches for the aisle are required, or 36 inches if files are arranged facing each other. Figure 2-6 illustrates some common arrangements of filing cabinets.


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