Small Business Brief


How to Create a More Productive Office Environment

How to Create a More Preductive Office Layout

Every office wishes they could be more productive. But, how do you do it? Sometimes the answer lies in your office layout. Read on to learn how to create a more productive office layout.

The workplace has to focus on peak productivity – you’re there to get stuff done after all!

Some businesses work against themselves. They unintentionally create office layouts that encourage chatter, distractions, and unproductive work practices. If you’ve ever been in a noisy coworking space where it was hard to get stuff done, you know what we’re talking about!

For some productivity guidelines and tried and tested office layout tips, read on!

Ways to Make the Office More Productive

To improve productivity, you need to work on culture as well as office layout. Some noise issues require a staff meeting to fix. Other times the issue is about office design. So let’s look at culture, inputs, and office design in turn.

Is Work Chatter Always Bad?

It’s complicated. We humans are social, curious beings.

That’s a good thing.

In an office environment, this can go one of two ways.

The socializing and distractions can be healthy collaboration. It can also be unproductive chatter that gets in the way of the real work.

There is an argument for office gossip as a social adhesive. It brings people closer and builds trust. Trust is critical to strong teams, and strong teams critical to success.

There are limits to how much socializing can be helpful in your office. If staff are complaining about interruptions, it’s time for some changes.

Analyze the situation.

Is it just one problematic area or is it a company-wide cultural concern? Are they collaborating in healthy ways, or just chatting?

How to Keep Socializing Productive

Socializing can be productive and very beneficial. To ensure it is that more often than not, schedule a meeting with the team, and talk about the noise issue.

Explain that you want people to get along and collaborate – you don’t want to stop all noise.

In order for there to be harmony between the social and the work, you need to set up some space rules. Have them generate some rules to balance the good noise with the unproductive stuff. It will be more effective if they generate the rules themselves.

Some questions for to consider in making the rules are:

  • How long should people chat at the desk before it’s time to move it to a meeting room?
  • How can we ask people near us to move to a meeting room without causing offense?
  • How can I respond when someone asks me to move my conversation to a meeting room?

Ask the team how the company can support those who get distracted by office noise. Be willing to put some budget into it. You might offer headphones.

If you end up fitting out the office in headphones, perhaps host more staff events to compensate for the reduction in socializing.

There’s More to It Than Guidelines

You can also impact behavior by changing the environment. You might be planning an office from scratch. Alternatively, you might already have a problematic situation on your hands and be in need of some workarounds.

Either way, we’ve got some great ideas for increased work efficiency.

But before we look at some small office design ideas for productivity, we want to talk about the importance of measurement.

Measure the Change

Like anything else we do in business, you should measure the impact of your office changes.

Some classic measures are staff surveys, conducted before and after. You can use free online surveys for this, it needn’t cost a fortune!

Noise and distractions are stressful.

It takes 23 minutes to recover from each distraction. In a noisy office, this can add up.

Stress causes truancy and absenteeism. This makes truancy and absenteeism data a great source of impact analysis.

Other measures to consider are levels of innovation and collaboration – though these can be a bit subjective.

You can workshop the measures to find the best ones for your company. The most important thing is that you do measure somehow.

Measure before (baseline) and after the office layout and office-culture changes. Then you can measure the results.

Input-Output Is Everything

Restaurant chefs don’t make great food with subpar ingredients. A car using poor fuel won’t go fast. It’s hard to win a marathon with flipflops and without training.

See where we’re going with this?

If you want good output from your employees, you need quality inputs. In an office environment, the inputs are all the things that help the employees physically and mentally.

Think about enhancing your office layout so your staff has a maximal input of the following three things:

1. Natural light

This ensures circadian rhythms are optimal. Staff are awake and focused in daylight and sleeping well at night. Consider softening the artificial light in the evening and strengthening it in the morning.

2. Fresh Air and Drinking Water

These inputs keep people are at their healthiest, thinking clearly when you need them to be. Open windows and scatter plants throughout the office to reduces stress and clean the air.

Some plants are better at cleaning the air than others. The Gerber Daisy and the Pot Mum Chrysanthemum score well on removing pollutants from the air.

3. Healthy Food Options

At company events, manage the catering area so healthy food is the first thing people pile on their plates. Place sweet and sugary stuff last.

When we eat sugar we get an initial high, burn through it quickly and then slump. Place fruit baskets throughout the office so staff eat a banana instead of a donut at 3 pm.

Now your biological inputs are better, staff will be healthier, more relaxed, and in a better frame of mind. That’s good for everyone, and especially good for productivity.

Now it is time to look at the nitty gritty of office layout.

Office Layout for Peak Productivity

Open offices produce higher levels of noise, lack privacy, and can be distracting. How can you get the best of collaborative, open spaces, while giving your staff privacy for quiet work?

Try some of the following:

Install Phone Booths

This is hands-down one of our favorite fixes for office layout ideas. The phone booth is a private, walled area, the size of a phone box or slightly bigger. It is insulated against noise.

It’s a place for private phone conversations. It stops them distracting those around them, and allows them some privacy.

If office noise is an issue, it’s time you researched more about phone booth office fixes.

Increase Access to Meeting Rooms

An open office needs lots of meeting space. While managers now sit among staff, they still need to have confidential meetings. Meeting spaces allows break-out areas to move noise away from desks.

Well-designed meeting spaces can include glass panels for jotting down brainstorming. Leaving these physical though bubbles on display can boost innovation generally.

Moveable Walls

Moveable walls do just what it says on the box.

They give even small office designs real flexibility according to current priorities. You can isolate innovation incubators from quiet IT teams or even sublease the office.

While not as elegant as fixed wall setups, they have their advantages. It’s certainly less expensive than a clear-and-redesign every six months!

Standing Desks

When we stand, blood is flowing through our bodies and we have more clarity of thought. There are some great arguments for making all meetings standing, for instance.

A great office design idea to increase productivity is to install desks that can be used either sitting or standing. You can even find desks that periodically rise up to a standing level.

We know sedentary lifestyles decrease our overall health. Offering standing options to staff can have a great effect on overall organizational health.

Standing or sitting, make sure you have ergonomic office chairs for your employees.

Build a ‘Chill’ Area

Staff need to flow through different areas of the workspace. This way they fulfill their physical as well as employment requirements.

Designate and fit-out an area that is just for relaxation.

It could be a lunch area, a meditation space, or an area for socializing. You can play relaxing music, and decorate it with soft tones. It’s important that leadership use it sometimes to give staff the ‘permission’ they need to use it too.

More conservative bosses might be reading this and thinking: if I pay them to work, why are they meditating?

Cognitive specialists have found that we solve many problems (and better), through our subconscious mind. In order for this to work, we need to stop concentrating on the actual problem, to let it compute in the back of our mind.

Relaxation areas mean your staff can take a breather.

Without even being aware of it, they are problem-solving while they do this. Try it – the results may surprise you!

What Will Your New Office Layout Be Like?

Why not schedule a meeting with your leadership team now. Get ready to pitch some of these ideas and see which ones feel right for your company.

After even small changes, a world of employee health and motivation will come your way!

Let us know the results: tell us all about it in our online forums so others can gain from your experience.

What are you waiting for? – Get planning!