What Impact Does an Office Layout Have on Productivity?
By Osmond Ergonomics on 15th Feb 2019
What Impact Does an Office Layout have on Productivity?
Worker productivity is a key indicator in measuring economical health and potential growth, and this remains true no matter the scale it applies to. From SMEs to entire states and countries, how much work is completed by an employee per hour of working is crucial to establishing long term success.
The UK currently has one of the worst rates of productivity per hour worked amongst the G7 countries, only recently rising above the pre-crash levels of 2008. That is over a decade of near zero improvement, with the deficit versus pre-crash expectations now sitting at -20%.
There are many theories on why this is, blaming everything from companies for not investing enough and workers for not being good enough, to the way the numbers themselves are calculated.
One area that can be attributed to affecting productivity is the working environment, and when looking to improve the productivity of an office there are two constants governing how they affect those working within them.
Peace and Quiet Allows Focus
The removal of noise and other distractions increases the volume of work completed. Unfortunately the infamous office cubicles of the 60s created workplaces that generated large volumes of work, with social interaction and distraction kept to an absolute minimum in order to focus all energies on working.
However, volume of work does not automatically translate into better worker productivity. Much time can be wasted on completing unnecessary work and the office cubicle can encourage just that.
For example, long email chains between employees in the same building, or even on the same floor, waste significant amounts of time. Instead of being encouraged to have a quick and informal talk, they can instead find themselves typing out lengthy responses over the course of a day or week.
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Being Open Makes You Approachable
The improvement of communication was the primary motivation behind the open plan office, which coincidently emerged around the same time as the office cubicle.
Breaking down the walls and barriers between workers was intended to encourage interaction and facilitate the flow of information – boosting productivity by speeding up the communication process. The exchange of ideas and working together to solve difficult problems combined the thinking power of multiple workers, enabling them to produce ever greater works.
The downside to open plan offices is there can be too much exchanging of information, with much of it unnecessary and serving only to provide distraction from the task at hand. Some studies have estimated the amount of productivity lost in an open place office can be as high as 28%.
The Middle Ground
With the contrasting advantages and disadvantages inherent within these two office types, it is perhaps unsurprising that many offices are finding their solutions in the middle ground between them.
A combination of bright, open areas, and secluded or enclosed environments to provide quiet areas, work to create a hybridised environment that allows workers to choose the space they need as they need it.
Open plan offices provide other benefits over enclosed spaces that help to improve worker wellbeing. Bright and airy working environments which allow natural light to permeate improves the health and mood of workers, and for these reasons the open plan is used as the setting for a combined approach office layout.
However, open plan does not mean no plan - specific working areas and traffic flow management is needed for the layout to be a success. This encourages collaborative working, social interaction and distraction to happen in areas where it does not impact on those needing isolation to work, while the office still retains the benefits of making colleagues more approachable and improving the flow of information and ideas.
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Our unique approach
Osmond Ergonomics works with a variety of organisations to provide a total office solution for organisations to accommodate the working styles of all their employees. By tailoring the environment to the individual needs of each business we can provide the optimum solution that works for them.
If you would like to discuss your office layout with us then please make an enquiry today or call our expert team on 0345 345 0898.