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How workplace design affects productivity

Written by: Chase Charaba
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Published on December 6, 2022.

Virtual workspacesToday’s workspaces have come a long way from conventional office space layouts. Where cubicles and motivational posters were once the standard, open layouts and modern amenities are being used to attract job applicants and encourage employee productivity.

Employee habits are changing thanks to technology, remote and hybrid work structures, and a tight labor market pushing employers to increase their benefits and perks offerings. Your physical workplace can also be impacted by these factors.

But how exactly does your workplace design influence employee culture and productivity? In this article, we’ll explain workplace design and discuss four ways workplace design affects productivity.

A collaborative, fun workplace isn’t enough to attract and retain employees. See how employee stipends and enhance your benefits package with our free guide

What is workplace design?

Workplace design is creating, organizing, and maintaining your office or remote work environment to support performance, collaboration, and safety. Effective design considers the needs of your office workers, industry trends, workplace wellbeing, and safety and health concerns.

Good design looks at where individual employees will be situated, how they navigate the space, how the appearance and features of the space will impact employee wellbeing and company culture, and how the space can promote efficiency.

What are the different types of workplace designs?

There are numerous ways you can design your workplace. Just like every organization is different, your workplace can be unique. However, we've provided a list of some of the more common workspaces you can include at your organization.

You can combine the types of workspaces listed below to create the ideal workplace for your organization.

Workplace design

Summary

Pros

Cons

Private offices

Individual rooms for managers, employees, and/or teams.

Depending on the size of your organization, you’ll likely need to plan for some private office space. This is great for private meetings and employees who deal with confidential matters, such as human resources.

Managers and/or teams are often separated, which can limit productivity. Individual private offices also take up more space.

Open office spaces

Large areas where employees can work at desks without barriers like walls or cubicles.

While open office spaces aren’t for everyone, well-designed open concepts help promote better communication and collaboration between employees, teams, and managers. They also allow you to fit more employees into a single space than private offices do.

Open offices can be loud, which may result in some workers being unable to concentrate. These environments aren’t ideal for workers who need to be on frequent calls, as it makes speaking on the phone more challenging.

Cubicles

Cubicles are a compromise between open office space and private offices. Cubicles give employees privacy while still allowing for some collaboration and flexibility in layout.

Cubicles provide employees with the privacy and reduced noise they want.

Employees may not view cubicles positively as they can box in individuals in a tight space.

Meeting spaces

Private rooms or open areas that promote collaboration and discussion. Some meeting spaces might be traditional conference rooms, while others forgo tables and chairs in favor of bean bag chairs and stools.

Meeting spaces give your employees somewhere to meet with their teams or clients and to hold all-company meetings that promote inclusion and engagement.

Meeting spaces take up a lot of office real estate when not in use.

Creative spaces

Open areas or private spaces where teams can collaborate on projects such as videos, design, creative thinking, and other initiatives.

Including creative spaces in your workplace promotes collaboration and engagement while offering flexible workspaces for various activities.

It may not be a good fit for all organizations.

Virtual workspaces

Online chats and virtual conferencing for remote teams.

Remote work provides the greatest amount of flexibility for employers and employees.

Collaboration and communication can be challenging in remote work environments.

A combination of the above layouts allows you to create a space that works for your organization. However, there’s more to productive workspaces than the layout. You’ll also need to consider the appearance, amenities, ease of access, decorations, and lighting.

What is the relationship between office design and workplace productivity?

Office design directly influences employee productivity. Choosing the right layout for your workforce is essential. A well-designed office space can help you improve productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction.

Your organization depends on the efficiency of your workers. When your workspace promotes collaboration and communication, your employees can work together to solve problems and accomplish tasks more easily. They can also offer each other moral support and feel more connected to the organization and its goals.

How does workplace design affect productivity?

If your organization has the opportunity to renovate or move to a new location, you’ll need to be aware of the ways workplace layout and design can affect productivity. We’ll focus on a few of the top areas for improvement.

1. Noise

When choosing a new workplace layout, you must consider the noise levels your space could create. While some employees prefer background noise, others prefer to work in quiet spaces.

Suppose your organization has employees who interact with customers on the phone or create multimedia content such as podcasts and videos. In that case, you need to establish a quiet place for these workers. Otherwise, you may risk reducing productivity levels.

2. Privacy

Although it may seem intuitive that employees are more productive when their work habits are made public to others, this isn’t always the case. A lack of privacy can pose a significant problem for productivity. Some employees feel uneasy about open work environments because they don’t want to be overheard or interrupted by other employees. This can lead to shorter, more superficial discussions.

According to a Clutch survey1, 52% of employees favor private offices, while only 28% prefer open offices.

To strike the perfect balance between employee privacy and safety and the collaborative benefits of open offices, you’ll need to consider how to adjust your layout. Some ideas include transparent glass barriers between rooms, which creates private spaces while still feeling open. Adding decorations and indoor plants can also help to create privacy barriers.

3. Flexibility

By far, the most significant design factor in boosting productivity is giving employees more freedom and flexibility to control their own work environment. Providing employees with adjustable and ergonomic desks, lighting and temperature control options, and a variety of workspaces increases job satisfaction and team cohesion.

Variations in your physical spaces can include a mix of private offices, open spaces, breakout spaces for meetings and creative projects, conference rooms, and recreational spaces where employees can destress and mingle during breaks.

Allowing employees to decorate and customize their work areas can also help boost productivity and a sense of belonging.

Not all of these provisions are possible for every organization. However, giving your employees flexibility wherever possible gives them the resources to maximize their productivity at work.

4. Working from home and flexible schedules

Changing workplace environments such as remote work and flexible schedules became more popular due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation. Allowing employees to telecommute part-time or full-time can substantially impact your physical work environment.

Employers that choose to keep their physical space and allow employees to work from home can revamp their layout to support employees who visit the office for quick meetings or collaboration.

Many employers also ditch the physical office space entirely by going fully remote. This allows employees to set up their home offices how they like, contributing to greater productivity. While fully remote organizations can run into communication challenges, many solutions are available for video conferencing, instant messaging, task management, and productivity tracking.

If you have remote employees, you’ll need to ensure they have access to the tools they need to perform their work. Offering a remote work employee stipend allows you to reimburse employees for their internet access costs, cell phone bills, home office set-up costs, and other expenses. This helps you set your employees up for success while addressing state regulations that require employee expense reimbursement, such as in California.

Other important considerations

When designing your office layout and design, you’ll want to keep health and safety in mind. This includes giving employees ample access to natural light, heating and cooling, bathrooms, and outdoor space when possible.

The decorations and paint colors you use can also affect your employees’ moods. Providing indoor plants can improve your employees’ moods and boost productivity. According to a study from Washington State University2, people who have plants in their workspace had a 12% faster reaction time on computer tests than those without plants.

Additionally, office greenery has been shown to support3 mental health and lower stress.

Conclusion

Each organization has its own criteria for defining how its workday is conducted and how its office is laid out. However, there are many approaches to consider to maximize productivity. While the options in this article may not work for every organization, introducing a few of the features your employees want can help increase morale and satisfaction.

If you’re looking for more ways to improve employee productivity, providing a comprehensive employee benefits package can help. With PeopleKeep’s personalized benefits administration software, you can easily offer and manage your health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and employee stipends in minutes each month.

Schedule a call with a personalized benefits advisor to see how benefits can improve productivity and retention at your organization

This blog article was originally published on January 13, 2015. It was last updated on December 6, 2022.

1. https://clutch.co/real-estate/resources/what-employees-want-office-space

2. https://westernusc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/20170716-_Motion-6-Appendix-3.pdf

3. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/3/3453/htm?h=1

Originally published on December 6, 2022. Last updated December 6, 2022.
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