6 Ways to Create a Better Office Environment

The hot topic of the moment seems to be how to increase engagement in the workplace. Gallup’s 2014 “State of the Global Workplace” report stirred things up when it reported that 51 percent of the workforce isn’t engaged, and about 18 percent indicated they were “actively disengaged.”

In a Fast Company article, Max Chopovsky, founder of Chicago Creative Space, advised that business leaders focus on the needs of their own workers. In other words, rather than designing spaces similar to the highly coveted Google environment, organizations should think about what their own company should have.

Companies “shouldn’t strive to be anyone else; they should strive to be themselves,” he said.

He advised that leaders carefully observe their workers, determining their habits and behaviors, before making any major office design changes.

Another Fast Company article reported on “Ethonomics: Designing for the Principles of the Modern Workplace” by Teknion, a design company. Fast Company said that the authors “believe the workplace is ripe for reinvention.”

These articles provide insight into the ideal office space. If thinking about revamping your office’s design, consider these options from each of the aforementioned articles, but also listen to the needs of your workers.

1. Allow for movement throughout the day.

Rather than staying in one spot all day, workers should be able to change places and move around. This allows for more physical movement, reducing risks from extensive time periods of sitting.

The authors of “Ethonomics” advocate for spaces that allow for:

  • Standing up to stretch throughout the day.
  • Pacing while talking on the phone or organizing papers.
  • Walking rather than sitting during meetings.
  • Strolling between offices or during lunch.
  • Climbing stairs to get to the office.

2. Have designated zones for different work styles, such as “quiet zones.”

The Acoustic Research Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, conducted a study that people who do their work in cubicles see 29 percent more interruptions compared with those who have private offices. These distractions were shown to cause increased exhaustion and errors. Increase productivity by allowing workers to escape their cubicles and go to quieter areas.

Other types of spaces, as proposed by Fast Company, include:

  • Open and enclosed spaces
  • Multilevel offices
  • Lounges and soft seating areas
  • Conference rooms
  • Break rooms

3. Use a variety of textures, such as plush fabrics, wood and stone.

“Ethonomics” said that “our sense of sight enriches our experience, as we perceive the light and luster that activate and enliven space.” Contrasts in materials make for more beautiful spaces that engages people.

4. Incorporate natural light into the office.

Looking at a computer screen can cause eyestrain, and natural light is easier on the eyes — both aesthetically and physically. Use floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize natural sunlight.

5. Do some planting.

“Ethonomics” cited research from the University of Washington, which said that being in a “green space” promotes focus and aids in reducing mental stress. Potted plants are both pleasing to the eye and boost air quality.

6. Try removing assigned seating.

 This is a newer trend, which allows for greater variety of movement. Kevin McCarty, president of West Monroe Partners, said that his policy of no assigned seats encourages workers to collaborate. His company thinks that this practice “breaks down a lot of barriers that exist in corporate America.”