The office environment most of us have experienced at some point in our lives has been subject to a variety of evolving concepts on how to best use the space available.
Different philosophies have held sway over the commonly accepted practices at varying points through time, and even now new research is emerging that threatens to turn the tables again on the seemingly ever present cubicle vs open plan debate.
One thing that cannot be debated is that by investing time, effort and money into an office environment according to a well thought out and deliberate plan the organisation can and will benefit from it.
The key factor any manager responsible for designing an office is looking for is an improvement in productivity. Unless placing particular importance on some of the other less tangible benefits of a modern office, the investment is exactly that – an investment. It needs a return in the form of increased output from the employees working in it.
Designing spaces to improve traffic flow, reduce distraction, improve concentration, and spark creativity will obtain the financial gain needed to justify the expense. Employees will likely not even be aware of when, how or why their behaviour changes, only that they are getting more done and to a higher standard.
Implementing technology further augments their efficiency and overall capability. Assisting in a variety of ways, technology can make what used to be time consuming tasks easy and straightforward, as well as elevating output to a higher and more professional standard.
As new generations grow up with increasingly sophisticated levels of technology, so too must work environments employ the same technology to keep up and cater for how the habits of people are evolving.
Discover what impact an office layout has on productivity here.
The productivity benefit is increased even further when the improvement in staff morale is factored in. In the increasingly cynical world we inhabit, employees are no longer under the illusion that office refits happen for their enjoyment alone.
However, the effect is still the same. Employees like to feel valued, and an investment in their place of work is still perceived somewhat as a reward or validation of their efforts - encouraging them to do more to obtain further investment.
Health & Wellbeing
Compared with some other jobs, working in an office could be seen as being as pedestrian as can be when it comes to the risks of working in one. However, offices can be pretty unhealthy places for a variety of reasons.
The sum that employee absenteeism costs business has an easily defined figure – in theory. But that figure can’t and doesn't account for the effect poor health can have on employee productivity when they are in the office but still suffering. This makes looking after employee health a priority, not an afterthought.
The sedentary nature of office work does no favours for the human body, resulting in a variety of complaints relating to posture and cardiovascular health. New office furniture designs work to combat these problems, with pieces designed to support the body in the correct way and reduce or eliminate these issues.
New concepts in how work can be completed have also resulted in innovations like standing desks, or even walking desks, where users can carry out tasks while upright and engage in physical exercise while they work.
The mental health of employees is an area that is being given increasingly higher levels of consideration too, with numerous studies emerging about the causes and effects. Employees are at work for a third of their time most days, which places workplace environments high up the list of potential causes of illness.
Carefully assessing and providing for the health needs of those who will be working in the environment is a good example of a return on investment. Making the proper provisions before potential health problems emerge and/or escalate will result in less expenditure later on as absence is reduced and ongoing health demands are less severe.
Despite what the ideal may be, appearances matter – even to those used to seeing something on a regular basis. Pride is a factor; employees want to be proud of where they work, and when they are they will push themselves harder to justify their position.
To those seeing inside for the first time, those first impressions are important and can set the tone for what follows. A potential employee may be judging if they can see themselves working there or not, or a prospective client could be visiting to see how the business they’re considering working with operates. They will pay attention to what they see.
Employees are an asset. They are what power your business, and by giving them the proper tools they can elevate it further than ever before. The work place they operate in is a component of their potential, and designing an office environment that will help get the best out of them cannot be underestimated in importance.
Not every business has an unlimited budget to design state of the art office space employees would dream of, but by addressing the issues within reach of your budget you can still make a lasting improvement.