How to design a productive, inspiring office space

Does your office look (and feel) a bit drab and grey? Want to inspire and motivate your staff? Here’s how to design a productive workplace.

According to research, only 13% of all working Americans like their jobs. And as unhappy staff are often less motivated and productive, it makes good business sense for employers to find ways to change this.

So what can you do? There are obviously things you can look at that involve the roles people are doing – salaries, responsibilities, working hours, flexibility, goal setting etc.

But what about your workplace? Are there any simple adjustments you can make that could improve it, and help your employees to enjoy being at work more?

Here are six tips to help you design a workplace that’s more welcoming and inspiring to your staff.

1) Choose the office colours and d├ęcor wisely

Pick your office colours carefully. It’s generally accepted now that colours can elicit an emotional response in us, so use this knowledge when picking your palette.

For example, if you want to energise your employees, think about adding red accents (a completely red room might be a bit overwhelming!). Blue and green, meanwhile, has a feeling of optimism and hope.

It’s not just colours that can help to motivate people. Inspiring typography can also uplift and put a smile on someone’s face.

2) Design quiet zones

Open plan offices can be great – but can also be overwhelming at times. Especially if you find noise distracting or have a tricky project to complete that requires intense concentration.

So make sure you design quiet zones for people to take refuge in. It can be a space for quiet meetings, to work without disturbance, or just to take some quiet moments out for contemplation or regrouping.

Use colour and add plants to your quiet zone, so it’s not just a refuge from noise, but a genuinely relaxing and reenergising space.

3) Allow employees to decorate their working spaces

You may have a general interior theme in your office, but don’t be too restrictive with people’s tastes. The more people can personalise their own personal working spaces, the more comfortable (and therefore happy) they’ll feel in them.

Research shows that the more autonomy we have at work, the happier we are with our job. This includes choosing our working hours and location. But it’s also important to feel that we have some say in what the place we work in looks like – especially if we’re spending most of our waking hours in the week there.

On a larger scale this means, if you can, involve your employees in making office decor choices. Don’t simply unveil a new office layout or design that’s been decided by people who won’t spend eight hours a day stuck with it. Instead, make the design a democratic, collaborative process.

On a smaller scale, giving people more autonomy simply means enabling them to decorate or adapt their own desk or cubicle, and make it their own by adding pictures and bringing in their own ornaments etc, if they wish.

According to research by the University of Exeter, your reward could be a 30% boost in productivity.

4) Design collaboration spaces

No one likes to feel trapped or restricted. And that’s just what can happen when employees are restricted to their cubicles and desks for long hours.

Sometimes it is almost impossible to sit comfortably in a crowded office or even to share ideas seamlessly. No wonder people often make coffee, get water or walk to the printer – any excuse to get up, move around and have a human interaction.

So how can you ease the feeling of being trapped, and give people constructive opportunities to get out from behind their desk and exchange ideas and solution? Simple: add collaboration spaces to your office layout.

Collaboration spaces can be as simple as a small room or just a corner area with chairs in – preferably by a window. Anywhere people can move away from the physical and intellectual constriction of being trapped behind a desk and staring at the same view for hours on end.

And instead, get a new perspective (literally and metaphorically) and interact with other colleagues. Who knows that brilliant ideas will be inspired by a short break from their workspace, and how many tricky problems can be quickly solved with the fresh perspective of a colleague.

5) Invest in good quality furniture

There’s another potential downside to spending hours every day in the same seat at the same desk: back problems!

Sitting comfortably at your workspace won’t just help your posture, but can also boost productivity. So when choosing your office furniture, don’t cut corners by choosing the cheapest products.

Instead look into office chairs with the best lumbar support, and seek out ergonomic desks that are the right height for maximum comfort. And, as with design, if you’re planning an office overhaul, involve your staff in an decisions, and ask them which desks and chairs they prefer.

6) Design a comfortable break room

Where do your employees eat lunch and take breaks? If you’re in a city or town centre there may be plenty of options nearby, and you may find they’re happy to escape the office for a break.

But what if you’re on an industrial estate, or located in the middle of nowhere?

There’s nothing worse than feeling trapped at work. At having a lunchbreak but nowhere to actually spend it, other than stuck at your desk. It hardly sets you up for an inspired, productive afternoon of work, does it?

So if your employees have few break options consider setting aside a space or room for breaks. Ask them what they’d like in it, and how they’d like it decorated. Make sure its inviting, comfortable and equipped with everything they need. So when they do return to work after a break, they’re refreshed and ready to work.

Photo by Johnson Wang