Small Office Space Layout Design & Storage Ideas

by Sam Ashe-Edmunds; Updated September 26, 2017
Female office worker reading documents at desk, portrait

Whether you’re planning a home office or a small space for several employees, balancing form and function is important to maximizing productivity. Focusing on furniture and equipment can create a prison-like atmosphere, while making a space cozy and fun can prevent you from including equipment that can increase your output. Plan several scenarios in advance before settling on your final layout.

Outside In Vs. Inside Out

Try planning your space from the inside out first. For example, place desks against each other in the middle of the room with employees facing each other. Move outward from there to avoid lost space in the middle of the room, using walls for shelf and file cabinet placement. Depending on the size of your furniture, this approach might create dead space or cramped aisles. Alternatively, start placing your furniture against the walls, working toward the middle, which allows employees easy access to wall shelves to increase convenient storage. Fill the middle of the office with shared items, such as the copier, fax machine or recycling bins. For a single-person home office, an L-shaped desk with a return against a wall allows you to sit toward the middle of the room, easily swiveling around to access file cabinets, your closet or other items.

Use Desk Drawers

While tables might seem like an inexpensive, stylish substitute for personal desks, the space underneath is wasted. Use desks with at least one set of drawers to let employees keep within quick reach items and documents they’ll use frequently. Drawers on either side of a L-shaped desk provide even more storage while maximizing desktop space for a computer, monitor, phone, printer, paperwork, speakers and other items that let staffers stay put and working. In a home office, an L-shaped return provides a complete workspace. If you plan to put a copier, postage machine or fax on a table, buy a storage unit that lets you keep paper, toner and other supplies underneath neatly and handily.

Cubicle Pros and Cons

Cubicles provide privacy and wall space for storing documents. They also can reduce your useable floor space, create a stifling atmosphere and decrease a sense of team. Discuss the idea with your staff before you make your decision. Older workers might like to work on their own with fewer distractions, while a younger staff might prefer more interaction and collaboration.

Go With the Flow

Think about how your staff moves about the office during the day to access the items and co-workers they most often need. Keep complementary functions and equipment next to each other so workers aren’t playing musical chairs and human pinball all day as they walk past each other to get to where they need to go. Move frequently used or noisier equipment away from personal work spaces. In a home office, use a bedroom closet for storing items you won’t use that often, such as historical documents. Tables without drawers or doors underneath are inexpensive storage options to use around the perimeter of the room. You can place frequently used items on top and store other items below for easy access without having to open drawers or doors.

About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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