How to Design your Office for Maximum Productivity
Whether you want to renovate your existing space or are looking for a new office, your office design and practices can affect overall productivity. Many companies and employees list productivity as an area of growth, giving them something to work toward. However, many businesses and design managers are unsure where to start. Using productivity hacks and guides can help you learn what you can do to optimize your office design and boost productivity.
13 Office Design Tips to Improve Productivity
Think office design is just interior decorating? Think again. Research shows that workers are significantly more productive and less stressed in more aesthetically pleasing office environments.
Staff satisfaction levels are essential to the smooth functioning of any company. They reflect and heighten productivity, which relates to the amount of work that gets done in a day. Naturally, when your employees are more relaxed and focused on the job, the outcomes will be more favorable as well.
Office design experts go back and forth about which is the most productive plan. Do open-plan offices make employees more productive than office cubicles or vice versa? Should we re-invest in private offices? Let everyone work at home or on a flexible schedule? There are as many opinions as there are options. The good news is that a few small design changes can yield big results.
In one study, 93% of employees within the technology sector said they stay longer with companies that designed offices with their health in mind, including assets like wellness rooms and ergonomic seats. Meanwhile, 87% of all employees want their current employer to create healthier spaces for them to work.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to create a prolific environment in your firm and ensure that your staff is always on top of their game, delivering the best possible results. Here are some ways in which you can boost employee production capacity by making the right workplace arrangement choices.
1. Know What Your Employees Need
How many times have you been given a desk by the window which kept drawing your attention away? Now that you’re the one assigning space, you should know what works for each of your employees. We suggest either conducting a small survey before redecoration or cooperating with your HR sector. Ideally, both. The human resources staff knows each and every employee, even in large companies, and can tell you what the most productive environment for them would be. Hence, start there.
2. Select Quality Equipment to Optimize Productivity
Once you’ve organized employee placement to meet their needs, it’s time to get them comfortable in their seats. When it comes to working, think about when you feel the most comfortable. Is it a good office chair? Or do you work best on a sofa? Maybe you prefer lounging on a lazy bag?
Depending on the nature of your office culture, you will be able to provide your workers with the best possible environment for them. We suggest getting high-quality and comfortable office chairs to begin with. With this simple change, you should already be able to see a change in the employees. Good office furniture, believe us, is the key point when you want to design your office for maximum productivity.
Although working in an office isn’t a risky profession at its core, there are many health impediments that develop after spending long hours uncomfortably sitting down and staring at a computer screen. Eye and headaches are a big problem, and so is the onset of chronic back pain. These issues lower capacity, leaving workers feeling even more stressed.
This is why the ideal arrangement to boost productivity often involves ergonomic chairs, properly aligned desks and screen protection. If you have the budget for it, you can also bring in some standing stations for those employees who want to switch it up from time to time.
Computer problems account for a lot of wasted time at work and offer the least in the way of recharging workers’ batteries. At least while people are looking at their fantasy sports teams, they’re clearing their minds for the next task. Make sure your workers have computers and devices that really work.
3. Consider Creating a Quiet Room
Noise is a problem in most offices these days, in that there’s either too much of it or too little. Either can be distracting. Some workers will do better in a loud environment. There are types of people who do their job best when there’s a familiar tune playing on the radio. The quiet can be distracting, too — a silent office with only the sound of a few dozen coworkers clacking on their keyboards can pull the mind away from essential tasks.
Though, there are other types of folks who simply prefer the old-fashioned peace and silence during their work time. We suggest implementing a quiet area when you design your office for maximum productivity. It can be a space that is headphones only or a no-talking zone that can provide the workers with the quiet they need to do their jobs. When they need a moment to socialize, they can head out to the space which is meant for a break.
Don’t worry. If you plan to add this area when you design your office for maximum productivity, it requires minimal hassle. As long as you have good chairs and comfortable office desks for your workers, they will do the rest.
Alternatively, sound masking is a relatively inexpensive way to cope with the problem. Pump in white noise via speakers, obscuring all those small noises that can seem so loud when you’re trying to get things done.
4. Add Natural Lighting to Your Office Space
Although it might not seem like a crucial detail, having proper lighting in the office is essential for productivity levels. For one, it helps protects workers’ eyes and makes screens easier to look at. In addition, it naturally energizes everyone, creating a positive atmosphere that encourages and sustains a prolific environment. Several studies have shown that poor lighting significantly affects productivity.
If you’re up for a serious investment, going all out and equipping the fixtures with proper bulbs is an excellent choice that will bring positive results soon enough. The best ones to use are the high-powered CFL daylight color balanced light bulbs, whose components mimic sunlight as closely as possible.
We’ve had the chance to talk to numerous business owners through our work. Most of them told us that their employees have always worked better in natural lighting. There’s just something about the morning rays spilling over their desks that fuels them to work harder.
Hence, this is one of our tips to maximize productivity in your offices. If you’re going to decorate after moving your business, choose offices with plenty of windows and natural lighting. This will help your workers feel better and do their jobs harder.
Of course, the best light of all is natural light, but if you can’t provide that for all employees, add task lighting to make sure they can see what they’re doing and avoid nodding off. When it comes to the type of light provided, most experts agree that full-spectrum bulbs are superior to standard fluorescents for boosting productivity and mood.
5. Choose the Perfect Color and Artwork
Are you still making do with the default walls the landlord painted before your company set up shop? Depending on the color, you might be contributing to eye strain and bad-tempered employees. Paint is relatively cheap, and a change of color can make a big difference in productivity.
Start by choosing a good color for a working environment. Color psychology that people who work in rooms with red walls do better with tasks involving accuracy, such as copyediting and performing calculations and inspiring energy. Blue environments, on the other hand, support creative thinking and are almost universally regarded as calming. We suggest pale colors, which are still quite vibrant. Take your pick out of blues and greens, which you can complement with the matte colors of the furniture and the white of the ceilings.
Then, you should also remember to choose some artwork. It can be something as personal as a picture of your family in your office or an inspirational quote you live by. We suggest against abstract art in case you have a more relaxed working environment. For a law firm, they are perfect.
Personalize your workspace and encourage your employees to do the same. Add some sticky notes, a funny mouse pad or a personalized mug. It’s essential that you feel at home if you want to design your office for maximum productivity.
If you want to design your office for maximum productivity, decorating is quite vital. We have a good offer of office planning services if you don’t want to deal with the hassle. Then again, we still want to give you productivity tips on decorating the office space even if you don’t employ us.
6. Utilize Your Higher Ceilings for Bigger Ideas
If you have higher ceilings, this feature can inspire creative thinking and problem-solving skills in your employees. Your environment can help you create an environment that reflects the workflow style and traits you value. Especially if you are looking for a new location or renovating your office, consider investing in high ceilings.
7. Heat the Place
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office knows that one of the most common office worker complaints is about temperature. Generally, it’s about the office being too cold, although we’ve worked in plenty of places with faulty AC, and that generates plenty of griping as well. In addition to the fact that heating and cooling, the office appropriately will save your workers hours of time that they otherwise would have spent trying to get comfortable.
8. Think About an Open vs. Closed Office Plan
Even people who love open office spaces need a little privacy now and then. If your workers are saying that they need more personal space, create some. Screens are always a good option, or you could go with these neat desk hoods by Sophie Kirkpatrick. These options can also be helpful for cubicle workers whose work areas are relatively open.
If you go this route, make sure you’re carefully considering the needs of each individual worker. Put people with chatty jobs together and workers who need to be heads-down by themselves. Consider investing in sound-masking equipment. A little white noise goes a long way.
Non-work-related internet use has replaced the water cooler as the time-waster of choice in most offices. While it’s a good idea to give people access to private spaces for meetings and special projects, there’s nothing wrong with encouraging accountability by making people’s screens more visible to their colleagues. There’s no better inducement for leaving the fantasy sports teams for off-hours than the peering eyes of coworkers.
While open-plan offices are cheaper and allow more collaboration, they can also be stressful for employees. This is especially tricky for businesses that have opted for the new, open-plan office designs. What they give in collaboration and space, they sometimes take away in privacy and soundproofing. Provide some private workspace for folks who need peace and quiet to complete their tasks, and you’ll get the best of both worlds.
Office cubicles have been presented as a staple of corporate life ever since modern television started depicting what it’s like to perform activities in these relatively new environments. Offering your workers the chance to have some privacy while they perform their daily tasks can help their production capacity tremendously. On top of that, it makes chatting the day away with colleagues harder, which might sound rough at first, but it’s better for their results in the long run.
9. Clear Out the Clutter
There’s nothing more distracting than a cluttered room. If you want your employees to always stay on top of their game, you will need to make some serious alterations to the overall design of your office space. The first step in this direction would be removing loose wires, unnecessary papers and other files and folders you might find lying around.
To take it one step further, you can rearrange the entire area. Move desks around and aim for minimalism. Consider removing pictures from the walls, maybe just a motivational poster here and there to boost morale, but that’s it. By doing this, positive results can begin to appear.
10. Create a Relaxation Area
Arranging your company’s offices in such a way that the existence of a relaxation area is possible can boost productivity among your employees like never before. Most people want a space where they can breathe for a bit and get away from any work-related stressors. On top of that, everyone should ideally take at least ten minutes to stretch every two hours or so.
Thus, having a break room is crucial. The best thing about this is that it can be anything — a game area, a lunch spot or even just a place with some bean bags and a comfy couch. No matter what your decision is, your employees are bound to appreciate it, as long as it allows them to get away from the pressure they face each day.
11. Include Plants
Nature and greenery are another super-cheap way to perk up the office. Plants are more than just a greener way to decorate — they make the office environment seem less sterile. Indoor plants can offer several benefits to office employees, including reduced stress and increased focus.
12. Minimize Meetings
Offer lots of smaller conference spaces so that people can get together for brainstorming sessions, but minimize the big meeting spaces. This discourages people from planning unnecessary powwows — something that productivity experts agree is a huge drain on most workers’ time.
13. Offer a Space to Eat Lunch
You don’t need a full-scale cafeteria, but having a place that’s dedicated to eating and socializing will minimize the chatter — and crumbs — that eating at their desks creates. It will also keep your employees from feuding over whose soup is creating which smell. If you want happy workers, you’ll provide a place to eat — and plenty of places where eating is discouraged. For another perk, this will also keep your office free from mice and other unwanted guests.
Office Designs That Kill Productivity
Differences in the industry can be an important factor to consider when ordering furniture and deciding which office design will work for you and your employees. It can be easy for business owners and managers to look at office designs as some extraneous and nebulous aspect of work that has a negligible impact on workers, but it’s much harder to argue with the results.
More so than discovering an office plan that encourages creativity, it’s important to avoid an office setup that hinders progress. The traditional “cube farm” setup has been a known morale and productivity killer, so even though this may seem like the most economical decision, it could be costing you money in the long run when employee productivity is taken into account.
Although creative industries like film and publishing have managed to find success with an open office environment, studies show that it may not be necessarily advantageous for every single job.
For instance, writers often find that they cannot concentrate when the room is noisy with words that have nothing to do with the sentence they’re writing. Project managers may be distracted during phone calls by impromptu meetings happening near their desks, and the overall chatter of busy people may subconsciously distract everyone from their work.
Finding a balance and discovering what works for the employees of your industry is the key to understanding what makes the best team environment. Why not try a semi-open office environment that utilizes low walls and room separators to give just enough privacy to those who need it?
It could also help to talk to employees that require silence to get their work done and group them all in an environment separate from all the hustle and bustle. In the end, it’s not so much about the overall design of the office space as much as it’s about the employees and what type of environment will be best for their work.
How to Reduce Distractions in the Workplace
Technology can help make us all more efficient. But, as it turns out, it has created a society of distracted workers. After all, who wants to do work when there are puppies learning to swim on YouTube or amazing sales on shoes on BlueFly? Our cubicles are quickly becoming cozy dens for workaday entertainment rather than the safe havens for productivity.
Over 98% of employees say they experience interruptions daily that prevent them from optimizing their workflow. Almost half of the employees admit they put earbuds in to help prevent coworkers from engaging with them since they list around 51% of distractions to be from face-to-face interactions.
While it seems like folks are muddling through the best they can, it probably isn’t a bad idea to take a hard look at your productivity and figure out how to maximize it — especially when having a job at all is a pretty big deal to some people.
Our brains have not yet caught up with the increased number of distractions we face, so we don’t fully understand the true cost of five minutes spent answering e-mail or 10 minutes spent on YouTube. Your brain has a limited supply of attention, so each task you do tends to make you less effective at the next task.
Two high-energy tasks — decision-making and self-control — are especially affected if you are too easily distracted. When you allow your mind to drift toward this or that, you’re actually hurting your ability to focus on the tough projects down the road.
A recent study about workplace distractions and their effect on employees found that 80% of employees reported coworkers as the top cause of distractions, covering both conversations and instant messages. Further, 60% of employees think meetings interrupt their workflow.
When you’re ready to take an honest look at how productive you are in a day, start by keeping a time log which documents hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute how you spent your workday. You’ll probably be surprised at exactly how much time you spend not working.
After you’ve made your list, then it’s time to become disciplined about eliminating needless distractions and minimizing the amount of time you spend on “easy” tasks (e.g., checking email, returning phone calls) to avoid the “hard” tasks (like writing a report or planning a presentation).
By our estimates, if you just eliminate the amount of time you spend surfing the internet for personal reasons, you’ll gain back at least 25 percent of your productivity.
How are tips on how to manage some of your workplace’s biggest distractions.
The average American employee spends around 28% of their workday checking their email, equaling about 2.6 hours. Instead of opening your email first thing, spend the first part of your day working on thinking tasks, when your brain is the most rested and better able to focus.
Set aside blocks of time later in your day to check and respond to emails. Because this is a more “interesting” task, your brain has an easier time handling it when it’s not as rested. Log off of email, or turn off your e-mail notification for the rest of the day. Set a timer so you don’t get sucked into an email vortex.
Like e-mail, you should set aside blocks of the day for answering and returning phone calls. If you’re spending time on a task that requires a lot of thought, consider setting your cell to silent and using the “send call” function on your office phone to send calls directly to voicemail.
If you are concerned about emergencies, set up a system with your family, like having them call your receptionist or a trusted co-worker in the event that you don’t pick up your office or cell phone.
3. Instant Messaging
Instant messaging (IM) can be a non-interfering, efficient way to get quick answers from co-workers about projects you’re working on. However, just like an overly chatty cubicle neighbor, it can also be an enormous time suck, as quick questions turn into flirtatious exchanges or time to catch up on office gossip. Not to mention, your exchanges aren’t necessarily secret, as most companies have the ability to track conversations between employees.
Now that we have your attention, here’s what you should do. Just like every other distraction, you should limit the amount of time you spend on IM. If coworkers do have legitimate questions, make yourself available for blocks of time during the day when you’re completing tasks that don’t require as much focus. Your coworkers will come to learn when you can chat and when you’re busy. Make sure to update your away messages to let people know when you’re next available to talk.
4. Social Media
Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin can be huge distractions for employees — some have even fessed up to spending 30 minutes on social media while at work. While ignoring the siren call of photos from your cousin’s bachelorette party might be tough, your boss will be happier if you don’t go on any of these sites during work hours unless, of course, you’re going on them for work.
We suggest not bookmarking any time-sucking social media sites on your office computer. If you need a fix, wait until your lunch break and make sure not to post any updates that are disparaging to your company.
5. Other Web Surfing
Online shopping, booking vacations and watching videos on YouTube are all part of the time employees waste online. It’s not a bad idea to start policing yourself on personal internet usage before your boss does.
The simplest solution is to avoid using your office computer to do any sort of personal web surfing. At the very least, limit your eBay-ing and Expedia-ing to scheduled break times. Or, if you need internet access, come into work early or stay a little later to do what you need to do.
If you’re focusing on a project that needs 100% of your focus, hang a “do not disturb” sign on your door or cubicle wall to kindly let people know now is not the time to chat about last night’s games.
If you’re the victim of “hey, you got a second?” folks, let them know you need to finish up what you’re doing and figure out a reasonable (and convenient) time to catch up with them. If you can establish a daily routine, eventually, your coworkers will pick up on the best times of the day to approach you.
7. Searching for Things
Clutter and disorganization can lead to distraction and lost time. Take back some time by cleaning off and organizing your workspace, and reward yourself for organizing by picking up these adorable and functional office accessories. Eliminating clutter means you’ll spend less time digging through leaning stacks of papers in search of that missing invoice. Not to mention, a lot of extra clutter on your desk can be extremely distracting.
How to Boost Productivity by Engaging With Employees
Employee engagement strategies seek to improve morale, interest and productivity in the workplace. Happy employees are valuable employees, and an employee performance management system is just one way to enhance engagement by investing in their development. By taking the time to know and understand individual employees’ work styles and concerns, businesses accomplish their productivity goals by removing obstacles to getting the job done.
Communication Tops the Productivity List
Corporate executives and managers report that the majority of workplace failures are attributable to poor communication. The first step to addressing communication issues is to start asking questions and keep asking.
Questioning employees about what will make them more productive aligns managers and staff with a common goal to solve the issue. Remember to ask open-ended questions that solicit opinions rather than unhelpful yes or no answers. Instead of asking, “Do you have the tools you need?” phrase the question as, “What tools will make the process work better?”
Work to understand where the barriers to productivity exist. Be present during discussions among teammates, confirm that information is flowing freely and enable avenues for employees to constructively criticize the process. When managers partner with employees to find solutions, team members feel their opinions and roles contribute both to the success of projects and the overall success of the firm.
Small and Large Praise Works
For many businesses, financial rewards seem like the easy solution to boost productivity. However, money ranks well below recognition when it comes to maintaining employee engagement. Acknowledging individual and team successes instills a sense of pride in completed work and gratitude in employees. In particular, public recognition boosts self-esteem and company loyalty.
For managers, keeping tabs on work performance enables them to see success so they can praise individuals for their work. This recognition sends a message to employees that the company is paying attention to them and finds real value in their services.
Let People Be Themselves as Much as Possible
Everyone has a unique work style. Effective teams learn to work together by accommodating these differences in pursuit of the team objective. Encouraging workers to talk amongst each other to learn more about how they each work best. Doing so can lead to better cooperation.
Working alone or in teams both have benefits. Some individuals thrive by themselves, allowing them to dedicate more attention and focus to their work without interruption. However, the inherent interaction of a team produces higher levels of creativity when it comes to problem-solving. Giving staff the ability to function in both worlds can increase success while recognizing that the individual can contribute in their own distinct ways.
Open floor plans encourage teamwork, but having a designated quiet space can motivate some employees. Group meetings are great for information sharing. However, if they lack focus or specificity, making attendance optional for some people can allow your business to take advantage of diverse work styles.
Recognize That Energy Levels Are Unique
Many companies have stringent work schedules, allowing breaks at specific times of the day or a set mealtime that never varies. At the same time, with today’s work/life balance strategies, people arrive and depart work at different times. Alertness and energy levels will vary on an individual basis.
Studies show that humans need to take breaks in cycles throughout the day. Depending on the person, employees focus on work best over 90 to 120 minutes periods. Activating these rhythms as a performance booster can lead to better productivity and attention.
Encourage staff to recognize their personal rhythm and give them room to take breaks at the times that work best for them.
Put People First and the Rest Follows
Full-time employees spend most of the day working. Understanding that they have emotional and physical needs in order to function optimally increases loyalty and performance success. Keeping morale high by engaging with employees as people has a direct, positive effect on the bottom line.
How Office Lighting Impacts Productivity
The aptly-initialized seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects people in the winter, when there are fewer hours of sunlight, and creates those “winter blues” that lower happiness levels. If lack of sunlight can dampen your mood on a seasonal basis, what about the lighting situation in your cubicles? Is it possible to lose productivity because it’s winter in your office all the time?
Office lighting can contribute to SAD and distractions. For many people, it consists of yellow, flickering fluorescents. They make a loud buzzing sound, bathe you in poor lighting and generally make people feel like you are getting fewer vitamins while you work.
Are fluorescent lights bad for you? In a word — yes. While it’s reassuring to know that the discomfort under those blinking bars isn’t all in your head, it’s a bummer to realize that the lights many offices use aren’t great for your health and happiness.
Fluorescents can lead to a long line of health complaints, including eye strain, stress, allergic skin reactions and hyperactivity. Fortunately, there’s no proof that it causes some of the scarier diseases discussed online, such as cancer and extreme vitamin deficiency. For example, the toxic levels of mercury in fluorescent lights probably aren’t going to hurt you unless your coworkers like to blow off steam by breaking light tubes and inhaling the particles.
The major effects of artificial lighting are pretty standard — malaise, eye strain and depression — none of which are exactly conducive to cranking out those TPS reports in a timely fashion.
The angle of lighting is another factor. A study at Cornell University compared parabolic downlighting, your usual, downward-directed lights, with lensed, indirect lighting. The study participants were unanimous in preferring indirect light and reported fewer problems with eye strain, tired eyes and focus problems.
Ideally, managers can design all offices to offer workers at least some exposure to natural light. It doesn’t take much, by the way — depending on where you live and what time of year it is, you can get enough Vitamin D from a few minutes of sun exposure a few times a week.
The intangible benefits of being able to see something besides the blank wall next to your desk are less easy to measure but just as important to workers. For companies designing new spaces, the general rule should probably be to minimize the use of overhead artificial lighting and maximize natural light. Can’t let people bask in the real sun? Offer indirect lighting to give their eyes — and minds — a break.
How Clean Desks Impact Productivity
The days might be numbered for the leaning towers of files and wallpaper-esque coating of Post-its in your cubicle. Sadly, more companies are issuing clean desk policies to force messy employees into tidying up.
BHP Billiton, an Australian-based mining company, recently issued a memo to employees on “office environment standards” that include rules like:
Employees must remove all Post-it notes from monitors and keyboards at the end of the day.
Work partitions can’t be decorated or customized in any way — the only signage that they can display is workstation identification and first aid or fire warden signage.
Clothing may not be slung over chairs or furniture.
While the rules might seem a little strict, many companies are adopting similar policies as their office environments change. Companies don’t want employees to become too settled into one workstation, leaving their personal stamp on it, according to an article on Instead, in order to save on overhead and encourage more interactivity among employees, offices are creating collective or “club” space, where individuals who don’t have assigned desks and move around the office working at shared spaces.
Other companies enforce clean desk policies as a security measure — to protect potentially sensitive information from leaving the office. And, of course, all companies want their offices to look clean and professional.
Messy vs. Clean Desks
But does a perfectly organized desk really equal increased productivity?
Experts are at odds over the issue. The old argument that a messy desk is a sign of a creative person is promptly countered by the suggestion that a messy desk is a sign of a disorganized shlub who probably spends more time looking for lost files than doing actual work.
One advocate of messy desks is former British prime minister Winston Churchill, who never tidied his desk. However, he couldn’t see the benefit of a clean desk because filing something away would have meant he’d spend less time looking for it when he needed it, but he also didn’t work a traditional workday. The long hours of one day spilled into the next — when would it have been appropriate to tidy up at the end of the day?
On the other end of the spectrum are traditional workspaces, which say — “A clean desk equals clean work.” Many argue that anyone who makes excuses for a messy desk is fooling himself into accepting less than optimal conditions to increase his productivity and success.
Clean Desks and Employee Image
One thing these desk analyzers do agree on is that regardless of whether a messy desk affects productivity, it definitely has an effect on someone’s image.
While some people might link your toppling piles of paper and three-day-old coffee with the sign of an artistic spirit, they will more likely assume you don’t get a lot done during the day.
Regardless of where you fall on the clean workspace spectrum — neat freak to total slob — the best plan is to find a system that works for you and hope that your managers will respect the hard work.
The truth is, some people can function perfectly well with a little extra clutter. As long as you’re able to efficiently locate anything you, your coworkers or boss might need to do your job, messiness isn’t necessarily a problem — although it probably wouldn’t hurt to tidy up periodically.
Unless your company has a specific need to create such a policy — shared workspaces or security, for example — then it’s probably okay to let that cardigan stay on your chair and to keep a photo of your grandkids next to your computer.
Boost Productivity With Quality Office Furniture From Arnold’s
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Alissa has over 25 years of experience in the office furniture industry. For many of those years, Alissa was a Senior Interior Designer. She then took her love of design and working with customers to the sales realm and has been dedicating her knowledge there ever since. Learn more about Alissa!