Its the goal of every HR and management team to maximize productivity levels within their business. And unsurprisingly, most talent management teams focus on training and process optimization to increase productivity, but what is often overlooked is the actual environment that employees are working in. Yes, many employers choose offices and layout without much of a thought about intelligent design for productivity, yet increasing numbers of studies are showing that there is a direct correlation between office environment and productivity.
This is why employers, HR and leadership teams should be paying much closer attention to office design as it is more than a simple operational task that can be left to an office manager. There are several strategic considerations that should be incorporated into your office design to boost productivity.
For starters, this “Improve-Office-Day” fascinating survey from Staples has shown that one of the main changes that workers wanted to see in their working environment was that they were able to work flexibly, which means allowing employees to work seamlessly between home and office. This means introducing things like hot desks and enabling ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) so that telecommuters can work comfortably when they are in the office using their own mobile devices. And remarkably a recent study from Accenture found that 60% of workers surveyed have said they would be more satisfied if they could use their own devices in the office. So, a flexible environment that supports mobile working should boost productivity.
Also, many companies like to operate a clean desk policy, yet studies from the University of Kentucky and the University of Exeter show that employees who are allowed to personalize their desk and control the design and layout of their workspace have greater well-being and are more productive. If you want your staff to be creative, then a clean desk policy will be counterproductive as a study reported in the Journal of Psychological Science shows that working in a messy environment actually helps workers to, ‘try new things and come up with creative ideas’. Now, we are not suggesting that you turn your office into a junk yard, but there is clearly a balance to be drawn between a sterile, rigid, conformist office layout and a more cluttered, freer and random office environment. There’s no right or wrong here, its simply about designing it to suit the needs of the business.
Another area to think about is open plan vs closed. Most modern offices have moved to an open-plan environment as it is meant to make people feel more connected and equal, but recent studies have shown some key drawback to open plan working, with this Scandinavian study finding that staff in open plan offices take 62% more days off sick than closed office workers. This is because open offices are thought to be more contagious for diseases. Also, a joint study from Virginia State University and North Carolina State University reveal that open plan workers are less productive, motivated, and satisfied than closed office workers.
So as you can see, office design is much more than just an operational task that can be left to office management, it is a strategic task requiring the involvement of HR and management in order to develop a blue print for an environment that will complement your employer brand and create the most productive environment possible for your team.