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How workplace design affects productivity

Small Business • December 21, 2023 at 6:43 AM • Written by: Chase Charaba

Today's workspaces have come a long way from conventional designs. Open-plan offices and modern amenities are becoming more popular to attract job applicants and promote employee productivity, replacing the old-school traditional cubicles and motivational posters.

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.

But how exactly does your workplace design influence employee efficiency and culture? In this article, we'll review the impact of office design on productivity.

Takeaway from this blog post:

  • Modern workplace designs are shifting away from traditional cubicles and incorporating open-plan offices and modern amenities to attract job applicants and enhance employee productivity.
  • Workplace design plays a crucial role in influencing employee efficiency, collaboration, and overall company culture.
  • Different types of workplace designs, such as private offices, open office spaces, cubicles, meeting spaces, creative spaces, and virtual workspaces offer various pros and cons depending on the organization's needs and preferences.

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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 well-being, and safety and health concerns.

Good design looks at where individual employees sit, how they navigate the space, how the appearance and features of the space will impact employee well-being 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




Private offices

Individual rooms for managers, employees, and 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 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 allow.

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 are a compromise between an open floor plan 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 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.

Combining 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 employee engagement, productivity, 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 workspace design and layout 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 visible 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 office 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-plan 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 the productivity of employees is giving them more freedom and flexibility to control their own work environment. Providing employees with adjustable and ergonomic furniture, 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. Allowing employees to telecommute part-time or full-time can have a profound impact on 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

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

Your decorations and wall colors 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, research shows office greenery can support3 mental health and lower stress levels.


Every organization has its own set of criteria for determining the structure of its workday and the layout of its office space. 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 these features can boost employee satisfaction and morale.

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 learn how employee benefits can have a positive impact on productivity and retention at your organization!

This blog article was originally published on January 13, 2015. It was last updated on December 21, 2023.

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


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Chase Charaba

Chase Charaba is the content marketing manager at PeopleKeep. He started with the company as a content marketing specialist in early 2022. Chase has written more than 350 blog posts for various companies and personal projects throughout his career. He’s worked for digital marketing agencies, in-house marketing teams, and as the editor for national award-winning high school and college newspapers. He’s also a YouTuber, landscape photographer, and small business owner.