How to Design Your Office for Maximum Productivity
When we look for ways to boost productivity, we often think of tools: automation technologies to save time, concentration strategies like the Pomodoro Technique, and so on. However, recent research has shown that office design has a huge impact on how much gets done. Here are five tips for how to design your office for maximum productivity.
1. Stop thinking “open” and start thinking “variety”
Turns out that the open office idea isn’t all it was cracked up to be. In fact, open offices are associated with lower employee satisfaction and less productivity, higher levels of stress and fatigue, and higher rates of absenteeism including more sick days. In other words, bad news all around. To combat this problem, companies are shifting more toward variety. Workplace strategy expert Ron Friedman recommends identifying the types of work activities your employees perform and then designing spaces for those activities. For example, he suggests having personal spaces that employees can customize to fit their preferences, social spaces for collaboration and bonding, and “thinking rooms” for when individuals need some peace and quiet.
2. Improve the lighting
If you can’t see properly, you can’t work well. Poor lighting causes eye strain, headaches, fatigue, stress, and a host of other problems, both physical and mental. One of the easiest things you can do to boost productivity is to improve the lighting in your office. If possible, provide access to natural light—it’s bright, it makes people happy, and it’s free! It also increases productivity: a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that employees who sit near a window sleep better than those who don’t, and a good night’s sleep is essential for a good day’s work. If it isn’t feasible to put everyone near a window, install indirect lighting, which is still bright and doesn’t cause eye strain. Check out these photos to see what a difference indirect lighting makes.
3. Raise the ceilings
If you are designing a new office or are ready to renovate, consider raising your ceilings. Studies have found that people prefer ceilings that are 10 feet high and that higher ceilings are associated with thinking more freely. Would freer, more creative thinking benefit your business? We can’t think of a company where it wouldn’t!
4. Paint the walls (as long as it’s not white)
Color has a major effect on our emotions and our productivity, and when it comes to employee effectiveness, white is one of the worst. Similar to providing a variety of workspaces, provide a variety of color environments tailored for different activities. Research links green to creativity and blue to productivity. Red appears to be good for detail orientation, but it can also reduce analytical thinking. And no one likes yellow. See here and here for good roundups of how to use color psychology in your office.
5. Control the noise level
Noise is hands-down the most common office complaint, especially in open-plan offices. Research has linked noise to lower productivity, more illness, more stress, lower job satisfaction and morale, and other negative effects. Sound masking systems get rid of unwanted sounds by distributing noise that is engineered to cover up speech. If you can’t install a full sound masking system, at the very least provide noise-canceling headphones.
Encouraging office productivity beyond design
One thing we find happening often in modern offices—the lack of a front desk manager, or a front desk employee who has a whole host of other tasks and doesn’t have the time to sit at the desk all day to process visitor check-ins and deliveries. The result? Guests walk into the office, don’t know how to find who (or what) they’re looking for, and just accost the closest person they can find to help them solve the issue, that person’s current task abandoned.
It’s an affliction that either we or someone we know personally has suffered from: Person Nearest the Door Syndrome. It’s easy to eliminate the risk of PND with a digital visitor check-in system like The Receptionist. Visitors can check in on an iPad, notify and even remotely chat with their host, all while your front desk admin can focus on the other vital parts of their job.