How Office Design Can Facilitate Productivity

A top-of-mind matter for many of today’s businesses is employee productivity. To the dismay of many managers, studies have shown that over fifty percent of workforce members feel disengaged while at the office. These findings can be alarming for a great deal of employers, as engagement is critically linked to business outcomes like productivity. However, boosting concentration could be as simple as making your workplace more pleasing to the eye, as one of the largest contributors to workplace engagement is office design.

Studies have demonstrated a correlation between employee satisfaction around their workplace environment and how engaged they are while at work. In particular, people who express a more general level of happiness with their overall office environment tend to be more engaged, while people who are dissatisfied with their work environment tend to be more disengaged. Essentially, employees who like and enjoy the environments they are a part of will be more productive and happy.

Though many people view an office space solely as a place to complete business tasks, there are many factors that influence an office’s optimal performance. An integrated, well-planned office design and work space significantly affects employee efficiency. Even seemingly miniscule furnishings like lighting, furniture and simple amenities can play a major part in a business’s productivity levels.

In the current business environment, constructing a work space that bolsters employee well-being is more important than ever. Some of today’s most influential companies have already taken to this idea and have created extremely innovative and unique office spaces to boost employee morale and productivity. For smaller companies, though, an engaging office design can still be achieved.

Here are four modifications you can adapt from today’s business leaders to encourage productivity throughout your business:    

1. Flexible work spaces

Whether through collaboration or individual work, today’s employees accomplish tasks in a number of different methods. Creating a workspace that can adapt to these work modes is a crucial element in facilitating productivity. Gensler’s Workplace Index identified four key areas that need to be available for employees that allow them to focus, collaborate, learn and socialize. Some of today’s most progressive offices maintain hybrid floor plans with cubicles, open spaces, collaboration spaces, cafes, conference rooms and even areas dedicated to presentations.

Take LinkedIn’s New York office, for example. Not only does the office have multiple conference rooms and lounge areas (including one with a fireplace), but it also has an office library for those looking to work in a quiet space. Hari Krishnan, LinkedIn’s managing director in APAC and Japan, says that their office space definitely improves productivity and also encourages employees to “think big, whether it’s about their professional careers or a solution to add value for [their] members and clients.”  Make sure your office design is flexible enough to support the various work methods of your employees. A wide range of seating styles, work atmospheres and collaboration zones should be made available throughout the office.

2. Exposure to nature

Spending more than eight hours a day indoors can deprive your employees of the natural elements. Exposure to plants has been shown to improve cognition and boost overall health in addition to improving workplace productivity by 15 percent. A study by the University of Exeter found that adding just a small amount of natural elements into office environments improved memory retention and helped employees score higher on other basic tests.

Oracle took this into consideration when constructing their newest campus in Austin, Texas. The landscape of the campus, which was hand-picked by CEO Mark Hurd, features an extensive view of the famous Colorado River. Employees can opt to work or eat lunch on the campus patio or even bike to work on Austin’s river bike trail, which runs just outside the office. If your office doesn’t feature prime wildlife or picturesque scenery, however, a few strategically-placed houseplants should do the trick.

3. Encourage movement

One of the best ways to stay productive throughout the day is taking short breaks, which counteract the negative side effects of a brain fog or loss of focus. Standing for a few minutes or taking a short walk around the office can be a quick cure for daily lags in energy. A program run at New Balance’s headquarters in Massachusetts found that forty-two percent of employees who increased their level of physical activity at work reported higher levels of engagement and concentration.

Twitter has been declared one of the healthiest workplaces in America, which is undoubtedly supported by their on-site gym and company-wide yoga sessions. In fact, the Bay Area headquarters offers complimentary CrossFit classes, massages and healthy dining options. A company gym isn’t required to get employees up and moving, however. One of the trendiest pieces of modern office furniture is the sit-to-stand desk, which encourages employees to change positions and move throughout the day.

4. Playing music

Research from Stanford University has shown that listening to music boosts brain activity, including the part of your brain that controls how well you focus on tasks. Over time, listening to music increases the brain’s ability to anticipate events and sustain attention. Additional studies have demonstrated that those who listen to music complete their tasks more quickly and are better at generating ideas than those who don’t.

Unsurprisingly, Pandora Media has applied this thought process to their offices by allowing their employees to play DJ for a day. The company broadcasts a wide variety of music genres throughout the office, ranging from jazz to nineties hip-hop. This serves a dual purpose in that it appeals to employees’ productivity levels while also speaking to the company’s organizational goals and values. Joe Drucker, director of real estate at Pandora, says that “music plays in our common areas during the business day, including our reception area, so that it is the first thing people hear when they enter our offices.” Your business can choose specific days of the week to stream music throughout the office or simply encourage employees to pop in a pair of headphones during work hours.

Small changes in your office design can be a major deciding factor in total productivity and engagement. Take it from Ben & Jerry’s, who believe that “a happy employee is a productive employee.” Ensuring that your office is a place where employees want to show up, rather than feeling that they need to, improves office morale and helps to push your business toward achieving its goals.

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Amanda Peterson
Monthly Contributor: Amanda Peterson is a contributor to Enlightened Digital and software engineer from the one, the only New York City. When she's not trying to find the best record store in the city, you can find her curling up to watch some Netflix with her Puggle, Hendrix

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Monthly Contributor: Amanda Peterson is a contributor to Enlightened Digital and software engineer from the one, the only New York City. When she's not trying to find the best record store in the city, you can find her curling up to watch some Netflix with her Puggle, Hendrix


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