As the workforce moves back to an office setting once again, many companies are revisiting their office floor plans and how it affects workforce efficiency. While it may seem like a small thing, how your office is set up can have a big impact on the productivity of your employees.
There is a wealth of studies on how the right office floor plan can improve productivity—and how the wrong one won’t force collaboration even if it was designed to. According to the Harvard Business Review, an open office plan can’t force employees to engage with one another when they don’t want to.
They may put headphones on so that they have selective hearing, ignore emails, or suddenly need to visit the restroom when someone they don’t want to engage with is in the room.
The very design meant to force collaboration causes stress to employees that don’t want to engage, reduces their ability to focus, and does nothing for productivity. This might come as a shock considering how popular open office plans were at one point, but it’s just one example of how a floor plan can reduce efficiency.
Luckily, just as certain floor plans reduce productivity, you can also create a floor plan that maximizes employee satisfaction and gives productivity a much-needed boost.
If you’re planning on renovating your office or even building a new office for your employees, there’s plenty you can do to maximize the potential of the talent you hire.
Ask Your Employees
You should ask the people who will be using the office what their ideas are for a great office space. This doesn’t just mean management, but everyone who uses the space. How people work and what their roles are play a big part in how they use the office.
As an example, most offices are designed for people who sit at a desk all day. Not everyone thinks best this way. If you ever see someone on their feet pacing a cubicle or wandering around the office space as they work out a problem, you’ve seen these people in action.
A desk that can adjust between sitting and standing can provide some relief for this type of person and is also healthier. These desks can reduce the risk of injury to your employees, improve their health, and optimize their performance all with one single change.
If your office has enough space in it, a multi-purpose room where employees can exercise might seem like a waste of time. But it can boost productivity, as it gives employees a way to do physical work while thinking over a problem to solve. Areas for “mental breaks,” however quick they may be, are thought to be a key for productivity.
You should also consider where each employee’s office is located. If an employee doesn’t deal with noise well, they may not appreciate having their office parked right next to the bathroom or the cafeteria.
By interviewing your employees and asking them individually what they need to work best, you can help create a warm and friendly environment that optimizes how the team performs as a whole.
There have been many different studies on the amazing effects of nature on the workplace. The simple addition of living plants has a profound effect on focus, relaxation, and productivity. Indoor plants are soothing to the eye and can make a big difference when added to the office.
These benefits can be reaped through looking out a window at a natural scene, or even through a relaxing natural screensaver. By tapping into the inborn human love for nature, you can boost productivity and create a stress-free zone for your employees.
Add Options to Your Office Space
As mentioned before, if an employee does not want to engage with others, they won’t. Open office space will not cause an employee to be more productive, and may actually do the opposite. If you really want to gain the benefits of open office space while still helping everyone be as productive as possible, consider making a variety of options available.
Instead of one, forced open space, have a mix of both. Offices can be available for those who need privacy, and for those who thrive in an open environment, an open area can be used for brainstorming and to promote the social aspects of brainstorming.
This is one area where asking employees where they prefer to spend their time can help. If the majority of your employees prefer privacy, you can make sure there are enough closed-off spaces compared to open areas, and vice versa.
By keeping your team involved, you’ll make a workspace optimized for your unique work culture, and also make the employees feel more engaged with the company as a whole.
Turn Up the Lights
Lighting is often an afterthought when planning an office space, but it can actually have a big influence on the productivity of employees, as well as their overall well-being. The best type of lighting is natural lighting, and numerous studies back this up.
Studies show that employees who sit by a window sleep better at night. It can also help decrease depression, improve mood, and boost energy levels.
Poor or inappropriate lighting can have a negative effect. Fluorescent lighting on its own can cause headaches, and blue light from computer screens can cause eye strain. These things can reduce productivity, as the employee is more focused on these problems rather than their work.
Dim lighting can also cause problems, making employees feel tired and causing them to lose their sense of motivation.
If big windows are unavailable, natural lighting can be mimicked by using lighting that’s color temperature is 5000-7000K. This is the same color as natural daylight and will work similarly to a window.
One other option in terms of lighting is LED dimmable lights. By giving a team the option to brighten or dim lights, they can customize their lighting to what they are working on. This might mean dim lights so they can better see a projection on the wall or bright lights for a meeting.
LED lights are also often more efficient, and cost-effective over time.
Use Color Psychology
An underutilized area of office design is the color scheme of your new office space. A simple paint job can have a profound effect on the work environment, but most designs are white, or some kind of off-white beige.
Yet science has shown that what color a room is can change how people behave, and this can be used to make people more productive. White is actually the worst color you can paint an office, with more errors in work for this color scheme than any other type.
If your office is a haven for creative workers, a blue color scheme is a great option for helping boost their efforts, as well as providing a calming atmosphere. Green inspires innovation. While yellow can potentially brighten up a room and cause people to feel optimistic, too much yellow can make people feel anxious.
Red is a powerful color that can encourage strength, but also can lead to aggression. Red is a color that is best limited and controlled in an office setting, but small amounts in strategic places can help encourage bold thinking and big decisions. Too much, however, can lead to excessive aggression in employees.
Color psychology is a science all itself, so it’s best to delve into this more if you want a truly productive color scheme. What really matters is being aware of this before you decide the color scheme of your office.
In a typical office setting, artwork is often limited to the waiting room, if there is any art at all. It turns out, however, that artwork hanging on the wall can make a big difference in productivity. Innovative art can lead to innovative ideas, and art in general boosts creativity.
In one study conducted by the University of Exeter, employees exposed to artwork worked 15% faster and were 32% more productive compared to a workspace without any art.
Raise the Ceilings
Have you ever been in a space where the ceiling seems almost claustrophobic? It may surprise you, but ceiling height can make a difference in productivity as well. Studies show that the preferred height of a ceiling is 10 feet. That’s enough space so that even a tall person is not going to feel like they’re hitting their head on the ceiling, while not dwarfing the employees with size.
Temperature probably isn’t something you think very much about when designing an office space. Yet perhaps one of the most critical considerations is temperature. Most offices are set to a cooler temperature, but that might be the opposite of what you need for productivity.
Studies show that the highest productivity rates are at a temperature of 22 °C or 71.6F. Most office spaces are good at avoiding temperatures that are too warm, but may make office spaces too cold to keep employees awake.
While well-meaning, the discomfort caused by offices that are too cold leads to a strong drop in productivity.
Add a Cafeteria
If your past office has not had a cafeteria, kitchenette, or more than a simple vending machine for food options, you may be missing out on a huge opportunity. For an employee to be productive, they need to have adequate nourishment for their brains. An architectural design service can help.
While a candy bar or bag may stave off hunger until they can get home, it won’t provide them with the kind of nutrition that leads to great ideas. Facebook and Google—two companies known for valuing productivity in their employees—both have some of the highest-rated canteens for their employees.
What the cafeteria serves also matters. Make sure that the cafeteria has plenty of healthy options alongside refined carbs and other less healthy (but delicious!) foods.
Cafeteria’s don’t just help keep employees fed. They also help save time and productivity indirectly. By having food readily available, it saves employees time and effort that they might otherwise spend looking for food outside the office.
Another benefit to adding a cafeteria is that it provides stress relief to employees. A cafeteria is a place they can go to talk, relax, and socialize without being forced to. It allows employees both the freedom of choice to interact (which an open office setting makes difficult) while also making it readily available.
Even if space does not allow for a full cafeteria, having a well-thought-out break room with a place to store and heat food can be a happy medium.
Why it Matters
There are many different ways an office space can be designed to improve productivity. Everything matters when it comes down to your employees, from the color scheme and flow of the office to the lighting and even the height of the ceiling.
A great office space will produce great work, help keep top talent from leaving for different companies, and drive innovation. A poor workspace, however, can make employees miserable and reduce productivity levels.
It’s very important to make sure your office is right for your employees, and it drives the changes you want to see. If you’re already invested in a new office, taking the time to optimize it for employee health and productivity takes little additional effort and expense. There’s no reason not to make an office perfect for your individual situation.
If you’re remodeling rather than creating a whole new building, you may not be able to make everything exactly the way you like it, but the closer you move to a better set up, the happier you and your employees will be.
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