Office space productivity matters to employees — and the organization. But finding the right balance to meet varying employee needs is often easier said than done.
Does workspace really matter when it comes to productivity? Yes, according to Gallup, which reports that employees crave flexibility in their work environments. Office space productivity can be improved by providing employees with options for both privacy and interaction.
Give Workers Space
Space is important to employees. "When jumping on the open floor plan trend, many organizations forgot that while employees may enjoy communal events with co-workers, sometimes they also want to be alone to do work without distraction," says Bob Clary, director of marketing with DevelopIntelligence, a technical learning solutions organization. If your business has an open floor plan, provide spaces where employees can get away when they need to do heads-down work.
People value "a place to call their own," says Chris Denny, founder of Attention to Detail, a productivity consulting firm. "Research shows that the ideal office layout and individual placement depends upon a variety of factors including how new the person is, experience level, type or work and personal preferences," Denny says.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but flexibility and creativity can be key to achieving office space productivity.
Focus on Flexibility
Workers are varied and their needs and preferences of workspaces are too. The best option may be to design workspaces with flexibility in mind. Employees shouldn't necessarily be relegated to just a single workspace or area. Employees with a private office space may, at times, want to work collaboratively with others. Shared spaces can provide the opportunity to be flexible depending on the type of work and the preferences of the individuals involved.
The concept of accommodating individual preferences is increasingly taking hold for employers. "We're not dealing with a matter of, 'Is an open office environment superior to an office with more privatized spaces?' What we need to recognize is that some employees will perform better in an open office environment and others will not," says Caleb Backe, HR representative for Maple Holistics. What organizations should be asking, Backe says, is,"How do we optimize the work environment for each of our individual employees?"
Backe points to educational institutions as a great example of how modular space can be used to meet a wide range of needs. In both K-12 and higher educational settings, the traditional classroom is being reconsidered and reconfigured to meet student needs and preferences. Backe says organizations can learn from these best practices as they seek to find ways to build flexibility into their workplace.
Businesses should design spaces to play to the strengths of their employees — building flexibility in from the outset. For instance, instead of having fixed walls, organizations can use movable barriers or dividers to allow different types of configurations. As business needs change, these types of flexible and movable space options can change with the business as well.
Little Touches Can Go a Long Way
Not all employers have the ability to physically provide private space, natural light or other amenities for employees. Still, much can be done to improve the environment. Harvard Business Review (HBR) recommends providing employees with the opportunity to take a break from their workspaces to engage with nature. Employees who are exposed to plants have better well-being and productivity, reports HBR.
Sometimes little things really make a difference to staff, such as the ability to look out a window that offers natural light and a welcome distraction from cubicles and workspace. Or, the ability to step outside for a walk instead of holding a meeting in a conference room. Employees might also appreciate the flexibility to decorate their workspaces with items from home including artwork, plants or family photos.
By being flexible and listening to input from your staff members, you can find the right focus on office space productivity to meet employee and organizational needs and budgets. Whether your organization has the budget or wherewithal to make major changes to workspace layouts, there are clearly a number of things that can be done to help find the right balance between private and open work areas to meet the individual preferences of employees.
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