How Office Design Affects Productivity

Office Design

Open office plans may not be as advantageous as they were once thought to be.

Your organization's office design is likely affecting your employees' performance. In recent decades, open offices have become increasingly popular because they're cost-effective and can promote collaboration. But BBC reports that research shows that too much openness in an office setting can be distracting and negatively impact employee performance and engagement.

In recent years, many organizations may have viewed open offices as a way to save money — they are less expensive to construct and can accommodate more employees per square foot. But if your open office is contributing to lower productivity and disengagement among employees, it may not make sense economically.

Drawbacks to Open Offices

While an open workspace design has been lauded for its ability to foster collaboration and teamwork, too much collaboration can lead to disengagement among employees, according to Harvard Business Review. And Quartz reports that the human brain is actually unable to multitask, so working in an open office and attempting to process conversations, other noise and trying to concentrate on the work at hand is simply overworking employees' brains and causing increased stress and fatigue. When a person gets interrupted at work, it typically takes 23 minutes to return to the deeply engaged state, according to "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock.

Rethink Your Workspace Design With These 3 Ideas

Of course, collaboration and teamwork play an important role in the way work is conducted today. But every office should allow for quiet, uninterrupted work to occur as well. Rather than creating the cheapest layout for your office, keep in mind that a workspace that contributes to more productive, engaged employees could boost your bottom line. Consider these three ideas for reconfiguring your space to increase engagement and productivity.

1. Set Guidelines

Even if your office has opportunities for people to work in open, shared spaces, that doesn't mean they have to be interrupted constantly. Set guidelines for specific sections of the workspace so that employees understand that people working in certain areas are not available for conversation.

2. Offer Choices

Many people simply perform better when they're not constantly surrounded by others, notes author Susan Cain in "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking." Realize that group work is important, but employees also need opportunities to retreat into private spaces where they can focus or take time to be alone.

3. Institute Sharing Policies

If your budget — or your team's culture — doesn't allow for private workspaces for every employee who may need them, consider providing several private spaces that can be shared among a number of employees. That way, team members can sign up for a private workspace when they're working on projects that require great focus, or when they just need a break from the crowd.

Modern office design doesn't have to ascribe to one specific style. By figuring out the needs of your particular workforce and developing spaces that support their needs, your organization can enhance their productivity while still being mindful of your bottom line.