How Office Design Impacts Productivity

We all know that running a business is tough, managing a team is tough, even just being ‘a cog in the wheel’ is tough! My point here is no matter where you sit in an organization, you are always extremely busy, and we are only getting busier!

Our workloads are increasing, the amount of time we spend at work is increasing and our pay is… Well, going up slightly. But there is one thing we can all agree on, to be successful in the world of work, we need to be productive!

There are many studies into improving productivity in the workplace, whether that is the impact of listening to music whilst you work, or the benefits businesses see by implementing flexi-time and full flexible hours into the business. Even the desk you use can impact heavily on how productive you are, but there are not many studies on how office design impacts your productivity in the workplace.

In this article, we’ll explore the positive and negative impacts of different styles of office design, so you can ensure maximum productivity. First, let’s start with the positives.

Layout of the Office

If you think back 10-20 years, I bet you can guess what the office looked like… cubicles, a desk per person, a few sterile meeting rooms dotted around the place, does that sound about right? Yes, because that was the norm in the past. However, we soon realized that this style of office design was not productive, as people simply sat bored at their desks. We all remember the film Office Space, right? So, office designers and office design companies started the process of re-inventing the office space and the open office was born.

Now that the open office layout has become the norm in office design, we find ourselves being more productive when we are at work. Whilst there is still some debate around the distractions associated with the open office, there is no disputing the fact that employees are happier coming to work, and therefore, more productive than they would be if they were trapped in a cubicle.

More work is being completed thanks to you being able to have a conversation about your task with an employee that is sitting near you, and you are able to get more done in less time thanks to this convenience in collaborations.

If you are worried about the distractions caused by an open office, most employers nowadays allow headphone use during working hours, and as we all know, music boosts productivity as well! This is also why we see many businesses asking us to install speakers into their office space as well.

Breakout Spaces

When I started my career, I worked in an open office, which was great! However, there was no breakout space that allowed me to eat my lunch away from my desk. I was forced to consume my lunch at my desk, creating a culture that was not productive for me at all. What is the reason for this? A lot of people like myself love to switch off during their lunch break, and if you are eating at your desk it is very hard to switch yourself back on again and close that news article down.

However, if you are able to eat away from your desk, you can fully switch off during your lunch break and arrive back at your desk ready to work. I found this when I started to leave the office and eat out during my lunch. I was able to fully switch off from my work whilst I was away from the office, and able to come back to work after my lunch break was over refreshed and fully ready to work. When I was eating at my desk, I found it extremely difficult to switch off the sports article or news piece I was reading and re-focus on my work.

The moral of the story here is that if there is no dedicated place for your employees to switch off from work for a small amount of time, they will find it harder to re-switch on to their work when they have finished their lunch, meaning less time is spent on work than it really should.

It goes back to the old age philosophy of taking a 5-minute break every hour of work it— it allows you to switch off for a brief second and come back to work fully refreshed.

Private Meeting Spaces

No matter how open your workspace, you also need to ensure that you have private meeting spaces for staff to have confidential conversations, hold interviews with potential new employees and ensure staff has space available to have private phone calls and deal with personal matters.

Mixing in private meeting spaces with the traditional open office will ensure the perfect space for your staff to ensure they are productive, with the perfect blend of collaboration and creativity within the open areas of the office, and a space to work more privately or concentrate on time-sensitive tasks in the private spaces.

Ensuring your staff can be both private and collaborative at the same time is essential to a productive workforce.

Now, let’s get to the things hampering your staff’s productivity.

Set Working Hours

One of the biggest killers of productivity and creativity in an office space is, in my opinion, set working hours. It can become extremely monotonous and boring for employees to turn up at the same time each morning, and leave at the same time each evening, day in day out. This is a big killer of creativity in the office and can lead staff to ‘doing the bare minimum’ and nothing more.

Offering your staff flexible working times is a great way to keep them interested as they can come in at times when they feel more creative. For example, I am more productive in the mornings than I am later on in the day, so it is beneficial to me to turn up earlier in the morning and leave slightly earlier, rather than working at times I do not feel I am as productive as I can be.

Allowing your staff to work from home is also a great way of nurturing productivity within your organization. I have a dedicated home office where I can shut the door, zone out of distractions and plug headphones in for times I need to get work done. Offering your staff the chance to do the same is a great way to ensure they are being productive. Does a member of your sales team need to spend time preparing for a big sales pitch? Let them do it from home. Does your web developer have a lot of coding to do and feels they could do it better at home? Let this happen.

Team Segregation Done Improperly

One of the biggest killers of productivity is separating your teams in the incorrect way. There is an argument to say that you shouldn’t separate your teams at all as mixing them will encourage collaboration between team members, but we are firm believers in separating your team to ensure you have the most productive setup possible in your office.

However, the problem comes when you separate your teams in a way that isn’t thought out; for example, having your developers next to your sales team. Developers naturally tend to work in a quiet and relaxed environment, whilst sales teams are always loud due to people being on the phone for the vast majority of the day.

However, sitting your sales and marketing teams next to each other, and then sitting quiet departments such as HR/accounting and developers next to each other will encourage a productive environment because people can work in the way they feel most comfortable, rather than being constantly distracted.


Offices can be wonderful, productive and happy places if you set them up right with your office design. However, they can also be places your staff doesn’t want to be if you haven’t designed the space correctly.

Working with an office design company is a fantastic way to ensure you have the right office space for your business as they will ensure they understand your needs and design you a space that really suits.

Written by: Ryan Jones – Advanced Commercial Interiors

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