From the March 2012 issue of Entrepreneur

Traditional offices are no place for modern work. Pharmaceutical giant Lilly knows that well: It enlisted New York-based strategic business consultancy DEGW to advise on a radical redesign of its administrative offices. The changes have involved installing a greater variety of workspaces and upgrading technologies, including implementing wireless ubiquity and VoIP systems.

Indianapolis-based Lilly says the redesign has resulted in significant cost savings while increasing productivity and employee satisfaction. Georgia Collins, managing director at DEGW North America, spoke to us about how Lilly's changes can be applied to small businesses.

Arrange. Rearrange. Repeat. As a company's needs change, so should its workspace. "It need not be a huge, crazy remodel or construction job; it's more about configuring the space so that it suits you, and then using it in a way that suits you," Collins says. "It's important to think about [space] in a much more fluid and flexible way. Once you configure something, there's no reason you can't reconfigure it."

Reconsider the desk. In traditional offices, most space is dedicated to individuals. However, DEGW has found that individual workspace is occupied just 35 percent of the time. "That is sustainable neither from an environmental point of view nor from a financial point of view, because real estate, for most organizations, is the second largest cost," Collins says. Allocate space according to specific personnel needs; for example, mobile workers don't need a dedicated desk.

Usage defines space. Redesigning your office doesn't always require physically changing it. Collins uses the example of quiet rooms--a shared space for focused, concentrated work. "Getting these kinds of spaces right is not always just about the space, but about what kind of protocols you set," Collins says. In other words: Change the function, change the space--no assembly required. 

Changing spaces
Lilly’s redesign led to significant savings and improved morale: