Three tips for using the office experience to boost productivity

06 July 2015 -


Office layouts and atmospheres make a huge contribution to management and leadership styles, so a few adjustments can make your company’s output soar

Nigel Crunden

As the economy recovers, companies are keener than ever to maximise productivity.

But while margins and employee outputs are heavily scrutinised, the suitability of the actual workplace environment is often overlooked.

By identifying conditions that best facilitate collaboration, concentration and wellbeing, managers can adapt their office experience – also known as “OX” – to give employees the tools they need to perform to the highest possible standards.

Aside from obvious considerations such as temperature, light and ergonomic design, there are a number of features that can be incorporated into a functional office space to drive output.

1. Strike a balance between collaboration and concentration

Most job roles will involve a degree of collaboration – either in the form of sharing creative ideas, dividing up project work or attending company-wide meetings.

As such, it can be useful to create clear divisions between areas used for team activities and spaces reserved for individual tasks.

Noise pollution is a common problem in many workspaces, with background interference having a proven, negative effect on workers’ ability to carry out challenging, cognitive tasks.

While complete space separation is likely to be a challenge, as a general rule, group discussions are best kept to communal areas or meeting rooms.

Creating quiet zones where employees can concentrate uninterrupted will ensure that their productivity is not compromised, and output grows.

2. Preserve the seclusion and freshness of the breakout area

Scientists believe that, when employees complete complex tasks, it is important they take regular breaks, allowing their brains to digest and evaluate large amounts of information.

Despite that, an estimated 70% of Brits work without a midday break and eat lunch at their desks.


In terms of efficiency this can be counterproductive, so employers should encourage staff to take some time away by creating breakout areas.

Made popular by tech start-ups, breakout areas are secluded from the rest of the office and offer employees the opportunity to detach themselves from their work in order to relax and refresh.

The layout and composition of breakout areas can be hugely varied. Rooms may simply be made up of comfortable seating, chairs and tables or in some cases provide a more tangible opportunity to detach, with entertainment stations, pool tables or books.

Offering employees an environment in which they can take some time out not only increases overall productivity, but also provides the opportunity to socialise, positively affecting wellbeing and job satisfaction.

3. Consider de-teching the office – at least, to some extent

There is no doubt that computers and the internet are vital for the majority of firms to effectively conduct business. For many employees, sitting in front of a screen for five-plus hours a day is seen as a necessary evil.

However, that can be extremely detrimental to workers’ health, and can limit their creativity.

Computer vision syndrome (CVS, also known as digital eye strain) is thought to affect up to 90% of regular computer users, and can cause headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and dizziness.

Aside from taking regular breaks and ensuring that employees retain the correct posture, workers should also be encouraged, where possible, to maximise their opportunities to de-tech.

Often, group discussions around a table and sharing ideas face-to-face can be a much more effective method of problem solving and strategy formation than communicating via email.

Retaining the capacity for employees to communicate in this way and source information via journals and books will not only take them away from their screens but will also encourage out of the box thinking.

While firms are obliged to meet their employees’ basic needs in terms of the more literal working conditions – for example, temperature, holiday entitlement and contracted hours – simply meeting those obligations alone is not enough to maximise productivity.

Considering the wider design of the office space, including areas for independent tasks, collaboration and breaks – as well as encouraging traditional ideas sharing – can improve wellbeing and provide an OX that inspires staff to perform at their best.

Nigel Crunden is business specialist at Office Depot

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