Office Design and Productivity
In today's challenging business landscape, staff productivity is more important than ever. Regardless of the situation your company is in, you are much more likely to survive and thrive if you have motivated and effective staff.
However, staff productivity remains a challenge for UK businesses. Only recently has labour productivity returned to pre-pandemic levels, having fallen more than 20% in early 2020. In fact, research has shown that the average UK office worker is productive for less than 3 hours each day! While there are many different factors affecting the productivity of your staff, most fall into one of 4 key pillars. These are Training, Wellbeing, Goals & Incentives, and Work Environment. It comes as no surprise that where your staff work has a huge impact on their performance.
As a workplace design & build company, we often get asked how to maximise staff productivity through office design. The exact path to better staff productivity will look different for every company. However, providing your people with spaces that match and enhance the way they work is essential. There are also several other tactical design factors that will improve your staff experience. Today, we’ll go through 10 factors that can improve your staff performance, and how to implement them in your office.
Collaboration is an absolutely crucial part of productivity - it increases productivity by 25% or more. In today’s global economy, being able to work effectively with other people is a vital part of staff performance. Individuals who work in collaborative settings at work are over 50% more effective than independent workers.
To improve collaboration in your office, your first need to allow enough space. Top-performing workers spend 45% of their time working collaboratively. Many of the best workspaces feature 30-45% collaboration space. This is far above the 10% we see in most workspaces. It’s also important to include the right type of collaboration spaces. Most collaboration is done informally in small groups, so your design needs to reflect this.
Distraction-free, focussed working is also a crucial part of productivity. Top-performing workers may spend 45% of their time collaborating, but they also spend 45% of their time on focussed work. Because many workspaces can be distracting, 50% of staff prefer to get focussed work done at home. However, distractions are not an inherent part of the office – they are a result of poor spatial and acoustic design.
Focus spaces are much more than banks of desks. In fact, the open, close-set layout of desking areas can be even very distracting. Desks do have a place in the office but they should take up much less space than they do in many offices currently. Other types of foccussed spaces include phone and working pods, as well as bookable individual offices. Whatever form they take in your office, focus spaces need to eliminate any kind of distractions for your people.
Hybrid Meeting Suites
The pandemic resulting hybrid working transition led to a rapid shift to hybrid and virtual meetings. This has had a permanent effect on the way people work. Around half of all work meetings are hybrid or virtual, up from 20% in 2020. If your people are struggling to find an appropriate space, they will be distracted and stressed.
For your people to be as productive as possible, they will need spaces designed for virtual and hybrid meetings. Again, it’s important to allow enough space in your office for these suites. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) systems also enable your people to use high-quality audio-visual technology, combined with the convenience of their own laptops.
While it may seem counterintuitive, creating specific breakout spaces improves the productivity of your people. Designated breakout spaces create a clear distinction between “work” spaces and “break” spaces. This improves their concentration when in "work" spaces. These spaces also provide opportunities for staff to network and relax together. Allowing your people to relax improves their satisfaction and wellbeing. This has a knock-on effect on their productivity.
The best relaxation space design will be different for every company. In many designs, relaxation spaces are part of or nearby teapoints or food areas, helping create a large social area. It should be a reflection of your culture, a space that brings your company personality to life.
Technology doesn’t automatically make your people more productive. However, poor technology can limit their performance. Without portable technology and fast, secure wifi, your people will be very limited, as they will be tied to their desks.
Workspace technology is much more than laptops. BYOD-enabled hybrid meeting suites will enable your people to conduct hybrid meetings much more conveniently. Virtual reality suites enable your people to conduct engaging hybrid conferences and exhibitions. By giving your people access to the best workspace technology, you enable them to be as productive as possible.
Research has shown that It takes workers approximately 23 minutes to refocus on a task after they get distracted. Given that most office workers get distracted 6-8 times a day, distractions could soon add up to nearly 2 hours a day! Noise is the major source of many distractions. Acoustic design in your office is essential if you are looking to optimise the productivity of your people.
The first way to manage noise is through layout – not placing buzzing collaboration areas next to quiet focussed areas, for example. Acoustic damping products, such as ceiling baffles and wall panels, can also absorb noise throughout your office. Sound masking is an effective option that creates low-level white noise at similar frequencies to human speech. This reduces background noise distractions. By managing the noise levels in your office, you will reduce distractions for your people, increasing their performance.
Lighting plays a vital role in creating an energizing and productive workspace. Without adequate lighting, your people will be at increased risk of eye strain. This can lead to headaches and lowered performance. A dim workspace is also a dull and uninspiring place to be, which will further lower performance. Effective lighting has been found to decrease depression and improve mood, energy, and alertness.
When looking to improve the productivity of your people through lighting, the first thing to do is maximise the natural light available. This means placing the most used areas of your office on the outer walls with access to natural light. Little-used boardrooms and executive offices are rarely the best use of natural light. You should also optimise your lighting to replicate the temperature and intensity of natural light.
Biophilic design is the incorporation of natural features and materials into your office design. As well as improving the air quality, biophilic design makes your workspace a more enjoyable place to be. Exeter University discovered that employees are 15% more productive when their workplaces contain plants.
The easiest way to incorporate biophilic design into your office is through the use of office plants. These could be floor-standing planters, desk-sized succulents or even full-size living walls. Biophilia also extends beyond plants to natural finishes, such as wooden flooring. It will all improve your staff wellbeing and engagement, leading to improved performance.
Air Quality/ Temperature
A common controversy in the office is the temperature. While easy to dismiss, the temperate of your workspace does impact the performance of your people. Too hot, and they will become lethargic, struggling to focus. Too cold, and their performance will also be affected. The quality of the air is also important. If your air conditioning system does not add fresh air and filter the recycled air, the quality of air in your office will decrease. This will lead to an increased risk of illnesses, and could even cause respiratory issues for your staff over time.
Fully functioning air conditioning is essential to achieving optimal air quality and temperature. While it may be impossible to please everyone, various studies have shown that the optimal temperature is 21-22oC. To maintain it at this temperature, your system should be centrally controlled, rather than having a controller that anyone can use. You should also ensure the filters in your system are changed regularly.
Your people spend a lot of time in your office, and furniture is the feature of it that they interact with the most. As a result, it's crucial your furniture is ergonomic. If your furniture is not designed for commercial use or doesn’t suit the way your staff use it, they will start to suffer from health issues over time. These can range from carpal tunnel syndrome to back and neck pain. This will obviously be very detrimental to their productivity.
To ensure your office furniture is ergonomic, you should first ensure that it is designed for commercial use. You should then consider what intensity of use it is designed for. Many office pods are only designed to be used for short periods of time, therefore are not cooled. Finally, you should consider adjustability. Ergonomic furniture is only ergonomic if it suits the way your people use it. With a high-quality ergonomic furniture package, your people will be much more productive.
Improving Your Staff Performance with Office Design
A well-researched, careful office redesign can create a huge uplift in your staff productivity. By providing your staff with the right types and styles of spaces, you are giving them the environments they need to be as productive as possible. Other tactical design factors will remove limitations on the productivity of your staff in many ways. This will help them to be as productive as possible. The cumulative effect of all these factors will be to create a more satisfied and engaged workforce. As a result, your company can be far more successful.
While one of the most important, productivity is just one of the benefits of a well-designed workspace. To learn more about the other benefits, read 8 ways office design can improve company performance. There, we’ll explain the most common benefits of redesigning your office, and how you can maximise their impact on your next project.