Optimise Your Office Space
Optimising an office space can be, unless you’re talking about a personal office, a very difficult task, because everyone wants something slightly different from everyone else. One of your staff might hate open-plan offices, needing peace and quiet to concentrate, while another might find silence deafening and thrive in an environment where they can simply lean to one side to get a little human interaction. Some people like music playing in the office, others don’t; some appreciate their own desk, where they can keep their bits and bobs, and still others like the hot-desk approach, where they can just sit anywhere and get on with things.
There are things both employers and employees can do to make sure the office is optimised for productivity and staff happiness, but the most important thing is to talk to each other. Employers need to ask their staff what they need, and staff need to be comfortable asking for it.
The internet is full of great examples of unusual, fantastic, or simply well-designed offices, from this gallery from the Telegraph with their pick of the 10 coolest offices in the UK, to this article from BoredPanda, with their list of the 12 coolest in the world.
We've grabbed a few of our favourites to give you a little inspiration:
GOOGLE, Tel Aviv
AIRBnB, San Francisco
WHITE MOUNTAIN, Stockholm, Sweden
CLOUD DCS, Guangzhou, China
Photo: Dennis Lo
URBAN OUTFITTERS, Philadelphia
Here are a few basics to get you started optimising your office:
The Basest Basics
Ensure the office has adequate lighting and heat: cold workers who need to strain their eyes to see are not productive or happy workers – plus, keeping staff warm is something of a legal requirement. Try to avoid lighting that’s too bright also, as it can cause headaches and blurred vision. A happy medium is best, and of course the more natural lighting the better!
Give the People Options
Providing a variety of styles of work-station for your staff, from seated to standing desks; communal creative areas to quiet spaces, allows everyone to find their perfect environment to get the maximum amount of work done, all within the office.
Beyond the boost in productivity levels variety can provide, studies show that sitting in the same position all day can lead to a plethora of health-related ailments, from ‘sitting disease’ to increased risks of heart disease, cancer and premature death, so moving about a bit or changing up your working position can make a world of difference.
A study by the University of Exeter showed that the addition of houseplants to an office or working area can boost productivity and well-being by up to 47%.
In a similar study by a Texas A&M University research team, 101 participants ‘took part in emotional, creativity and attentional demand protocols, in conditions that were carefully controlled, yet were similar to those in many office workplaces’ over a four month period. Workers were ‘found to experience an increase in innovative thinking, creative performance and problem solving with the presence of plants and flowers in the workplace. The men generated 15% more ideas while women came up with more creative solutions to problems’.
“The research shows that flowers and plants can be important in the most meaningful way to businesses in the modern economy,” says Roger Ulrich, Ph.D., behavioural scientist and lead researcher on the study. “Productivity, in the form of innovation and creative problem solving, can mean the difference between mild and great success.”
This is an area where staff and employers can work together – staff can maintain tidy, clean areas around their desks or workstations, and employers can help on a larger scale: by consolidating equipment, for example, to save space; such as using an all-in-one printer/photocopier rather than having two very large piece of equipment where one will do.
It’s a bit of a grey area, as there are studies which show that a clean environment promotes health and discourages crime and littering, but there are also reports that show that a messy desk can inspire productivity and fresh insight, too. The best bet is to strike a happy medium – utilise the available space in the wider office to its maximum potential, but let your employees manage their own desks in the manner that best suits them.
Add a Little Colour
A study by Nancy Kwallek, Ph.D., director of the interior design program at the University of Texas, aimed to test how the colour of a person’s surroundings can affect their productivity and well-being at work. Dividing her lab into three office spaces, she painted one bright red, another blue-green and the third white, and had ninety people working in the rooms doing various clerical tasks.
She found that people tended to fall into one of two categories: high- and low-screeners. High screeners, those who ignored their environment while working, were most productive in a room painted a bright colour, such as red, while low-screeners felt overwhelmed in bright rooms and were more productive in blue-green environments, which they apparently found more relaxing.
Interestingly, the workers in the white room made more errors in their work in the short term, but over the long term their productivity was not affected by the all-white environment.
It’s not just about productivity: when the office is a pleasant, attractive environment, people are not only happier to come into work, they’re happier in general. Spending our time in a drab, grey office with little to stimulate the senses is never going to lift our spirits: a workspace that reflects the style and attitude of those working there will make them feel at home, even at work.
Has your organisation found any ingenious ways to make the office a great place to be? Do you have any other tips to pass on?