The penchant for open-plan office spaces has taken over businesses across America but although they look great on Instagram, they may actually be interfering with business! A 2018 study published by researchers at Karlstad University found that the more co-workers share the same workplace, the less satisfied they are, and the harder they find it to communicate fruitfully with colleagues. A good team is a happy one. Because design is so intricately linked to productivity, optimal office layouts are key when it comes to creating cohesive, well functioning teams. When designing how to space out yours and what elements to include in it, keep the following considerations in mind.
The Need for Privacy Reigns Supreme
As mentioned above, employees working in cellular (or closed/private offices) report a greater sense of wellbeing. These offices may cost more – because they require individual design and features such as cooling, heating, etc. – but in so far as psychological wellbeing is concerned, they come out on top. Essentially, employees who enjoy privacy and silence (especially when they are working on an important project that requires concentration) are more content. This, in turn, enables them to communicate with their colleagues (when they are ready) in a more productive fashion.
Private Meeting Spaces
In addition to ensuring employees have enough privacy in their day to day tasks, offices should have a quiet, private space for meetings. Ideally, this should be out of sight of other employees, as some meetings may require greater privacy, especially when human resources topics are being discussed. A private meeting room will also have a positive effect on clients, who may not wish to discuss specific matters with all members of the office. If clients usually deal with a small team, for instance, they should be able to freely communicate private issues, brainstorm, and gather ideas, only with these staff members if desired.
Green Interiors Make a Difference
The layout is only one aspect of ‘design for optimal living’; so too are the features offices choose to give life to their interiors. Studies have shown that natural features can do plenty to boost productivity. A 2014 study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that ‘green offices’ make staff happier and more productive than minimalistic designs devoid of life. In particular, employees in green spaces had better perceptions of aspects like air quality, ability to focus, and overall workplace satisfaction.
Bringing Nature Inside
What does it mean to invite nature into your office? It can include everything from decorating common spaces with indoor plants to building vertical gardens on a statement wall. Think of more than the sense of sight when it comes to embracing nature. Inspirational water features in offices – including wall fountains, central patio traditional fountains, or even small Zen stone fountains in strategic parts of the office, soothes the senses. One recent study found that the sound of water significantly lowers stress levels – something that employees in high-stress jobs can certainly benefit from.
Letting Employees Have a Say
If you really want your employees to be happy and healthy, let their personal vision and eye for design count. Another University of Exeter study showed that employees who are allowed to control the design and layout of their workspace are 32% more productive than those who have these factors imposed upon them. Moreover, employees have their individual preferences with respect to the need for silence, the wish to work close to (or far from) others, etc. Having a say in design also involves ergonomics. That is, when employees can choose items like chairs, desks, etc., they can reduce the pain and discomfort associated with utilizing furniture that is wrong for their posture, height, etc. “When people feel uncomfortable in their surroundings they are less engaged — not only with space but also with what they do in it,” noted researchers.
Tidiness is Key
Whichever design or layout you and your employees go for, ensure that tidiness is always a priority. Studies have shown that clutter negatively affects employees’ mood, productivity, and mental peace. A well-designed office is attractive while containing furniture that is functional and purposeful. If a design review is in order, try to identify items that have little purpose but which may be taking up too much space. To avoid clutter, having sufficient storage space – and an efficient filing or storage system – is key. Employees should work in neat, clean environments yet be able to access stored material quickly when required, relying on computer filing system or well-labeled storage room to do so safely and efficiently.
Good office design comprises an optimal layout and key features such as ergonomic furniture and health-enhancing items such as standing desks -which help battle the effects of sedentarism. However, there are many additional ways that companies can improve employee wellbeing and productivity. These include bringing nature indoors and ensuring that clutter does not get in the way of focus and safety. As a last thought, don’t forget lighting – dark or artificially lit interiors don’t produce the same vibe, energy, and focus that naturally lit spaces do. If you have to knock down a couple of walls to achieve it, your employees are certainly worth it. After all, they are the cornerstone to your business success.
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