The relationship between workplace aesthetics and its effect on employee wellbeing is well documented. With a little consideration, designing an office with a great atmosphere, positive surroundings and the flexibility for employees to work comfortably will both enable and incentivise them to be more productive and happier work.
Engaging an interior designer can be an invaluable long-term investment for a business. Whether a fledgling start-up trying to attract the best talent, a creative space incubating ideas or large office looking for ways to improve your employees’ work experience, careful consideration of a space can help employers get the very best from their team.
A good designer will ask a client to consider a number of questions before coming up with a creative design solution for employee-focused workplace:
- Who are the people working in this space now and in the future?
- Who visits the space and why?
- What impression does the workplace give to other people entering the space?
- What workplace habits do you want to encourage or change?
- Does the workplace meet the employees’ fundamental needs?
- What aspects of an employees’ working day do you want to improve?
- If workers are often absent from the office, why might this be so?
Good Office Layout
Beginning with layout it is important to recognise that not everyone works in the same way and that different work tasks require different work environments. Flexibility is key when space planning. A workspace layout should facilitate the different work modes and might include a space for collaborative working, quiet areas for uninterrupted work and places where spontaneous work can happen.
Reconsider Open Planned Working
One of the most pervasive trends over the past decade has been the open planned office. While giving the impression of a relaxed office culture, they have been shown to result in raised stress levels and a reduction in our ability to concentrate. Our brains are simply not designed for the level of stimuli that exist in these sorts of work environments. As descendants of cave dwellers our primal instinct is to be attentive to our surroundings, so it follows that open planned offices leave us in a state of perpetual alertness. This adds to our mental workload and can prevent workers from fully turning their attention to the task in hand. Incorporating a quiet place for staff to focus is key to productive office design.
Flexible Office Seating
During 2016, 30.8M work days in the UK were lost due to absence relating to muscular skeletal problems. With the Guardian citing ‘Sitting is the New Smoking’ blaming our sedentary work lifestyles for the increase in cardio-vascular disease, obesity and diabetes, there is a growing trend in offices towards standing desks, treadmill work stations, balance stools and office gyms. As yet the research is inconclusive but anything to keep us moving and improve our posture can only have a positive effect on our productivity at work.
Introducing Nature into the Workplace
Giving workers something to gaze upon away from their screen, allowing the eyes to refocus, has been shown to reduce eye fatigue, headaches and eye-strain. A view of nature or an open outdoor space to relax will do wonders for employee motivation.
Incorporating nature into the workplace can also have a huge positive impact on employee wellbeing at work. A Harvard University paper has shown that cognitive performance of workers in ‘green’ work places is up to double that of workers in conventional offices. But designing a green office is more than just adding a few pot plants. Biophilic design is a multi-sensory approach to design that incorporates shape, sound, texture, colour, light and motion.
Professor Kevin Nute of the University of Oregon recently ran a series of experiments using natural elements inside the workplace, including reflections of sunlight on water and a projection of a tree with leaves in motion from the wind. The results showed that employees exposed to natural movement were more alert and had a lower blood pressure than those that were not.
Nature improves Employee Productivity
In the same way that plants need sun to grow, so worker productivity and creativity can be encouraged by letting in natural light. By maximising the daylight flooding into a space, employee’s will feel happier (sunlight raises the level of serotonin in our bodies) and more productive. Interior walls could be replaced with glass ones to allow in the maximum amount of natural light, whilst also having the added benefit of creating quiet work zones.
Plants significantly increase workplace satisfaction and by enriching offices with plants can increase worker productivity by up to 15% according to researchers at Cardiff University . Not only do plants help improve indoor air quality but by connecting us with nature, plants leave us feeling more relaxed and better able to focus.
While the design of a workplace can be a large capital investment it is likely to have an enormous positive impact on productivity, creativity, brand perception, employee satisfaction, absenteeism and talent recruitment, making perfect business sense. Take a look on Pinterest for more Productive Office Design inspiration.
Get in touch if you would like to discuss ways to produce a happier and more productive workplace for your team, in the meantime happy designing!