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Top 5 Problems with Your Office Design and How You Can Fix Them

Updated: Apr 25

Office Design Challenges

Are you curious to learn more about the most common office design problems your company is facing? While many of these are familiar complaints from staff, others are less talked about. However, all will have a big impact on the wellbeing and productivity of your staff.

Your office is an absolutely crucial part of your staff productivity, and, in turn, your company's performance. While it may be tempting to disregard concerns that your people have about your workspace, it’s important that you don’t. While they may seem trivial, they can cause a lot of frustration, reducing the focus and productivity of your people. Some of these problems could even create health issues for your staff.

Every week, we speak to companies looking to redesign their office. When we explore the reasons behind their project, there are almost always several staff complaints that are contributing to the need for an office design. There are 5 complaints that are far more common than any others. In this article, we’ll go through each one, covering both why they matter and how you can fix them.

Poor Lighting

One of the most common complaints from employees is poor lighting in the workplace. There are usually 3 parts to this: a lack of natural light, not enough artificial light, and the wrong colour balance of artificial light. If your office is poorly lit, your staff are more likely to suffer from eye strain, headaches, and neck issues.

There are several things you can do to improve the lighting in your office. the first is to make the most of the natural light you have by reconfiguring your office to place the most popular areas near windows. A boardroom with a view may be nice, but if it is only used for a few hours a week, then you are missing out on the benefits that natural light can provide your staff all day every day.

To assess the electrical lighting within your space, you can commission a lux survey. This will analyse how much light you have in different spaces throughout your office. You will need at least 300 lux for screen-based tasks, and at least 500 lux for paper-based tasks. It is also important to make sure the colour of your artificial lighting mimics natural light, rather than being too cool or too warm. This will also affect the focus and productivity of your people.

Poor Acoustics

The most common issue we are currently discovering when speaking to prospective clients is poor acoustics. This is often a result of inappropriate partition specifications. It can be very distracting to overhear staff in a meeting next door while you are trying to complete focused work. This can even pose a confidentiality issue for law or financial services firms. Poor acoustics can also be a problem due to a poorly designed open-plan office. If your collaboration areas are near your focussed work areas, this will cause frustration amongst staff.

To improve the acoustics in your office, you should first decide if the problem is due to a poor layout or an inappropriate specification. If it is the latter, then you should upgrade your partitioning to include sound-blocking plasterboard. You should also make sure you have a sound barrier installed above the partitions to prevent sound passing through the ceiling.

If it’s due to a poor layout, you may need to look at reconfiguring your space. However, there are several lower-cost options you can also take. You could install wall or ceiling-mounted acoustic baffles that will absorb sound throughout your office. A little-known option is to install sound masking. These systems create specially tuned ambient background sound that targets the same frequency as speech. As a result, background speech is turned into white noise which is much easier to ignore.

Poor Air Quality/ Temperature

The debate about temperature is one of the most common topics of discussion in every office. Again, it might sound trivial, but it is important that your office is at an optimal temperature. If it is too cold or too hot, your people will struggle to concentrate, reducing their performance. 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 increased illnesses, and could even cause respiratory issues for your staff over time.

A fully functioning air conditioning system that has been properly commissioned 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. Aside from maintaining your air conditioning, adding plants throughout the space will also improve air quality.

Uncomfortable/ Unsuitable Furniture

Your people use the furniture in your office constantly, so making sure it is comfortable is absolutely essential. If it is not, your staff will struggle to focus and their productivity will diminish as a result. If your furniture is not ergonomic, it can even cause serious health issues, such as neck, back, and wrist pain. It is also crucial to ensure you have furniture that matches the way your staff work. If all you have is long banks of desks and boardrooms, your people will struggle to collaborate in small teams.

To avoid the health issues caused by uncomfortable furniture, you will need to ensure that all furniture within your space is commercial grade. Commercial-grade furniture is designed and manufactured to a much higher standard than domestic furniture, as it is used a lot more intensively. You should also conduct an audit and survey of the different ways your people work, and if they have furniture that supports that. If not, then you should look at updating your office furniture. While it may seem like a big expense, the resulting improvement in productivity will soon create a good return on your investment.

Lack of Amenities

Poor or outdated amenities are another common complaint in many offices. While they aren’t a danger to the health and wellbeing of your people, office amenities can significantly improve your employee experience. They aren’t the be-all and end-all, but they certainly have a role to play in improving talent attraction & retention, staff wellbeing, and productivity.

However, there is no point in including amenities for amenity's sake. You need to include perks that will improve your employees’ job satisfaction and productivity. One of the most popular office amenities is a teapoint area with free high-quality coffee and healthy snacks. Other amenities favoured by staff include relaxation and outdoor spaces, as well as office plants. By ensuring your office experience is as good as possible, you can make sure your staff can be as productive as possible.

Improving Your Office

Addressing these common pain points in your office can make big difference to the job satisfaction and productivity of your people. By creating an office design that enables them to perform to the best of their ability, you’ll see a big improvement in staff engagement and team performance.

If you’re concerned that your office is underperforming, read “7 signs you need an office redesign”. If you’re aware that you have issues with your current office design but aren’t sure if you can justify a project, read “do I need an office fit out or not?”. There, we’ll cover 5 key questions you can ask yourself to help you make that decision.



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