Some notes on office productivity

7 Ways to Increase Productivity Around the Office: This is a brief list of things we and our clients
use to great success in creating a productive, safe and enjoyable workplace. Improve comfort
and energy levels throughout the day, while giving yourself and staff the environment necessary
to do your best and most productive work.

Productivity Enhancement 1: The Disadvantages of Open Plan
Many offices today are open plan, or some form of the open plan concept. Everyone can see
and hear each other. There are architectural benefits like getting light and fresh air around the
premises. Unfortunately, the open plan model is also prone to distraction and other things
lowering your team’s productivity.

First off, the Western Australian Government lists some of the disadvantages of the typical open
plan workspace:
• (Depending on the type of open plan environment…) loss of privacy, loss of identity, low work
productivity, various health issues, overstimulation and low job satisfaction when working in
an open plan work environment
• Some studies have shown reduced productivity, particularly due to acoustic impacts.
• General expectations and attitudes of staff favour closed offices
• Greater difficulty in controlling unwanted distractions and interruptions.
• Potential adverse impacts on staff well-being
• Lack of quiet spaces or zones designed primarily for individual work can affect concentration
and encourage staff to seek working from home, or other locations away from the office
• Can lead to a perceived loss of status and benefits, when employees shift from an enclosed
office to open plan

So ultimately, people can’t do their best work with open plan. Don’t be fooled by the lure of
cutting cost only to sacrifice quality. Many well meaning managers have thought they were
doing their company a favour by saving money in office design, unknowingly putting a ‘glass
ceiling’ on their employees’ potential.
Unless it’s really needed, it’s better to give people their own space, or at least the option of their
own space, like in the next point.

Productivity Enhancement 2: The ‘Activity Based Workplace’
The Office of the Government Architect describes the ‘activity based workplace’ (AbW) as a
‘flexible arrangement’ of the more common open-plan set up. Your staff choose the work area
or set up which best suits their needs at any given time.

Often employees don’t have a desk or space of their own as part of this model. It can help
‘flatten’ your organisation and remove a lot of the traditional hierarchies. This in itself can be very useful and powerful in getting the most out of your team while making work more enjoyable and valuable for them.

Research by the Office of the Government Architect for the Department of Finance, http://www.
typologies.pdf Published: 12/12/2012

Likely you already have an idea of the roles an office space needs to cater to. In our experience,
it’s smart to design these spaces around the kind of tasks they will be used for.
While there is a greater cost in building these offices compared with an open plan set up, the
investment also yields much greater rewards, because people are more empowered to do the
best work they are capable of.

Productivity Enhancement 3: Moveable Furniture
Think ‘desks with wheels’. The idea here is that your staff can re-arrange the workplace as they
need to. This allows switching between projects, different times of year or working with different
staff members. You end up with an office space which is always custom-made for its needs at
any given time of the year.

While the traditional open-office space was meant to promote collaboration, this has been
shown to be more helpful only for work requiring collaboration. If staff need privacy, quiet, or
concentration, then the open plan model doesn’t really help.

Productivity Enhancement 4: Seating Alternatives
Everyone has heard about the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle. Basically…we don’t get enough
exercise in our modern world. Our work life is a big contributor to this…sitting at a desk all day is
generally not good for your health. Innovative companies are providing different ways for people
to work at their desk.

This includes, but is not limited to, things like:
• Sitting on fitness balls/yoga balls
• Treadmills with raised desks
• Standing desks
• Kneeling chairs
• Meeting rooms with lounges, bar stools or café style seating

Productivity Enhancement 5: Solitary Thinking Space
As I mentioned before…not all work needs collaboration. Sometimes concentration is the key to
productivity and innovation. With a flexible workplace, employees can use movable walls and
partitions with their movable desks to create their own private space to work in. This is vital for
cutting yourself off from the distractions of a busy office.

Productivity Enhancement 6: Areas Promoting Collaboration
Have you noticed how many people like to work in cafés these days? Lots of people enjoy the
atmosphere, the vibe and the constant flow of people through the area. It is possible to create
the collaboration open plan offices were originally designed to achieve.

This can be achieved with low slung benches, booths or lounges. Employers can create ‘social’
workspaces…just like a nice coffee shop…allowing people to sit in small groups or pairs, coming
and going as they need to.

Productivity Enhancement 7: Un-assigned Seating
Letting people choose where they sit…and change locations in the office when they choose has
been touted as an effective innovation. Some people prefer a window seat, others like being
right near a doorway or next to a chatty colleague to bounce ideas off throughout the day.

Playing ‘musical chairs’ throughout the work week can be stimulating and help your team find
their ‘sweet spot’ as their work needs change.

And…how about this…Microsoft researchers found…
“you can increase productivity by 9 to 50% simply by adding
a second or third monitor!”

Simple change, but with a big effect!