Why Great Office Design Matters to Your Staff and Your Bottom Line

Key Points

Office design can have a profound impact on business performance – from creating a striking first impression for clients to inspiring staff to work more creatively.

On this page we look at:

  1. Communication
  2. Mood
  3. Productivity

There is much more to office design than where you place your team’s desks and chairs. Great design can have a profound impact on the wellbeing and productivity of your staff and therefore your business as a whole, so this should be a key investment. A well-designed office can help retain existing staff as well as attract new staff – when ecommerce specialist Visualsoft had its office redesigned by Dale Office Interiors, job applications per role increased by 77%. The redesign also increased client satisfaction at Visualsoft, with the company experiencing a 60% improvement in service delivery to clients.

Image: Dale Office Interiors

The right fit for your workplace

Great office design can win your company new business as it makes a statement about the type of company you are and can reflect your business brand and culture – whether this is ultra-modern, quirky or traditional.

This concept works best when the way your office looks reflects what it is you do. For example, a funky office design suits businesses in the creative industries but wouldn’t work as well for an accountancy firm. Writing in Deezen magazine, office design expert Jeremy Myerson points out that the trend for quirky office design influenced by Google doesn’t work for every company and that “each company needs its own fit between the physical infrastructure of the office and their own organisational culture”.

While great office design increases staff retention, recruitment and morale, poor office design that doesn’t fit the needs of a business has the opposite effect. A survey by office supplies company Steelcase revealed that 84% of workers thought their workspace “did not allow them to concentrate easily, express ideas freely, work in teams without interruption, or choose where to work based on the task at hand. They found a lack of privacy to be one of the most sinister office issues, though they cautioned that a wholesale shift to private offices is no solution—it’s all about striking a balance”.

3 things great office design can improve

1. Communication

In theory, communication has never been easier following the introduction of mobile phones, email, instant messaging and social media into the workplace. Much has been written about how technology is actually detrimental to communication in the workplace, and as novelist Jonathan Safran Foer put it in the New York Times, “We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts.”

True connections come from being present and being attentive to what others are saying when working together. Collaborative workspaces encourage idea sharing and creativity but there’s more to designing a space that encourages collaboration than simply removing walls and creating an open office.

Image: Mozilla’s open plan office, London

How can office design help?

Flexibility is a key way for a collaborative workspace to be successful, and flexible furniture enables teams to create a space that works for them. The iconic furniture design company Herman Miller has developed a range of flexible furniture that can be configured and moved in line with a company’s requirements. The modular furniture allows colleagues to work at each other’s desks if required and features partitions which create more privacy for individual or small group work.

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Image: Deskmag

Access to the right technology and devices can enhance collaborative working, such as projectors, integrated power points that support multiple devices, reliable Wi-Fi and story walls. Designing seating clusters around these support tools encourages collaboration without the interruption of having to find extension leads or look for whiteboard markers, for example.

Social spaces are a strong trend in office design but they should no longer be seen as an added bonus to the overall design. They are important spaces as they encourage interactions between staff at all levels and this helps to create a sense of community. Writing for FM World, K2 Space managing director Mark Phillips points out the usefulness of versatile social spaces, “With today’s mobile, digital workforce often choosing to meet and exchange ideas in office kitchens and breakout areas, it is here that facilities managers can get the best from their people – where they feel physically, acoustically and intellectually comfortable.”

Image: Dale Office Interiors

2. Mood

Stress and anxiety spread quickly in an office. If a member of staff is rushed and complaining about how much work they have to do then this can make other members of the team feel stressed and feel they need to work harder. One study showed that the sweat produced when people are stressed releases chemical signals which, when inhaled by others, stimulates emotional arousal in the brain. The effect, known as ‘second hand stress’, is highly contagious and a study published in the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology journal showed that 26% of people experienced an elevation in cortisol levels when they observed someone who was stressed.

When people are stressed they “have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher absenteeism than those not working under excessive pressure”, all aspects that can have a detrimental impact on your staff and your business as a whole.

How can office design help?

A certain level of stress is to be expected in most jobs but designing an office that minimises the impact of this stress may help your team keep their anxiety under control. Bringing nature into the office is a simple way to reduce levels of stress. Biowalls are a recent trend that enable walls of vegetation to be introduced to the office space, enhancing the look of an office by creating an impressive focal point. These living walls have a positive impact on the wellbeing of staff by improving air quality, diminishing excessive noise and bringing a sense of calm to the office.

Image: Biowall

The noise and clamour of a busy office can be stressful in itself and as we’ve seen above, stress spreads, so one way to help create a calmer mood in the office is to include quiet spaces in the design. Designated ‘quiet zones’ can be used for working without distractions, private meetings or just having a few minutes downtime away from the rest of the office. The spaces can come in the form of pods, such as those designed by Acoustic Pods, or Hush Pods designed by Freya Sewell for a private place to hide away and work or just meditate and relax to recharge.

Image: Hush Pods by Freya Sewell

3. Productivity

Countless studies have been done on the importance of productivity in the workplace and how to successfully increase a team’s output while keeping them happy. WeWork cofounder and CEO Miguel McKelvey believes that happiness is the basis for a productive office, “Happiness, the feeling of positivity, really is the foundation of productivity.”

Just like stress, negativity can spread across the company, creating a toxic environment that zaps productivity. A happy workplace and happy employees have “lower medical costs, work more efficiently and have less absenteeism”. The current buzzword around productivity is ‘presenteeism’ where team members are physically at work but they are either not well or are unproductive. Being in this state can have a major impact on productivity, cutting it by a third. Interestingly, in one survey, people working in the creative industries ranked highest when it came to reporting a “culture of presenteeism”. The research also discovered that 88% of people surveyed said there were no private spaces in the office for them to concentrate in and only 34% said their office had specific rooms designed to aid particular activities.

How can office design help?

Great office design can have a direct impact on productivity, and therefore your bottom line, by making your staff feel “physically, acoustically and intellectually comfortable”. Getting the basics right in office design goes a long way towards improving productivity. Lighting (especially natural light), WC and kitchen facilities, storage, temperature and noise levels are office design fundamentals which can have a huge impact on how your team feel when they’re at work. In one survey, comfort, lighting and temperature were listed as the top three most important factors that affect people’s wellbeing at work.

Image: Dale Office Interiors

When we worked with Go Outdoors, the Sheffield-based outdoor lifestyle retailer, its priority was to improve its kitchen and WC facilities to suit the needs of an expanding team. This simple change was at the heart of an overall office redesign that helped to create a renewed sense of community and helped team members feel more valued and therefore happier at work.

Even something as simple as ensuring the equipment installed in the office is ergonomic can help to increase staff engagement and productivity by reducing fatigue and the risk of injuries.

Great office design can boost the wellbeing of your team and therefore increase their productivity, which can make a difference to your business’s bottom line. Whether you want to retain your staff by providing facilities that make them feel valued, or increase creativity with inspiring interiors – redesigning your office could be the key to a happier, more productive working environment.

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"The team at Dale were incredibly
efficient, friendly and helpful, and
we couldn’t recommend them more
Gavin Whiley
Managing Director at Havwoods Designer
"Our new office will help us grow our
business further, attract Bradford’s
top talent and enhance our team’s
Victoria Davey
Gordons Partner and Head of Operations