Can Workplace Layout Affect Staff Productivity?

Workplace Layout

Productivity is a prime concern for many a business owner – especially in the UK, where to everyone’s chagrin, per capita productivity lags behind most of our developed economy competitors.

Solving the productivity puzzle has become a preoccupation of many a business leader and policy maker. But where does the secret to better productivity lie? Do we need to work less so we can redress the work-life balance, making sure we are always able to give our best when we are at work? Is it a matter of British working practices just not being that efficient?

Or what about the role of our working environments? Could it be that our places of work themselves hamper productivity?

A growing body of informed opinion says yes, working environments do have a direct impact on productivity. The easiest way to understand why is to consider all of the things which could be present in a workplace which might stop people working at their best, such as:

  • Lots of noise
  • Too many distractions, e.g. people moving about and talking
  • Ambient temperatures too warm or too cold
  • Light levels too low or too bright.

Any combination of these things might make it difficult for an individual to concentrate on their work. When multiplied many times over to lots of workers, these sub-optimum working conditions can quickly add up to a major drag on productivity.

Best of both

So at the most basic level, workspace design should seek to eliminate the possible distractions listed above by ensuring a comfortable temperature all over, by making sure that light levels are consistent and so on.

Managing noise and distractions is a trickier issue, but this is where layout of workspaces and furnishings can have a direct impact. There has been a long-running debate for the past few decades over the relative merits of open-plan versus enclosed ‘cubicle farm’ office layouts.

While open-plan is great for collaboration and for instilling a sense of community, it creates an environment where lots of chatter and moving about is likely to cause distractions. Cramming workers into small, enclosed, featureless cubicles, on the other hand, might allow for better focus, but it can also leave people feeling cooped up with nowhere to look beyond their computer screen for hours on end. This can be just as damaging to productivity.

In the ideal scenario, a blend of both types of space is required. Mixing communal, shared working spaces with quieter, segregated areas not only accommodates for different preferences among staff, it caters for the requirements of different tasks. This leads onto the concept of behavioural environments, or understanding how the physical environment impacts on people’s behaviours in different scenarios.

So again, an open shared space that encourages lots of conversation might have a positive impact on collaborative, creative tasks, but make it hard for individuals to complete tasks that require high levels of concentration. Understanding these differences and accommodating them in your office layout is therefore key to supporting better productivity in different circumstances.

In more general terms, thinking about making workspaces inviting places will have a positive impact on productivity. Money spent on good design is a sound investment. Your people spend many hours in their place of work. The brighter and more comfortable it is, the more stimulation there is from colours, pleasing aesthetic touches, even views out of the window, the more content they will feel being there. And that is ultimately the key to working more happily and productively.

Red Rock provide a professional property and facilities management service across the UK. To discuss your needs and how we can assist you in the management of your property, simply get in touch with a member of our team today.


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