If you’re big on having an office with an open-floor plan design to bring your employees together and foster collaboration, you may want to rethink that layout. It may actually hurt your business. A study done by The University of Queensland in Australia found that 15% of open-plan office workers have had a dispute with a colleague, 12% felt frustrated, 8% weren't satisfied with their job and 11% said they were not performing their work effectively. This indicates that while an open-space office plan may seem like a good idea to help with communication and collaboration, it may be counter-productive because it makes it harder to do tasks that require focus. So what’s the ideal office space? The answer is not something to be taken lightly. When thinking of ways to boost productivity and profits, don’t underestimate looking at your own office space. Having the right working environment can also make your firm appear as one that fosters innovation and creativity, which can make it stand out from competitors. A well designed office can also help you attract the best employees. People want to work for Google, not just because they’re innovative, but because it looks like a cool place to work.
The value of a well-designed office space is supported by studies done by Gensler, a leading design firm that has done extensive research on the connection between staff performance and workplace. In 2006, they did a survey in which they asked workers to rate the importance of workplace design. 89% of respondents rated it “important” to “very important”. 90% indicated that better workplace design and layout results in better overall employee performance. One thing you can do is make sure your office has the right balance to meet the needs of your staff’s daily activities.
Balancing Work Space
Through its research, Gensler has identified four work modes. These activities, in which workers are involved on a weekly basis, require focus, collaboration, learning, and socializing.
- Focus: Analyzing, writing, problem solving and creating
- Collaborate: Knowledge sharing, brainstorming, etc.
- Socialize: Interacting with coworkers, bonding, networking, share cultures or backgrounds
- Learn: Gaining new knowledge or skill sets
An office that provides the facilities for workers to engage in these activities provides the platform for them to be as creative and innovative as possible. The question is how much of your office space do you devote to each.
All of these working modes and activities are interconnected according to Gensler’s research. You have to find that perfect balance and this will vary by industry. Workers surveyed by Gensler reported that the bulk of their time was spent on focus-based activities.
Gensler developed a Workplace Performance IndexSM (WPI) measurement and analysis tool to help clients understand what makes up the most effective work environment. Based on Gensler’s findings, a workplace that scores well on the WPI for effective focus also scores well for collaboration, learning and socializing. The opposite is also true. This is supported by the University of Queensland’s study that found that an open-office environment in which workers had poor resources for focus time appeared to result in some unhappy employees.
Talk to Your Staff
How do you know if your office space isn't working? Talk to your staff to find out what they think about their work space. Better yet, take an anonymous survey to gauge the physical comfort of the office, and find out your staff’s needs for places to collaborate or do focused work. You can also see how employees perceive their working environment. Is it a place that fosters or stifles innovation and creativity? The workplace affects your staff’s sense of satisfaction, level of engagement and performance. According to Gensler, the higher a firm’s WPI, the better the financial performance, employee engagement, competitiveness and innovation. If you’re starting a business or thinking about redesigning your office layout, give considerable thought to how you design your office. It can mean the difference between high morale and productivity, and disgruntled employees who can’t wait to escape the office.