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How to avoid 5 common office design mistakes

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A well-designed workspace isn’t just aesthetically pleasing; it has tangible benefits to employees and employers alike. In a study of 7,000 office workers, 76% agree that a well-functioning and attractive office workspace encourages staff retention. And 77% agree there’s a link between an office workspace and fulfilment.

Companies often assign the task of designing the office to someone who might not be an expert in the impact workplace design can have on happiness and productivity. To help, we’ve identified five common office design mistakes with the steps you can take to correct them:

1. Haphazard layout

An open floor plan office is a common workplace design because its flexibility allows companies to grow their businesses without costly renovation or expansion—you simply add more desks. However, you need to consider how employees actually use the space and the way they'll be working in order to make it the best environment possible for doing great work.

By creating an intentional design that accommodates different types of working styles, you'll still reap the cooperative rewards of open floor plans, while maintaining a sense of direction and purpose for teams to focus on their tasks. For example, an activity-based working (ABW) design includes unassigned seating as well as areas for collaboration and focused work. A neighbourhood choice environment (NCE) has a combination of assigned seating for groups and unassigned seating for individuals, allowing for task-based settings.

2. Bad acoustics

One of the most common complaints in today’s workplace is office noise, according to a study published in the British Journal of Psychology, and it harms productivity. Another study finds that noise can cause poor posture as employees slump into their workstations to escape it.

Be mindful of office acoustics. Consider materials that absorb sound instead of letting it bounce around a room, particularly in conference rooms. Panels covered with noise-reducing fabrics limit how far a conversation can be heard outside and they also make for better quality conference calls, reducing possible frustration. Even chairs can help limit distractions, with wing-back chairs shielding you from noise.

3. Poor lighting

If your office is still using fluorescent lighting, you could be hurting your employees’ health and productivity. Studies show that poor lighting can cause eyestrain, migraines, depression and anxiety. Employees who work near natural light, however, are more productive and have increased memory, according to studies.

Take advantage of the windows in your office, removing blinds or film to significantly increase alertness levels among workers. Cool white or artificial daylight bulbs are the most beneficial for computer-based tasks, according to a study published in Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences.

4. Unattractive décor

Wall colour can have a psychological impact on employees. Choose the wrong shade and you may inadvertently harm happiness and productivity. A study from the University of Texas found that white walls cause employees to make more mistakes, while red walls stimulate the pulse and can raise blood pressure. Blue and green were identified in the study as being the best colours for encouraging creativity, innovation and calm. 

In addition to colour, consider décor. A common inspiration for personal spaces is nature, and bringing this same theme to the workplace can soften all of the technology that usually fills up offices. Plants are not only beautiful additions to office surroundings; they have many benefits for the health and happiness of employees—read our guide to why plants are great for a working environment [LINK TO PLANTS ARTICLE; IF N/A, DELETE CTA] to find out more. 

5. Outdated furniture

It can be tempting to stick with your office furniture as long as it’s working, but this can lead to higher staff turnover. A UK study found that turnover in a call centre was reduced by 11% after moving to new, more modern premises, and output more than doubled. Also, turnover at a financial services firm in Sydney was down 14% after an office refurbishment.

Consider updating office furnishings on a regular basis. Also, make sure you’re using ergonomic designs. Chairs that support correct posture, standing desks and break out areas can have a big impact on an employee’s well being.

The design of your workplace communicates the beliefs and values of an organisation. Make sure yours is sending the right message to your employees and customers.

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