Can the design of your office improve workplace productivity?

In most cases, employees today spend over fifty per cent of their waking hours at the workplace, and that environment greatly influences their performance.

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A bright and cheerful space invariably uplifts the mood and productivity, and also has a beneficial psychological impact on employees.
By Vikram Rao

It is widely known today that a ‘good design’ definitely boosts the productivity of a workplace in many ways. There are certain aspects involved in it which work simultaneously to achieve this goal.

In most cases, employees today spend over fifty per cent of their waking hours at the workplace, and that environment greatly influences their performance and mental framework, and consequently the KPI of the organisation. To create productive workplaces, we need to design a strategy that encourages an efficient, happier and healthier workforce.


In the first half of 2019 alone, the country’s commercial real estate market has boomed to record-high office space leasing, with the majority of growth being driven by BFSI firms, tech companies and conglomerates. The current real estate climate has given new impetus to developers, end-to-end service providers and design professionals, enabling the need to optimize workspace design, especially in top tier cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi NCR and Mumbai. One can account for the following parameters to re-envision the office workspace environment in the light of this rapid development.

1) Space Planning — Layouts are designed keeping in mind the functions of various departments and their relationships with each other. The sections which are co-dependent are usually clubbed together, whereas certain sections which demand privacy or silence; such as accounts or finance, are aligned at a distance from the others. With cloud computing and telecommuting gaining currency in modern times, the demand for open, flexible spaces that promote mobility has risen substantially. The importance of walking cannot be understated. Employees need to move around to collaborate; they cannot be expected to slog at their desks eight hours a day. Movement assists in posture development, in addition to fostering better relationships among employees.

Offering rejuvenation or breakout zones such as a games room, gym, café or pantry where employees can unwind and interact with fellow colleagues is essential in today’s work climate. The current trend of creating small collaboration spaces in between workstations is being adapted by many offices as it helps the employees amalgamate with their fellow colleagues in a much better way.
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Common but important services, such as print stations and vending machines should also be provided at regular intervals, as they inevitably optimize employee experience and assist them in day-to-day tasks.

2) Light & Ventilation — Standard lux levels are allocated for each space, based on its function, as one cannot have it same in a workstation area and a cafeteria or pantry. While artificial light plays a vital role in regulating workspace illumination, daylight ingress is vital and a determining well-being factor as many studies suggest it enhances work productivity tremendously. Likewise, recycled air is another contributor to employee sickness and absenteeism. The spread of flu and cold through an outmoded HVAC system can derail your company's work. Plants not only contribute to cleaner and better quality air, but also create a sense of calmness and add to the overall aesthetics of a workplace.

3) Ergonomics — owing to prolonged screen time and sedentary desk jobs, fatigued and frustrated workers are ubiquitous, and to avoid this scenario, offices are focusing on ergonomic designs, which can be attained by integrating anthropometry into it.

For instance
• Furniture that provides neutral posture comfort to a person, sometimes it could also be height-adjustable, as one can work smoothly even while standing. Get chairs which have a backrest up to the shoulder, and an armrest to support the forearm. Often, employees can be heard complaining about back or shoulder aches, which certainly takes away from productivity and affects the overall work environment. Considering the long hours at the desk, chairs with convexity near the lower back are recommended as they provide better support and comfort. Similarly, the work desk should be around the elbow level, allowing the shoulders to elevate or lean forward to work. Adding a foot rest under the table is also advisable.
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• Provide appropriate heights and curved edges to the vertical utilities.
• Ensure sufficient space between the furniture to facilitate better movement and stretching.

4) Acoustics — there exists a fine line between being interactive in a collaborative space, and being uncomfortable in a noisy environment. To avoid the latter, it is advised to design work areas in a manner that the employee has the option to think and work in a quiet and peaceful environment, along with the choice to collaborate and ideate in areas meant for discussions and brainstorming.
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While designing an open office area, make sure that it either has a minimal noise count; alternatively create a few quiet zones to sit and concentrate when required.

Configuration of dividers, walls, barriers in a layout can play an important role while defining the limit of sound or noise count. Moreover, the selection of materials throughout the workplace influences the noise level to a great extent. For instance, a tile or hard floor surface would not absorb as much sound as a soft carpet or even vinyl flooring would. This can be further improved by raising and insulating the floor a little in order to reduce the echo.

5) Aesthetics — a bright and cheerful space invariably uplifts the mood and productivity, and also has a beneficial psychological impact on employees.

Design includes personality, be it the clients or your own employees, branding plays a vital role when it comes to aesthetics. It creates a sense of identity and credibility for the organization.
Similarly, walls dedicated to team journeys, awards and credential displays, accomplishments / excellence graphs add warmth to the space. It also adds to the interior design and encourages employees to feel motivated and work harder, because when employees are enthused and energized, they are bound to be more productive and efficient with both time and resources. Hence, we can say that a creative environment is inspiring and engaging for the workforce, which ultimately leads to the success of the organization.

Vikram Rao is, CEO, Brawn Globus.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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