Designing the Most Productive Office, With Science
Whether you work in an office or from your desk at home, manage a few dozen employees or an Etsy shop, it’s vital to create a productive work space. You want to minimize distractions, but without it feeling like a prison cell. You want to encourage collaboration, but without sacrificing individual performance. There are loads of variables to consider, and it can seem really overwhelming. Don’t worry though, because I have a helpful list to get you started. I even brought science to back it up.
I know it seems like I’m always talking about lighting, but it really is the most-important, most-overlooked element in interior design. Lighting changes the whole feel of a room, thus affecting the people in it, so structure the light to the tasks being performed. You want enough light to reduce eye strain, but not too much that it starts to feel clinical.
Your light list should include general overhead, but also task lights for detail work or counterbalancing screen light from computers. Additionally, the goal is to have lots of windows for optimum natural light. If you can get some vitamin D in the office, it’ll help elevate everyone’s moods and health. We recently moved offices, and I can’t tell you the difference it’s made having floor-to-ceiling windows. It also helps if there’s some good landscaping out there to see, which can be a lot to ask here in the city. Of course, sometimes I see people walking their dogs by our building, and that just makes my entire day.
Paint is one of the easiest things to change in a room. And while the typical white office walls may lend an air of professionalism, they lack stimulation. And the same way it’s recommended to put lots of bright colors in nurseries to stimulate brain activity in babies, having some pops of color in the office will keep employees from zoning out at their desks. So consider an accent wall, or accessorizing the space with some art or other small things. I have at least 3 different colors of post-its on my desk right now. As for which colors, there’s extensive research into how green increases creative performance, so that’s a good place to start.
Another good way to add a bit of green is with plants. They’re nice to look at, act as a natural air filter, and have been found to just generally increase productivity. Like art, plants enhance an environment, positively affecting the psychological state of those in the room.
Studies by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that office temperature has one of the most significant impacts on workplace productivity. You’d think that colder temperatures in the office keep people more alert, but it’s not effective in the long term. Your body uses an enormous amount of energy to keep warm, so a colder office will leave you more tired at the end of your 8 hours than a warm one. That said, the optimum temperature is around 70 degrees, year round.
Let’s talk about open-plan work spaces. Everyone from Google to Facebook is jumping on it as the office of the future. However, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of open-plan.
While it creates more transparency and an apparent ease of communication, you lose productivity because it’s so much easier to get distracted (and sick, since you probably haven’t been in such close contact with people since school). Not to mention that a sense of privacy and security boosts job performance and satisfaction.
Additionally, if work is task-based, you should set up task stations. This is where you print, this is where you staple and file, etc. This is especially helpful in a home office environment. Encouraging people to take a bit of a walk and change up their scenery is super helpful to keeping the mind active and working. Plus you’ll only need one stapler.
On a slightly tangential note, keep your work space tidy. Don’t leave garbage or dishes around, throw out old papers, get a good organization system. While I’m on the subject, shout out to our cleaning team – I love coming in on Thursday mornings to an office that smells like citrus.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is designing a space that facilitates the work you do. What works for an ad agency won’t necessarily work in a law firm or the startup you’re pitching to Shark Tank.
So make a list of the things that limit your productivity, and work on creative solutions for each. And should you need some assistance in carrying out that plan, we’re always available.