Designing a Productive Office Environment

Every business cares about productivity, especially growing ones. Learn how to design an office layout that helps your team work better and faster.

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Your office is more than the place you do business. It’s the heart of your company. If the heart doesn’t pump energy to the rest of the body (you and your team), your work will suffer.

Productivity is on everyone’s mind these days. How do we get more done in less time? How do you improve the quality of your work without disrupting the balance of your lives?

You don’t need to hire an expensive office designer to create a productive work space. Nor do you need pricey office perks like ping-pong tables, nap pods, or beer fridges. For small, growing businesses, those aren’t options anyway.

In a turnkey office space, you don’t have the luxury of redesigning your space. Want to blow down that wall? A generous property owner may give you that freedom, but don’t count on it. They typically want to preserve the space so it’s easy to rent in the future.

But that doesn’t mean you can neglect office design. There’s overwhelming evidence that a carefully designed office can increase employee well-being, happiness, and productivity. You just need to make some basic changes.

Use this easy checklist to create your own productive office space.

Comfortable lighting

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Lighting is an often overlooked office feature. Poor or painful lighting can cause fatigue, headaches, and eyestrain. Working in poor lighting conditions over long periods of time can actually cause depression.

According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consistent light exposure during the day makes workers sleep longer and better at night, feel inclined to participate in physical activities, and report a better quality of life.

Dr. Ivy Cheung, co-author of that study, told CNN that “light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body.” It improves mood, communication, focus, and even regulates physiological functions, like blood pressure and heart rate.

It’s a simple formula: Healthy light = healthy people = better work.

Natural light is the best lighting for work, so for best results, open the blinds or use daylight color balanced CFL bulbs. They’re naturally energizing. Moods and productivity will improve.

Ergonomics and appearance

A person can’t be productive if their back hurts, their chair is too low, or if any of their equipment creates discomfort. Just using a computer can be painful, says OrthoInfo: “Under certain circumstances and for vulnerable individuals, frequent computer use that involves awkward postures, repetition, and forceful exertions may be related to nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage.”

Supply your team with equipment that facilitates comfort for your specific working environment. For example, if your team spends hours sitting idly, you need ergonomic chairs for maximum comfort and monitors positioned parallel to the worker’s neck. But if your team is frequently moving, opt for standing desks (or desks that convert to different positions) for easy access and less body strain.

Encourage your team to take opportunities to adjust their bodies depending on their own needs. Let them stretch their legs with a short walk. If it’s all the same, consider taking a walk during meetings. Or, provide alternate types of seating based on their preferences.

Appearance is important if you regularly bring clients into your office. For instance, attorney clients expect large, heavy desks and shelves with legal books. Even if these objects aren’t necessary for a modern team, they build a perception your clients expect.

The right technology

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It doesn’t matter how positive you are, how talented of a leader you are, or how diligently your team works if you don’t have the right tools. Technology is key to building a competitive business.

This infographic from Intuit explains how much of an impact technology has on productivity.

  • Dual monitors can increase productivity from 9% to 50%.
  • Laptops instead of desktops improve productivity by 100 hours/year.
  • 69% of IT professionals say cloud computing improved their productivity.

I can’t tell you what the “right technology” means for your business. That would depend on what you do. But I recommend using newer devices, modern tools (like shared Google Docs over Word), and a strong Internet connection.

De-clutter-ize

According to Princeton University, “Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that clutter in your workspace negatively affects your ability to process information and stay focused.

The best way to reduce clutter is to digitize everything. Maintain all records electronically – just make sure to regularly back up your drives. Even calendars and notes should be replaced by apps so they aren’t lost, damaged, or misplaced, and can be shared.

Create a standard file naming convention across your company so anyone can find files on anyone’s computer or shared folders.

Anything paper that must remain should be clearly labeled and filed in a drawer or cabinet so it’s out of the way. Anything that doesn’t have immediate use or anticipated use should be archived.
Insist on a clean desk policy. Some employees may resist, but the increase in productivity will soon be apparent.

Spatial arrangement

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Often, offices are furnished quickly without much thought to the actual space. The movers drop a table against a wall and it stays there. You can enhance the productivity of your team by positioning items and equipment where they make sense.

For example, it doesn’t make sense to position Joe and Sue’s desk away from one another when they have to collaborate throughout the day. Every time they need to speak, they have to swivel around. It may take only a second, but over the day (and year), those wasted moments add up. Every unnecessary action costs something. Plus, they’ll be less inclined to speak to one another because it means repositioning and breaking from their current task. Over time, this handicaps your teams overall productivity. And that’s just one example of a tiny flaw that can do damage to your business.

And what about Eric the receptionist? He uses the copier several times an hour, but it’s on the other end of the office. Each time he needs it, he intrudes on other people’s workspace. It would make more sense to put it right near his desk.

Even if you have a simple turnkey space, you don’t have to stick to the original arrangement. Get creative with the furniture. Should everyone face each other? Should desk space be sacrificed for a conference table? Who should be near the door? There are countless permutations.

Temperature

A study by Careerbuilder found that working in an office that’s too hot or too cold affects productivity. Workers are easily distracted, prone to mistakes, and more concerned about alleviating discomfort than producing quality work.

What’s the right temperature? Software Advice conducted a study of office workers. They found that 50% of people are dissatisfied with the temperature in their workspace. Medium temperature preferences for men are about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas women prefer 72 degrees.

However, the correct temperature is the one your employees prefer. The only way to find out what they like is to ask them. Just make sure to match your required office attire to the temperature so employees can be dressed properly.

Setup a productive office environment of your own with our free checklist!

Productivity and simplicity

The single best way to be productive with life and business is to simplify what’s on your plate. Remove any tasks that aren’t necessary to burn through your to-do list.

The biggest advantage of a turnkey office space is how hands-off you can be. Instead of wasting your time dealing with contract negotiations, facilities maintenance, billing, and construction, you can write your rent check on the first of the month and let someone else worry about the details.

If you’re ready to find your next office, start your search here.