How office design can increase staff productivity

30 May 2014

Independent research shows that 60% of staff’s productivity is affected by office design (Hameed, Amjad 2009).  So, the feel, the look and the flexibility of your workplace is vital to the overall organisational performance of your company. 

Productivity and the growth of productivity must be the first economic consideration at all times, not the last.

Trying to get the best out of your employees is difficult.  Every day your employees come to work and you expect them to give their best effort. But do they?

Key elements affecting staff performance
Spatial Arrangements
Workstation Furniture

         The objective of good space planning is to achieve the most appropriate and cost effective                    solution to meet your specific requirement while maximising the use of space, facilities,                        equipment and staff.

         It deals with issues of how much space is available, what functions need to be carried out, how                                                                            people, teams and departments act and interact.

Communication Promote productivity through creating collaborative areas, where team members can still chat during work, but also provide the appropriate level of privacy to allow them to concentrate when needed.   
Workstations Create low risk of distractions. Where possible, avoid placing workstation entrances along high-traffic corridors or noisy equipment.

         The elements that make up a workstation are the desk, chair, monitor stand, desk                                  privacy screens and foot rest. 

         Together, proper design and use of these items can substantially increase employees’                              performance.


Job Requirements Recognise the fact that even in a small office, there are different types of staff who do different types of work. For example, the privacy and the storage needs of a receptionist will differ from that of an IT developer.
Ergonomics Seat staff comfortably.  Provide the appropriate desks and chairs with options for personal control and adjustability to allow them to satisfy their own level of personal comfort.


         Employees identify speech as the leading factor which lowers their concentration and increases                stress levels.

         As a result, creating adequate noise privacy is a key element, especially when designing open                  plan areas

Demographics If your employees are predominantly male or female, keep in mind that women get less distracted by noise than men (Hameed, Amjad 2009).
Desk Screens Provide appropriate privacy, using desk screens that block the direct path of speech from one employee to another. 
Enclosed Office Spaces Enable employees to carry out noisier activities in meeting rooms or kitchen/social areas.
Sound Absorption Materials You can significantly improve productivity levels in open plan areas by using the appropriate flooring and ceiling materials to optimise sound absorption. This along with acoustic materials in desk privacy screens will lead to less distraction by noise.


        Productivity is often most affected  in offices with low light and especially low natural light.

Natural / Artificial Lighting                                                                       Most people prefer natural to artificial lighting. To maximise the daylight reaching the desks, place the workstations perpendicular to the window. (Note: daylight does not reach further than two workstations deep into the office space, so compromise is inevitable).  
Luminance This is the amount of light reflecting off a surface, which affects our perceptions of brightness. Avoid darkly shadowed areas and dark walls, because this will create a “cave-like” atmosphere. Instead, specify your wall, ceiling and furntiure materials with high surface reflectance.


      Pleasant office temperature and oxygenated air positively affects productivity. However,                         complaints about thermal and air quality conditions are common, especially in open plan                       areas.

Fresh Air Because fresh air is so important, the mechanical ventilation system must have the capacity to provide the required volume of air for the number of people in the space.
Temperature Indoor temperature between 20-25 °C is proven to be ideal for office productivity (Helsinki University of Technology). However, one set of thermal conditions will never suit everyone.
Inevitably, as indicated in this article, some design goals will conflict with others.  For example, maximising window exposure will benefit the lighting and visual comfort of employees, but may lead to complaints about thermal conditions.

However, if you follow these guidelines and work with an experienced office interior designer - you will not only fulfill the needs of your employees, but also boost their productivity.