Employee Morale and your Office Design

by CoyDavidson on July 24, 2013

Interior of modern reception room

Guest Post by Steve Minks

Office design doesn’t just create a certain kind of impression for visitors or clients; it can significantly affect employee morale and productivity. Everyone prefers to work in pleasing surroundings of course, but beyond that, if an office is set up in such a way that workers are in environments that are too distracting, too isolated or too awkward for the tasks they need to complete, their performance will suffer.

These considerations raise the question, however, of what is “good” office design. To some extent, the answer is that it depends. The type of industry and the type of work done is key; an insurance or law office will have different needs from a company that specializes in design or advertising.

What the employees themselves would prefer should be taken into consideration as well, although this has its limits. However, every office will need to consider the design aspects highlighted below, and every industry can ask itself similar questions to form a better picture of its ideal office design.

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Space

In recent years, the trend has moved from workers inhabiting individual cubicles to open-plan offices, but are open plans really the answer? Probably not according to experts, or at least they aren’t the full answer. Studies support a kind of open-plan hybrid as being the most effective approach to the use of space in which employees have spaces for collaboration, small or large gatherings and quiet individual concentration.

Another advantage of this approach is that workers often perform more effectively when they have the opportunity to physically switch into different environments for different types of tasks. Asking workers how they use the space around them and how they would like to use it, is an important part of ensuring optimal design for an office, but actually observing employees is an important step as well.

What places do workers congregate and what places do they avoid and why? How much time is needed for collaboration, how much for quiet independent work and how much for private meetings? Answering these questions will lead to the best use of space whatever the industry. Inc.com has a number of good suggestions for turning those observations into effective office design.

Color

There’s a lot of talk and perceived wisdom about how color affects mood. Dramatic colors for walls such as red, orange and black are generally considered to be dynamic and potentially unsettling; greens and blues are said to be soothing while yellows are thought to perk up the spirit. Meanwhile, most offices tend toward neutral shades such as beige, cream and gray. In fact, one design company experimented with the effect of color on employees and found the results a bit more complicated. Greens and blues made people more productive but they liked them less; red and black carried positive associations that affected employee moods.

As with space, getting employee input into the types of colors that best balance productivity with morale is an important aspect of determining what role color will play in the design of any office.

Furniture and Extras

Cheap furniture will cost the company in the long run. Not only is it important that chairs and workspaces be ergonomically correct but poorly constructed office furniture will need more frequent replacement and, like poorly managed space and bad color choices, will interfere with productivity.

Within reason, here again is an area in which employee preferences can be taken into account. Some will prefer to have the opportunity to display personal items; some will want a space that inspires while others will want to project a certain image during client meetings.

More radical innovations should not be dismissed out of hand; Business Week reports on a growing trend in standing desks while many people in sedentary positions report fewer physical problems using unconventional methods of seating such as ball chairs and stools.

Office Design Tips

The type of industry, the desired image, the space available, employee preference and budget will all need to factor into your office design decisions. Therefore, compromise may be needed, and the best path to effective compromise will involve ranking the importance of these aspects.

Perhaps a private workspace is crucial but there’s no money in the budget this year to repaint the walls; employees may resist a radical open plan design but welcome different lighting and colors. Communication and a clear sense of goals in designing a workspace will go a long way toward satisfying the needs of the company and its workers.

About the Author

Steve Minks has over 25 years of IT & Digital expertise with a background in Property Development, Telecoms and as an accredited Health & Fitness professional. Now empowering businesses through improved Digital Marketing services designed for those seeking to gain a competitive edge. Outside of work, Steve enjoys writing on a range of subjects, exercise and visiting historical places.

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