We are aware that a number of terms are used in our industry which may need some explanation:

Breakout area

An area for staff to sit with or without coffee/tea etc. for a break from their tasks. Usually low seating with coffee tables.

Cable Management

The part of the desk that plays the largest part in the decision making process. Office furniture manufacturers spend vast quantities of research and development funds creating ingeniuos solutions to the cable management problem. Furniture buyers study the options in minute detail and spend sleepless nights worrying about which one to choose. Never actually used in practice. See also cordless office.

Cellular Office

What the boss needs and you don't. Cellular offices are partitioned private offices usually built from floor to ceiling and with doors. They are particularly effective for people who do a lot of private work, introverts, creative workers, ex-convicts and agrophobics. May lead to feelings of isolation and paranoia. See also open plan office.


Office churn is the relocation of an individual or group of individuals resulting in a change to the office environment. Not much of a problem? Churn costs the UK economy around two billion pounds a year. Over a third of office staff move or change their workstation every year. Each move costs on average five hundred pounds. If left unchecked, can lead to a feeling of extreme poverty.

Club Office

The club office totally removes desk ownership. Instead of providing workstations which are used for all job functions (meetings, VDU work, paperwork etc.), areas are allocated on the basis of job function over time. Different areas of the office are dedicated as meeting spaces, computer rooms, private work areas etc. Employees move through the office space to the right location for the work in hand. The use of the term 'club' also implies a relaxed, human environment with much use of informal space for meetings and other work.


The combi-office is an attempt to combine the best features of both open plan and cellular layouts whilst mitigating their disadvantages.

Cordless Office

The effect of cordless technology is to further free the worker from the desk.


Making people redundant. For the past decade, received management wisdom has said that companies need to get leaner and meaner if they are to succeed.


The notion that to get the best out of the workforce management must devolve decision making, involve and consult.


The study of how people relate to their environment. As far as offices go this is usually depicted with a skeleton sitting bolt upright at a computer desk. A common cause of injury in office environments is the continuous use of specific muscle groups in carrying out repetitive tasks.

Facilities Manager

A facilities manager may be either a board member or a janitor. Their decision making power may range from total control of all aspects of the office to none at all.

Feng Shui

Chinese art of creating harmonious working and living environment. By harnessing the flow of the world's energy (chi), the right environment promotes organisational and personal health, prosperity and happiness. Feng shui is being taken seriously by an increasing number of organisations.

Flexible Working

A catch-all term for any work practice that does not involve '9 to 5' and/or going to an office as part of a daily routine.

Fractal Office

How offices can be looked at as small, independently functioning teams (fractals) working in a seemingly chaotic fashion to achieve common goals. Teams form and disband as needed - drawing on skills of individuals rather than relying on flows of communication through departments.

Hot Desking

Hot desking is characterised by the removal of ownership of individual workstations. Instead, users have access to a pool of workplaces on an ad hoc basis. Provision of workstations is based on a calculation of an average user pattern and a factor for any fluctuations in demand. Hot desking is likely to be only part of an office layout - used mainly for sales teams, consultants and teleworkers.


Basic premise is the same as hot desking with the exception that work areas are booked in advance for a set period of time. Provides very effective use of space for mobile teams but assumes that they are able to plan office needs in advance. Advanced hotelling schemes include a concierge to 'personalise' the work area for the person coming to work - laying out files, favourite stationery...

Open plan office

Offices with desks grouped in an open floor layout with people segregated by nothing more than low screens and storage are said to be 'open plan'. A good way of facilitating interdepartmental communication and teamworking.


Office planning is commonly the practice of fitting the greatest number of desks into the smallest possible space. Space, light, air and beauty are as important as a big desk.


A cluster of up to eight workstations.

Sick building syndrome

Sick building syndrome costs the UK economy some eight billion pounds a year. It is a physical and psychosomatic response to unhealthy modern office environments with poor air conditioning, poor light levels and poor ergonomics. The psychological element is brought on by a lack of control of the environment. 'Smart' light switches and 'smart' air conditioning are very clever in providing an optimum level of human comfort but when employees can't open the window on nice, sunny days they become downhearted and go home sick.

Space Efficiency

Space efficiency is measured by dividing the total amount of worksurface (desk space) by the total amount of usable floorspace in the office. Although important, it is a peculiar obsession because it often provides a pleasant and functional environment for people to work in.


Derived from the sport of American Football, touchdown is a term for shared workstations for very short term use. Touchdown workstations have small worksurfaces with either a networked PC or a connection to a network for portable computers. Users access files, e-mail messages, faxes etc. from the network for periods of a few minutes at a time. The provision of touchdown areas also helps to deal with potential overspill when demand for hot desks outstrips supply.

Bentley Office Services would like to thank President Office Furniture for their permission in reproducing this glossary.

To Design & Build To Health & Safety

Should you have any comments about our website, please e-mail [email protected]
© 2003 Bentley Office Interiors Ltd




e-mail link