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4 Ways to Change Your Open Office Layout to Improve Health and Productivity

Posted on Dec 27, 2017, by Michael Eckert

We typically spend upwards of 40 hours a week in the office, so it's no surprise that the office environment has a significant impact on the health and well-being of the people who use it every day. Today we're looking at four ways to change-up the layout and environment of your office, in order to improve employee health - and in turn, their productivity - while at work.

Featured image: Zimmerman Advertising, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Design firm: Gensler Miami

1) Implement Office Zones

In an open office, one of the biggest drains on employee productivity are elevated noise levels: with large numbers of people sharing the same workspace, you're competing with everyone else to be heard when talking to a neighbor or running an informal meeting.

Fortunately, it can be relatively simple to improve this, by creating different zones within your open-plan space. For example, there are three main 'zones' in most offices:

  • Heads-down workspaces - this is where your employees will spend the majority of their day.
  • Breakout spaces - these should be set slightly apart from the main workspace, and are ideal for providing a change of scenery, or for running impromptu meetings.
  • Social spaces - these include communal spaces such as kitchen areas, and are the perfect places for employees to have a quick chat or to socialize during breaks.

Splitting your open office into different zones will help to manage the noise levels throughout the space: by creating spaces away from the heads-down workspace for conversation, it will help reduce noise levels in the area where most people want to focus on their work, enabling greater concentration and productivity.

2) Provide Breakout Spaces

One of the best ways to boost productivity is to add variety into your work day. A change of environment has been proven to boost creativity and productivity, so it's essential to create breakout spaces that feel distinct from the heads-down workspace (which can help define different office zones).

You should aim to furnish your breakout space differently to your heads-down workspace. Some companies aim for a relaxed, informal environment, installing sofas or beanbags. However, the key to increased productivity is building-in flexibility, so that breakout spaces can be used in different ways by different people. As such, modular furniture is the smart choice, with elements that can be moved around depending on the use case.

3) Create Quiet Spaces

The open office was designed to improve communication and collaboration, and while it successfully offers that for many employees, that's not the case for everyone. The elevated noise levels of open offices can become stressful over time - particularly for introverted workers who are more likely than their extroverted peers to struggle to focus and work productively in a noisy office environment.

To create an office space that works for everyone, you may want to consider designing dedicated 'quiet spaces' within a larger open office complex. For example, your breakout spaces could be soundproof booths or pods that offer a place to work away from the noise and bustle of the open office environment, and you could set-up closed meeting rooms to minimize disruption for the rest of the office.

Quiet spaces will help to manage noise levels within the office, keeping ambient noise levels lower, and helping to lower stress levels at the same time.

4) Design for Movement

As we learn more about the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, it's increasingly important to build more opportunities for movement into the workplace.

The average office worker spends more than five hours a day sitting at their desk, so even a little extra movement can offer significant health benefits. Additionally, stepping away from the desk and your computer screen every now and then can actually help you be more productive, as you get a chance to re-focus when you return.

One of the best ways to encourage movement is through the location of communal spaces, restrooms and kitchen facilities. Positioning these at different ends of the office, and as far as possible from the main workspace, will encourage building users to move around more throughout the day.

The A-Z of Health & Wellness in Interior Design

Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert