OfficeLand: Increasing Productivity Through Design

Filed Under Mind Mapping

What’s behind these next generation office layouts
Arwen Petty

by
July 8, 2013

The word ‘office’ gets a bad rap. It dredges up images of dull-faced drones hunched over coffee-stained keyboards, sallow beneath too-bright fluorescent lighting. But a youth-centric shift in the modern workforce is transforming humdrum corporate offices into relaxed, colorful, progressive workspaces primed for creativity and inspiration.

Even better? Throwing out the ol’ gray-and-brown cubicle is proving invaluable for productivity.

Survey Says: Beanbags = Good

If the attention span is going the way of the noble thumb drive, it’s at least partly because job-hopping is the new normal for knowledge workers: studies show that today’s industry employee only stays at a single company for about 4.4 years.

Turnover this rapid is a big problem for business. The investment of recruiting, educating, and supporting a single employee is equal to the cost of their annual salary + tools and training, less the profit and hours lost waiting for them to become independently productive. Without some additional efforts geared towards employee retention, the constant disruption in personnel becomes expensive, and fast. Plus, it’s a big blow to operations and product development when your workforce is in a perpetual state of catching up.

Enter this survey from the BCO, which polled 1,168 office workers about the impact of location and design. Forty-three percent of respondents said they prefer non-traditional work spaces to corporate setups, and with too much variability in terms of what ‘non-traditional’ entails, it may be more about attitude than anything else. If the perception is that of a fun, approachable space, people will want to be there more often. Loyalty is bolstered, and you’re less likely to drive out employees by aesthetic alone.

Statistically Speaking

“I always wanted to make an office that people really feel comfortable with and feel like it’s theirs,” says Daniel Keighron-Foster, founder of IT server host Melbourne, “Not just a sterile work environment that they can’t wait to leave.”

And so he has. From pinball machines to pool tables, Melbourne is proudly staff and morale-focused, decking out their space with kitschy lounges, vintage furniture, and whimsical indoor gardens. And the cost? Pretty worth it — while Keighron-Foster states that an ‘extra’ 33% was invested in creating this office dreamland, the return comes in the form of more prospective clients, the ability to attract new talent, and happy, productive, highly-collaborative employees. “That says it all to me,” he says.

BCO chief executive Richard Kauntze notes that “about 85% of business cost is people, 15% is property. So if your people benefit from the value of that much smaller cost, the 15% property, it makes sense.” Interior design company Ambius backs that up with some additional stats, claiming that cultivated work environments improve productivity by approximately 15%, and letting workers have a voice about their workspace design can up productivity by more than 30%.

These numbers don’t lie, my friends.

But Don’t Get Too Excited…

All the flash in the world isn’t going to get a company anywhere if the basics of the organization are broken. Business models have to be able to support all the fun stuff with a solid backbone of strategy and sustainability, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a small foothold on the market, either. A three-story slide that dumps you into a pile of beanbags might get potential talent through the door, but beware of trying to hide a weak infrastructure beneath gourmet snacks and EnergyPods (which, by the way, are really cool). Your employees will notice if your morale expenditures are desperate and coercive.

The key to increasing productivity through design is leveraging expenses against environment while tempering fanfare with practical business needs. But hey, that’s what profits are for — reinvesting in tools and ingenuity, building culture, and growing your business.

Need some inspiration? Check out this gallery to see some of the best modern office designs in the world.

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