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Small Business Employee Benefits and HR Blog

4 Ways Workplace Design Affects Productivity

January 13, 2015
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Workplace design is a much referenced buzzword when it comes to tracking and improving employee productivity. If your business has an opportunity to renovate you may find yourself considering new layout options.

Although some 70 percent of all American offices have open floor plans, a significant body of research shows that bullpen-style spaces negatively affect employee productivity. The following tips and tricks can help you evaluate modern workplace designs while getting the most for your business and your employees. 

Workplace Design Affects Productivity

1. Noise Distracts Everyone

Many millennials have grown up in high sensory environments. They learned how to multitask from a young age and have brought that skill into the workplace. That does not mean, however, that they are impervious to distractions. A study in cognitive control found that the more an individual multitasks, the more susceptible they are to interruptions. Furthermore, habitual multitaskers take more time to recover from distractions.

In an era of young companies and a millennial workforce, it is important to integrate quiet work spaces into your office design. Giving employees an option to work in a quiet, interruption-free area will allow them to maintain focus when it’s crunch time. 

2. Employees Are More Productive with Privacy

Although it may seem intuitive that employees are more productive when their work habits are made public, studies show that lack of privacy is often viewed as a significant problem. Not only are employees often uneasy when always under the scrutiny of their peers, but the lack of architectural privacy can limit the exchange of ideas. A 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review concluded that “employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”

Privacy can also help stymie the spread of germs. One study found that employees working in open offices took 62 percent more sick days off of work than employees working in individual offices.

3. Give Your Employees Options and Control

By far the biggest workplace design factor in boosting productivity is giving employees the ability to control their own work environment. Providing staff with adjustable desks, options for lighting and temperature control, and variety in work rooms increases job satisfaction and team cohesion. Variations in work rooms can include private offices, conference rooms of different sizes, and collaborative tables.

Not all of these provisions are possible for each business. However, allowing your employees mobility when possible and the power to choose the environment they work in gives them the resources to maximize their productivity while at work. 

4. The Revival of Working from Home

The final workplace redesign is allowing employees to telecommute. Working from home is also commonly considered to decrease productivity, however a 2014 study from the Harvard Business Review found that employees who were allowed to work from home were happier, less likely to quit, and more productive over all.

Not every household and not every job is conducive to quality work at home. But to the extent that one’s own home provides a quiet, private space with flexibility in environment, working from home can provide all of the critical components to increasing employee productivity.

Conclusion

Each business has its own set of criteria defining how a workday is conducted. However, there are several overarching principles in productivity maximization. They are: quiet spaces are more conducive to completing tasks, privacy increases employee comfort and east, customization in workplace environment increases job satisfaction and productivity, and working from home is a viable option.

While ease of interaction among employees is not something to be understated, it is important to understand how office layouts affect productivity in the short and long term.  

What workplace environments are you most productive in? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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