It is not surprising that businesses set goals to enhance employee performance. What is unexpected is just how influential workplace design is in achieving those targets.
How can the workplace boost employee performance? An office or workspace designed to enhance output removes some of the stress associated with overcrowded, poorly lit, or over-lit spaces, not to mention generic open offices with one-size-fits-all approaches to workspace design. Architects have discovered that flexible workspace design encourages health and wellness among staff, and that in turn sparks higher levels of productivity.
The space where a person works can affect their outlook and their efficiency. Attractive architecture creates positive moods among workers, and flexible spaces with quiet individual workspaces—as well as areas for collaboration—contribute to employee productivity and enhance organizational success. When an individual chooses how he or she can complete the task at hand, that task becomes more enjoyable.
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Judith Heerwagen, a program expert with the General Services Administration who studies productivity and the workplace, explains that “a building can positively affect ability by providing comfortable ambient conditions, by enabling individual control and adjustment of conditions, and by reducing health and safety risks.” She adds that, through healthy and safe environments and workspaces designed to avoid inequities among staff, individual opportunities to succeed increase.
Good design makes for worker wellness
Workplace design should address the specifics of the job being done. Architects have learned that how people work is what must drive office design. The workspace will adapt to the person using it, rather than the person accommodating the space.
Offices and other workspaces should contribute to good health. US workers spend most of their time indoors. The indoor work environment greatly affects their wellness, happiness, and productivity. A properly designed office should be comfortable as well as healthy: The air is fresh, the temperature appropriate, and the lighting well-designed. Thermal comfort is high among worker requests. Individuals want to control airflow into their office, and teams want conference rooms with windows that open to let in fresh air. Worker control over ambient conditions, especially temperature, improves productivity.
Lighting is perhaps the most important component of office design. In general, workers prefer natural light and windows with views to the outside. Natural light is known to enhance energy and mood. Unlike artificial lighting, which is either on or off, daylight varies with the progression of time and with the season. Designers plan to maximize the penetration of natural light deep into each level of a large office building. One approach is to move enclosed spaces to the building core, leaving daylit and open spaces at the perimeter where windows are located.
Having a variety of flexible workspaces befitting different work styles and tasks is key to successful office design. For example, there is often a need for quiet workspaces, as disruptions can significantly hinder efficiency. When a worker needs to focus on an assignment, he or she should have somewhere to go. Also desired is somewhere to relax, such as a break room with indoor plants or views of nature. Having a place to escape the daily stress of an office can improve worker health and also productivity.
Analyze all the design elements that impact your workplace and provide an environment that supports your employees’ ability to get their jobs done. Recognizing that your office design is an essential tool that keeps employees happy and healthy can give your business a competitive edge.
About the author: Elena Marcheso-Moreno writes about architecture and design from McLean, Virginia.