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How workplace design affects employee productivity

If you think workplace design is something only large corporations have time to analyse and deploy in their immense and rich working environments, you’re in for a surprise. Small and medium-sized business owners can also influence the productivity of their employees through some relatively small changes applied to their workplace design.

Here’s all you need to know about how to arrange your office to help your employees become more engaged and productive.

Why does workplace design matter?

A recent study conducted by the UK government found out that simple workplace changes, such as good lighting and reduction of background noise, can limit absenteeism by 15% and increase employees’ productivity by 2.8% and 20%.

The report also pointed to the role of good workplace design in increasing worker satisfaction, motivation and staff retention. By providing a well-designed environment, employers can boost the creativity of their workers and affect the company’s success in attracting and retaining customers. Poor design, on the other hand, leads to a higher level of stress experienced by the employees.


Some people work well despite background noises, but the vast majority of workers find excessive sound annoying and distracting. When buying equipment for your office, make sure it doesn’t emit noises – beeping smartphones and loud telephone conversations conducted in open space office can significantly lower the productivity of your team.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, background noises aren’t safe. They increase general stress levels and worsen stress-related conditions, such as coronary diseases, high blood pressure, peptic ulcers or migraine headaches. The study also found out that people don’t ever get used to background noises – even though over time they might seem less distracting, ambient noises still affect our brains and bodies.


Plenty research studies, among them a particularly famous one by Mirjam Muench, have shown that dim lighting simply lowers productivity. If you think about installing fluorescent lights, think twice – some of your employees might get headaches from long exposure to this kind of lighting.

In order to create a pleasant working environment, provide lots of light – natural and artificial lighting creates a much more pleasant atmosphere and helps employees to read and focus on their job.


Office temperature was found to be especially relevant to the productivity of workers – according to a study conducted by researchers from COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, if you want your employees to become their most productive selves, you need to make sure that all rooms provide a pleasant temperature. When temperatures verge on either hot or cold extreme, workers won’t feel motivated to work as hard as they can.

If your air conditioning breaks during a hot summer or your heating system crashes in cold winter, don’t procrastinate. Get them fixed immediately – the losses in employees’ productivity will cost you much more than a simple repair.


If your employees do their job sitting down at their desks and staring into computer screens, you need to make sure that they’re comfortable all day long. As you might imagine, soft cushions and special desk seats are a better solution than hard wooden chairs.

But that’s not all. In order to make sure your office is a safe working environment, you need to check each and every piece of your equipment and see whether they pose a health or safety hazard.

It’s not only the objects involved in the interior design of your workplace that matter – the design itself counts a lot too. If you try to put together as many pieces of office equipment as you can, think twice. Creating cluttered environment will have a bearing on the productivity of your employees, who simply won’t have room to breathe and concentrate in the small space you provided.

More on workplace design

If you’d like to broaden your knowledge on the impact of working environment on employees’ efficiency, have a look at this comparative analysis offered by Jacqueline C. Vischer, Director of the Department of Interior Design at the University of Montreal, who produced a special report for the International Academy of Design and Health that investigates findings from several studies conducted over the years in different countries, drawing conclusions relevant to every possible working context.

All the research projects exploring the role of environment in workers’ productivity clearly point to one thing – the physical surroundings of the office has a significant impact on the efficiency of company employees. Ensuring a pleasant environment is not just about boosting productivity, but avoiding employee mistakes as well – a study conducted at Cornell University demonstrated that low temperatures at the office can cause a 44% increase of errors made on the job! Now that’s something no employer wants to deal with.


About the Author:

Tess PajaronTess Pajaron is a Community Manager at Open Colleges, an online learning provider based in Sydney, Australia. She has a background in Business Administration and Management.

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