How office design can increase productivity

Can you really increase employees’ productivity levels by changing office design? All businesses would like to see their productivity rates improve, but what actually makes a difference? While architects have long insisted that design can have a much greater impact than purely on a functional or visual level, a number of studies now support the view that certain office features can really have a positive, or negative, impact on our productivity levels.

It has become popular to advise workers to explore nature in their lunch hours in order to ease stress and take time out of the workplace, but what if businesses were to build it into the office environment? A 2014 study by the University of Exeter found that furnishing an office with plants could increase productivity by 15%.  Researchers examined the effect of green offices on staff’s perceptions of air quality, concentration levels, and workplace satisfaction and found that the existence of plants in the work environment significantly increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration and perceived air quality.

Office jungle

A further study, by Harvard University, found that improved ‘indoor environmental quality’ i.e., the existence of plants, doubled occupants’ cognitive function test scores. These findings are being put into practice across the world, including at the new headquarters of Apple in California. There, approximately 10,000 trees have been planted across the campus in a bid to increase employees’ access to nature and thus aid their productivity levels.

This is also why Spaces has partnered with Sprinklr, a company who specialise in the delivery of large, sustainably grown plants to offices in the Netherlands and Belgium. With the productivity implications of having plants in the office space scientifically proven, this partnership hopes to allow occupants to become less stressed, more creative and healthier, and therefore more productive.

Let there be light

Along with nature, a number of studies have highlighted the impact of different lighting levels on productivity. The book Ethonomics: Designing for the Principles of the Modern Workplace shows that veering away from ‘dingy lighting’, small cubicles and colourless, uninspiring offices will not only improve the mood of employees, but also increase productivity levels.

In the UK, workers apparently spend on average 22 hours a day inside. So, with such little exposure to the outside world, it is not surprising that companies see the benefits of bringing the natural light in.  A 2018 study by Cornell University concluded that workers in daylit office environments reported an 84% drop in symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision – all of which reduce our ability to work productively. Spaces locations are uniquely designed, with maximum exposure to daylight front and centre – natural-light-flooded rooms, roof terraces and balconies feature in many locations, supporting members in their goals towards an enjoyable working environment which drives productivity.

Break out

Office layout can also play an integral part in boosting the health and wellbeing of employees. At the Google offices in New York, employees have access to a climbing wall, designed as a space where employees ‘can work out their tension’, thus aiding them to return to their desks in a better frame of mind than in which they left. At Spaces, choice is key with members able to enjoy open, collaborative spaces in which to work, make calls, and meet others, along with break out areas and quiet rooms when a different environment is required.

Healing offices

It is this flexibility that is at the heart of a new partnership between Spaces and the architecture firm D/Dock. D/Dock’s ‘Healing Offices’ concept uses a design method that has been found to contribute to the productivity and wellbeing of employees. By studying the impact of this concept, D/Dock has concluded that the working environment has a ‘significant impact’ on the productivity and wellbeing of those using a building. By looking at factors ranging from indoor climate and the use of sustainable materials to the ability for employees to customise their own workspace, they identified that making the right changes could lead to a 10% increase in employees feeling more productive together with a general boost in energy levels and reduction in stress. As well as designing office space for both Google and Microsoft in Amsterdam, D/Dock has been responsible for the design of a number of Spaces offices worldwide.

It is perhaps no surprise that more and more companies are placing increased emphasis on identifying the right design features and layout of their offices, that will boost productivity and contribute to better health and happiness. The result will surely be better productivity, happiness and employee retention.

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