Planning an office redesign requires expert juggling skills. You need to consider everything from brand representation to technological demands to communication flow.
And it’s important to get them right, because all of these decisions will influence employee productivity and happiness.
To help you along, I’ve touched on three essential elements to consider when creating a productive workspace with positive office vibes.
1. Flexible work areas
Open plan offices are the dominant workplace layout, but various studies have found they can be damaging for morale and productivity.
For example, according to research compiled by the New Yorker, open offices lead to 62% more sick days, heightened stress levels, poorer job satisfaction, weaker overall performance, and lower productivity when compared to employees operating in more traditional office designs.
Yet, open plan areas can also lead to greater collaboration and improved communication.
To get around the problems associated with the layout, without sacrificing the benefits, it’s important to add an element of flexibility to your office space planning project.
This could consist of private offices or designated quiet areas. Either way, it’s important employees are able to move when they need privacy and greater concentration levels.
"People need to focus alone or in pairs to generate ideas or process information; then they come together as a group to build on those ideas or develop a shared point of view," Christine Congdon, Donna Flynn, and Melanie Redman explain in an article for the Harvard Business Review. "Then they break apart again...the more demanding the collaboration task is, the more individuals need punctuating moments of private time to think."
2. Break or social areas
In addition to work areas, it’s important to add spaces for employees to take a break, in order to get away from their work, relax, and unwind.
Research compiled by Psychology Today shows that regular breaks from work are important for both physical and emotional health and can help to restore motivation.
It’s also worth considering that breaks won’t always be taken alone. Often people will take a break as a group—and you should provide space for this socialization.
It’s been shown that group breaks actually increase productivity within the workplace, despite some businesses being reluctant.
In one bank, scheduling team breaks, rather than staggering breaks, resulted in a 25% improvement in telephone calls answered. Interestingly, employee stress also lowered at the same time.
Over the past decade, organizations have started to experiment more with their breakout areas, enhancing the social element and providing a sense of fun within the workplace.
For example, Google's New York office includes a Lego room and ping pong tables, and companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Red Bull have also embraced 'play areas'. These provide employees with a place to de-stress and socialize.
3. Biophilic elements
A variety of different studies have suggested that one of the most promising additions to any office space planning project is the inclusion of natural or 'biophilic' elements.
Examples of elements that could be considered biophilic include the presence of plant life and the addition of a water fountain. One of the most important biophilic elements for a creative and productive workspace is access to natural light.
A study from Northwestern University in Chicago found that access to natural light improves sleep patterns, workplace performance, and quality of life.
In fact, research carried out at Cornell University found a 51% decrease in symptoms of eye strain and 63% drop in reports of headaches in facilities with plenty of natural light entering the workplace.
Meanwhile, according to a study from the University of Queensland in Australia, office plants have the capacity to boost productivity by 15% by aiding concentration, while also boosting workplace satisfaction.
For these reasons, it’s worth taking the time to incorporate natural elements into your office space. For more on this, check out Time Doctor's post on how to improve your work environment to improve productivity.
The final word
Office buildings can have a significant influence on employee happiness and performance, and there are some essential elements to add to a workplace in order to ensure it’s a positive influence.
Through the provision of both private and collaborative spaces, the inclusion of social break areas, and the addition of natural elements to the workplace design, organizations can genuinely impact productivity and morale.
About the author
Reno is a founder and director of Enigma Visual Solutions, a London based commercial interior design firm, offering office design services, office refurbishment, office space planning, and commercial interior services. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.