Office worker cutout

Can you really increase employees' productivity levels by changingoffice design? All businesses would like to see their productivityrates improve, but what actually makes a difference? Whilearchitects have long insisted that design can have a much greaterimpact than purely on a functional or visual level, a number ofstudies now support the view that certain office features canreally have a positive, or negative, impact on our productivitylevels.

Office jungle

It has become popular to advise workers to explore nature intheir lunch hours in order to ease stress and take time out of theworkplace, but what if businesses were to build it into the officeenvironment? A study by Harvard University found that improvedindoor environmental quality, that is the existence of plants,doubled occupants' cognitive function test scores. These findingsare being put into practice across the world, including at the newheadquarters of Apple in California. There, approximately 10,000trees have been planted across the campus in a bid to increaseemployees' access to nature and thus aid their productivitylevels.


Related: Why your office is beginning to look like aforest


A further study by the University of Exeter found thatfurnishing an office with plants could increase productivity by 15percent. Researchers examined the effect of green offices onstaff's perceptions of air quality, concentration levels, andworkplace satisfaction and found that the existence of plants inthe work environment significantly increased workplacesatisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration and perceivedair quality.


This is why Spaces has partnered with Sprinklr, a company whospecialize in the delivery of large, sustainably grown plants tooffices in the Netherlands and Belgium. With the productivityimplications of having plants in the office space scientificallyproven, this partnership hopes to allow occupants to become lessstressed, more creative and healthier, and therefore moreproductive.

Let there be light

Along with nature, a number of studies have highlighted theimpact of different lighting levels on productivity. The bookEthonomics: Designing for the Principles of the Modern Workplaceshows that veering away from dingy lighting, small cubicles andcolourless, uninspiring offices will not only improve the mood ofemployees, but also increase productivity levels.


A 2018 study by Cornell University concluded thatworkers in daylit office environments reported an 84 percent dropin symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision – allof which reduce our ability to work productively.

Break out

Office layout can also play an integral part in boosting thehealth and well-being of employees. At the Google offices in NewYork, employees have access to a climbing wall, designed as a spacewhere employees can work out their tension, thus aiding them toreturn to their desks in a better frame of mind than in which theyleft.

Healing offices

It is this flexibility that is at the heart of a new partnershipbetween Spaces and the architecture firm D/Dock. Their 'HealingOffices' concept uses a design method that has been found tocontribute to the productivity and well-being of employees. Bystudying the impact of this concept, D/Dock has concluded that theworking environment has a 'significant impact' on the productivityand well-being of those using a building.


By looking at factors ranging from indoor climate and the use ofsustainable materials to the ability for employees to customizetheir own workspace, they identified that making the right changescould lead to a 10 percent increase in employees feeling moreproductive together with a general boost in energy levels andreduction in stress. As well as designing office space for bothGoogle and Microsoft in Amsterdam, D/Dock has been responsible forthe design of a number of Spaces offices worldwide.


It is perhaps no surprise that more and more companies areplacing increased emphasis on identifying the right design featuresand layout of their offices, that will boost productivity andcontribute to better health and happiness. The result will surelybe better productivity, happiness and employee retention.


Sharon Edmondson is vice president of HRAmericas, IWG.

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