The importance of office design

There’s a clear relationship between working environment and productivity, says Sarah Patten.

Just Recruitment’s Witham office has recently undergone a transformation. There is fresh paint, new carpets and fittings, designer furniture and a whole new vibe.

The result is a smart, shipshape workplace that befits the company’s brand, and the quality of its staff.

    ...the design of a workplace can affect staff performance by as much as five per cent for individuals, and 11 per cent for teams.  

But the importance of a well-designed office space goes beyond simple appearances. It extends to employee satisfaction, productivity, and, ultimately, a better-performing business.

According to a report by the British Council for Offices and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the design of a workplace can affect staff performance by as much as five per cent for individuals, and 11 per cent for teams.

The report cites the example of a British company that moved its call centre operation to new premises. Following the move, staff turnover reduced by 11 per cent, and call output more than doubled.

Another study found reduced absenteeism in workers who moved to a new office, compared to their colleagues who remained at existing company premises.

How, though, can a physical environment have such an impact on those who work within it?

Employee wellbeing

Health and comfort are key factors when it comes to staff motivation and productivity. Air quality, temperature, light, noise: all need to be carefully considered.

“Take air quality as an example,” says Just Recruitment Group Ltd director, Peter Foy. “We all know that fresh air is good for us. In an office environment, it renews oxygen and dilutes pollutants, and has been shown to improve productivity. Meanwhile, poor ventilation can be detrimental to employee health, with attendant business consequences.”

When it comes to lighting, it seems that daylight is best. Citing a neuroscientific study, The World Green Building Council points out that staff without windows nearby suffered from reduced sleep quality and efficiency, and more physical and vitality problems.

Noise, too, plays an important role. “Too much of it can be a distraction, while too little can prove isolating,” comments Mr Foy. “And both can have a negative impact on productivity.”

If you’d like improved staff performance without the expense of a refit, consider investing in a few plants. According to recent research by a group of academics, landscaping an office with plants can increase productivity by as much as 15 per cent. The research concluded that office greenery increases employees’ workplace engagement by making them “more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work.”

Office layout

As the World Green Building Council (WGBC) highlights, the way an office is configured has a profound impact on concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity. It can enable or limit productivity, and make a noticeable difference to employee wellbeing.

“Workplace density poses a dilemma,” opines Mr Foy. “On the one hand, employers will want to use their office space as efficiently as possible – and that means maximising the number of staff within it. On the other hand, increased employee density generates more noise and reduces personal space – both of which can result in lower productivity.”

One solution, as the WGBC points out, is to implement flexible working practices. Not only does this free up desk space, but it also gives staff control of their workload, and engenders trust and loyalty.

Staff facilities, such as breakout areas, gyms and kitchens, also play an important role when it comes to employee wellbeing. Social spaces give workers the chance to interact on a personal and professional level – encouraging them to share of ideas, and building community.

The WGBC highlights the benefits of “active design” features that encourage employees to move around an office building, or support a healthy lifestyle. Examples include appealing stairways that simply beg to be climbed, or the provision of showers and bicycle racks.

Brand consistency

When it comes to communicating brand values, the workplace plays a significant role.

“If the design of an office is consistent with a company’s values and beliefs, it will reinforce these in the minds of its employees – encouraging them to believe in, and engage with, the brand,” Mr Foy remarks. “This, in turn, can increase job satisfaction and productivity.”

Take Google’s offices as an example: they include features such as slides, “meeting eggs”, bowling alleys and even mini golf courses. In the words of Google, its workspaces are designed to encourage interaction “within and across teams,” and to “spark conversation about work as well as play.” All of this reinforces the company’s open culture, commitment to its staff, and the importance it places on creativity.

So there you have it: the design of an office can make a significant difference to a business’s success. If you’re looking to increase productivity, take a leaf out of Just Recruitment’s book, and have an office spruce-up. It could make a world of difference to how your people perform.

Published: 6 December 2018

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

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