- Workplace design greatly influences the way people work and behave in the built environment.
- Modern design empowers workers and gives them better support to carry out their responsibilities.
- These three design elements boost productivity by creating environments that support workers’ needs and preferences.
Long gone are the days when managers measured productivity through a person’s presence in the office.
Today’s work is much more results and goal oriented. Rather than focusing on how many hours a person spends in an office, businesses are increasingly focusing on how to help people thrive at work, regardless of whether they spend an hour, a day, or more in the workplace.
Workplace design greatly influences the way people work and behave in the built environment. Modern workplace design is about empowering workers and giving them more control over their environment to better support their responsibilities and roles.
In this sense, the idea is for design to liberate the end user to perform at his or her best. This mentality is what has given rise to the human-experience workplace.
Suggested Reading: “Designing for the Human Experience Is the Future of Workplace Design”’
Designing for Productivity
To successfully design for productivity, organizations must first acknowledge that today’s work serves multiple functions. Therefore, companies need to create spaces that support a wide range of behaviors.
Well-designed workspaces, therefore, can make it easier for workers to complete tasks quickly and effectively, regardless of whether they’re doing focus work, collaborative work, or creative work.
1. Design for comfort, not beauty
Although aesthetics are a key component of workplace design, research has found that organizations will benefit more from focusing on comfort and function than beauty.
In this sense, comfort should dictate the aesthetics of a workplace, not the other way around.
To design for comfort, businesses need to think about the furniture they put in place. Furniture should be ergonomic, customizable, and varied. Think adjustable chairs and desks, sit/stand workstations, sofas that are comfortable but still enable people to work, etc.
It’s important to remember that most of today’s work is done through a computer, so workstations should support the right placement and use of laptops, monitors, and keyboards. Otherwise, long periods of time working in uncomfortable, badly designed environments can lead to pain and discomfort.
Pro tip: ensure that outlets are easily accessible without people having to crawl under desks, and that cables are organized to avoid visual clutter and distraction.
Areas used for collaboration and creative work should be designed appropriately and be complemented with the right tools and resources. Think lounge chairs, round tables, sofas, white boards, markers, etc.
The idea is for workers to get in the right mindset as soon as they walk into the workplace.
Beyond the right furniture and ergonomics, organizations also need to take into consideration thermal comfort.
If a work environment is too hot or too cold, workers will have a hard time focusing on the task at hand. Temperature wars in the workplace are a real thing, so businesses need to come up with effective strategies to ensure that they’re not hindering a person’s performance by setting the temperature to a fixed number without proper consideration of factors such as humidity and the outside temperature (which dictates what people are wearing on any given day).
2. Design for mobility
Today’s work is varied and, in the majority of situations, location independent (people do not have to be glued to their desks or workstations in order to effectively complete a task).
Companies need to design for mobility in order to fully support the modern workforce.
Mobility in the workplace means providing a variety of work environments that support different types of tasks and behaviors (i.e. activity based working) and ensuring that workplaces can be easily transformed to fit the needs of the end user.
The goal is to create fluid environments where workers have more control over their work experience. This type of approach can help boost creativity, engagement, and productivity.
Design elements that support mobility include:
- Mobile work carts
- Communal tables with integrated tech
- Movable panels and walls so that people can add or remove privacy as they want
- Movable, light furniture like tables, chairs, whiteboards that can transform a formal meeting setting into a more casual one
- Transformable furniture (i.e. tables that double as whiteboards, chairs that can be transformed into tables, etc.)
Pro tip: a key element that supports mobility is variety, so make sure you’re providing different work settings within your workplace (i.e. me vs we areas, meeting rooms, outdoor spaces, etc.)
3. Design with technology
For people to be at their most productive, they need to have access to the right tools and resources, including technology.
Regarding workplace design, technology can play a key role in helping organizations optimize their space for efficiency and productivity.
There are a plethora of technology tools and platforms out there that can help companies identify and track how people use and interact with the built environment. To design workplaces that are conducive to productivity, organizations need to have a better understanding of how people work.
By using integrated technology and data analytics, companies can make informed decisions about workplace design and make the appropriate changes.
For example, if you have sensors in place, you might be able to identify that most people prefer to work from private areas than shared areas, so you could incorporate movable panels and walls to enable people to easily transform a shared environment into a private one.
Or you might notice that people are not using large meeting rooms too often, and rather these spaces are typically occupied by 3 or 4 people. You might then make the executive decision to break down that meeting room into 2 smaller ones.
If your goal is to have productive employees that deliver results and drive business performance, then you need to create an environment that will support their work needs and preferences.