The start-up culture put office design under the spotlight with the likes of Google and Apple making headlines for creating elaborate workspaces for their employees. Suddenly, the idea of having chill out areas, games consoles and all kinds of other office perks is considered a good thing. But do they really improve productivity?
As it turns out, they often cause more harm than good, as multiple studies and reports have shown.
Which begs the question: what does a productive office look like? In this article, you’ll find out why following the Google model doesn’t work for most businesses. And what you need to consider for your next office redesign.
Why doesn’t the Google model work?
The easy answer to this question is that the Google model does work – for Google. However, this doesn’t mean throwing a slide in the middle of a lawyers’ office is suddenly going to make a firm 30% more productive. In fact, studies of more than 300 companies have found open-plan offices – where everyone works in the same space – significantly hurts productivity.
While another study from last year revealed that 58% of high-performance employees say they need quieter working spaces to get things done.
As HubSpot’s Jami Oetting explains on Medium, open working spaces often improve communication. But may employees say they feel less productive and creative due to the increase in noise and distractions. So, clearly, the Google approach isn’t working for many businesses but what does that mean for your next office design?
Designing an office that works for you
The reason many businesses fail with office redesigns is because they simply try to copy something they’ve seen elsewhere. Oh, that company did this and increased productivity by 120% – let’s do that!
Except the reason “that company” increased productivity is because they extensively researched and planned their office redesign to meet their unique needs. They didn’t try to copy the latest success story in Forbes.
As UK office design consultancy Office Principles says:
“The workplace should always support employees in their work. A smart office should be centred on the people working there. What attracts and motivates them to be able to perform at their best? In order to achieve maximum workplace productivity an office should be designed for flexibility. Flexible in a way that it is accessible to be used every day depending on different activities. And that it is open for changes and innovation over time.”
The Way Forward
The key to boosting productivity through office design is understanding the challenges your team faces on a day-to-day basis. As we’ve already established, improving communication by adding open workspaces often comes at the cost of hurting overall productivity and creativity. So you may need to consider a mix of open and private spaces that your team can move between as needed.
It’s also important to provide areas where your staff can relax during breaks. This would allow them come back more refreshed. This doesn’t mean turning every desk into chess boards is going to help them get things done when they need to be concentrating on work. So forget about the gimmicks and concentrate on making sure you invest in the right equipment your team needs to get the job done. For many companies, this means the right computers, software and comfortable furniture.
Finally, always remember that office designs don’t end with the layout and contents of your workspace. You also need to create the right kind of office culture to get the most from your staff and enable them to get the best results. For some teams, this might mean flexible working while others might perform better under a stricter set of guidelines. It’s your job to know what will make your employees more productive.
As with anything in business, there’s no magic fix that’s going to boost productivity for every company. The firms that get results achieve them by setting out clear goals. And conducting the research it takes to find the answers they need. The most productive office for your business is going to be unique from every other workspace. And your first job is to find out what that should look and feel like for your employees.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think an office design has the power to improve productivity? Do sound off in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading.