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Design Elements of the Optimal Employee Workspace for Productivity

By Jocelyn Brown

December 30 2019 - When it comes to employee productivity, only 15 percent of organizations are focused on improving workplace productivity. This is according to KPMG's report Rethinking Human Resources In A Changing World. Lost workplace productivity costs U.S businesses approximately $550 billion each year due to employee disengagement. A large part of improving employee engagement at work centers on their physical environment - and its culture. Designing a workspace that is conducive to employee productivity and their best habits requires some forethought and planning but can help businesses achieve maximum productivity levels, boosted efficiency, reduced costs and lower employee turnover.

Create Built-In Opportunities For Movement Throughout The Work Day

Creating opportunities for rest and movement throughout the day can help employees focus better and boost their mental health. A recent study indicated that 66 percent of workers felt more productive with a one hour increase in standing time while 71 percent of them felt more focused. One way to achieve this is to install sit to standing desks. Alternatively, you can incorporate this goal into the design and layout of the workspace. Positioning ancillary equipment such as printers separately away from workstations encourages regular standing and movement.

In addition, consider the positioning of the employee breakroom or water cooler to encourage employees to get up and walk around to get their coffee. Employers can also incorporate smaller touches for added employee satisfaction, such as offering the choice of ethically sourced caffeine beverages or healthier breakroom snacks. According to several reports, the quality and productivity workers receive from fair-trade coffee is better than mass-produced coffee, as a result of better farming practices. Finally, program computer screens to timeout and remind employees to take a brief walk or break.

Mix And Match Your Floor Plan

Every employee has different work modes and preferences that affect their productivity level. In Mindspace's 2018 Workplace Productivity Report, distractions from colleagues are the number 1 cited distraction in the workplace. By 2014, over 70 percent of offices had adopted an open floor plan and that popularity has continued today. Fast forward to today and 27 percent of employees believe an open plan workspace can help them meet maximum productivity. However, there are rising complaints calling for a switch to designated workspaces by both employees and industry experts.

While an open floor office plan still has some merits, it has also been shown to decrease face to face interaction by 70 percent while boosting email interactions by 50 percent. Around 25 percent of respondents in Mindspace's survey indicated they desired designated quiet spaces to help them be more productive at work. Adding in designated quiet pods or rooms for those employees that thrive in those environments means you are catering to the needs of all of your workers. It also provides a much-needed place of solitude for workers to take a quick break when they need it, conduct important phone calls or brainstorming sessions.

Implement Business Ergonomics

The report also highlighted another important concern amongst employees: they want their workspace to be comfortable. Approximately 39.6 percent of them indicated that they wanted to see more comfortable furniture in the workplace while 25 percent wanted to see better lighting. Business ergonomics can help businesses achieve this - a comfortable workspace for employees. Begin with an ergonomic assessment of your workspace which takes into account your physical space and workforce's characteristics (think attitudes, preferences, and proportion to space). Be sure to keep in mind the design of workspace furniture. This includes ensuring desk chairs chosen provide adequate neck support, monitors are positioned no higher than eye level and steps are taken to control screen glare.

For an employer to enjoy the maximum benefits of its workforce i.e. optimal productivity, it must first invest in it to encourage its potential. This includes investing in a workspace that encourages productive habits. A better-designed workspace will not only reward employers with better worker efficiency but ensure employees' mental and physical health are considered, and their motivation in the workplace does not wane.


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