Working remotely has often been perceived as the ideal work situation due to a wide range of assumed benefits. These may include less time spent commuting, less distractions, more family time, and flexible hours. Many employers and employees have had the chance to test these assumptions due to the global pandemic that forced many companies to reimagine work. Companies who were completely opposed to the idea of working from home had to change their mindset in order to continue operating, if only at reduced capacity and productivity. As the world normalizes, many of these companies are bringing employees back to work in an office.
As this process occurs, companies need to revaluate their office spaces to make them more attractive to employees who thrived while working from home, while also motivating those employees who did not perform well in a home setting. The key drivers for employers to base these changes on are employee wellbeing and productivity. Improving worker productivity can be as simple as rearranging office space and providing employees with the tools and equipment to maximize their productivity while also maintaining a positive work environment.
General Office Layout
There are generally three office setups as discussed below, and we have outlined the advantages and disadvantages we have identified through research and personal experiences:
Open offices are often described as a hub for productivity as they increase collaboration and improve creativity – they also optimize the floor space for maximum cost savings. However, open-plan offices can often decrease productivity due to constant noise and visual distractions, as well as reducing employee privacy. This is evident as employees often try to isolate themselves from the surroundings with headsets, but this only eliminates the noise distractions; visual distractions can still reduce focus and affect productivity.
Private Offices or Cubicles
People working in an office often crave privacy and, in fact, privacy can improve productivity. Some studies consistently show that private offices and cubicles improve productivity when compared to open office setups. However, in industries where collaboration is required, these types of offices are not ideal. If done incorrectly, cubicles can also create a sense of entrapment, claustrophobia, and isolation that can easily negatively impact an employee’s mental health and work satisfaction.
Blended Office Spaces
Layouts in many current offices and offices of the future lean more towards a blend of the above-mentioned layouts. Collaborative spaces are ideal for brainstorming and collaboratively discussing various ideas, whereas in many instances cubicles and private offices can improve focus for complex time-consuming tasks that do not require excessive collaboration.
Maximizing Office Productivity
In addition to optimizing the floor plan of your office space, there are many other things that can be done to improve the office environment, increasing productivity without compromising employee comfort.
Nothing is more demoralizing or uninspiring than a bland décor. Adding artwork into an office space can dramatically improve productivity, lower stress, and increase a sense of wellbeing. Office décor can often be classified into three categories:
- Lean: Stark with no decorations, only the items required to accomplish tasks are available in the workspace.
- Enriched: Prearranged art and plants are placed in the office.
- Empowered: Supplied art and plants, allowing employees to arrange it in the workspace.
It was shown that enriched workspaces improve work speed by 15% when compared to lean workspaces, and employees in empowered workspaces improved speed by up to 30%. The key takeaway is; if employees can include and arrange art in their workspaces, productivity generally increases.
Standing desks are being integrated into offices worldwide, both new and older due to their wide range of health and productivity benefits as described below:
- Health Benefits – Studies show that standing desks offer a wide range of health benefits that can include reduced risk of several diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. In fact, the negative effects of prolonged sitting cannot be offset by regular exercise and healthy diets. Therefore, the only way to reduce these negative effects is to simply sit less.
- Productivity Benefits – In addition to the above-mentioned health benefits, standing desks can also be shown to improve productivity. Standing for a portion of the day improves mood and increases energy levels. This naturally leads to improved productivity. Standing also improves blood flow to the brain which can increase focus. If an employee is feeling drained activating a standing desk can help regain focus and get back on track, ideal for working through the daily energy slumps encountered during a working day.
Choosing the right standing desks for your staff is critical. Manual systems that simply lift the computer and its peripherals are not as effective as systems that automatically lift the entire desk. This makes sense because employees often utilize the entire desk space to improve their workflow. Lifting only part of the desk will not have the desired effect, continuously bending down to pick up files, beverages or writing is not ideal. The simplicity of an automated system that rises the entire desk will also increase employee adoption of the system.
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The work environment is continuously changing. New ways of working are being tested all the time, particularly in the current climate. The future of work will most likely include a mix of working from home and work in an office, with collaborative spaces where employees can congregate to realign themselves with the company goals and to build a sense of company loyalty and comradery. Office spaces may not be either open plan or cubicle based but will contain a mix of these setups to fit specific functions.
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