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Moving away from lean office design empowers employees

Employees who are involved in the design of their personal workplace have been found to be up to a third more productive, according to office and care management studies by University of Exeter chartered psychologist Dr. Craig Knight. Knight spoke to Dynamic Business about the impact a work environment has on employee productivity.

Knight’s research, which involved more than 2000 office workers, found that the lean and minimalistic office designs that have been popular for years are not conducive to employee productivity.

Research suggests “enriched” spaces, with plants and art on display can increase employee productivity by 15 percent because they feel more comfortable and content in their surroundings.

While enrichment is good, allowing employees to be a part of the development of their own work environments is even better. This empowerment can increase their productivity even more, up to 32 percent. Allowing them to choose particular plants or display souvenirs and personal photos helps create a sense of identity in the workplace.

Knight believes this is to do with our basic instincts as humans.

“There’s no big difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom in this regard. If you put any other animal into a similar impoverished space, it really isn’t happy. If you put a butterfly into a lean glass jar, it is unnatural,” he said.

“As animals, we like enriched spaces and if we are involved in the decision-making process it’s even better.”

According to Knight, identifying with your workspace is paramount to increased productivity.

“If you go into a space and can see something of yourself, your identity realised in that space, then that’s a good space. If you like a lean space, you’re just as productive as someone sitting in a forest, but to impose that space is the worst you can do.”

For small business, creating these empowered spaces is particularly viable because involving your employees in the decision-making process is easy. Knight said that managers simply need to loosen up, and not just try to enrich the office in the way they think is best, but must consider their employees and share the empowerment.

If employees have been involved in the decision-making process, they are more likely to enjoy the space, and if they do not, the responsibility is partly their own.

This can save money too. Investing into a space that employees claim would increase their productivity, instead of spending money on renovating a space that may be disliked, is a wise investment.

Dr Knight will be in Australia during September to give a series of talks on the benefits of improving work place design.  The talks, part of the Tenant Education Series, are being hosted by the Green Building Council of Australia and supported by Jones Lang La Salle, Leighton Holdings and interior plantscaping specialist Ambius.

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Liz Trethowan

Liz Trethowan

Elizabeth Trethowan is an intern writer at Dynamic Business. Currently doing her masters in media and communications, she absolutely loves to write. Still enjoying the student lifestyle, she can often be found trying out new recipes in the kitchen or curling up for a good movie with friends.

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