Three workspace attributes that improve employee productivity

Learn how your office environment directly affects productivity, and how to optimize it to get the best result

This Small Business Saturday, we’re helping small business owners navigate what kind of business to launch, how to write a business plan, and how to set up a workspace that improves productivity

In every industry, highly productive teams are the key to success. Though nuanced, most companies define being productive as getting work done quickly and in a high-quality way. After all, a better output from each employee improves a company’s overall health and growth—and when time is money, it’s not a far leap for productivity to become a top priority.

But how do you ensure that your team, or even you as an individual, are being highly productive? And what exactly influences productivity anyway?

Though complex to quantify, employee productivity strongly relates to job satisfaction. By conducting employee surveys and learning about their pain points, you’ll be able to understand whether your people believe they can get their work done and done well. A variety of factors plays into their feelings: your company’s mission and vision, the nature of the work being done, relationships between colleagues, the health and wellness of individual employees, and many more.

These factors may seem vast or disconnected. Yet a commonality exists between most: the physical workspace. After all, it’s where you spend the majority of your time. It’s where you interact with coworkers and build relationships. It’s where you communicate your company’s mission and vision to your teams. It even contributes to your health and wellness by way of spatial design (i.e., your access to natural light, plants, and other factors). You can’t deny that space has a powerful impact on the way people feel and, therefore, the quality of work they’re producing within it.

Three ways to enhance workplace productivity

Let’s take a look at a few major ways the physical workspace affects productivity levels, and how you can ensure you’re getting the best results from yourself, and your team, every day.

1) Improve employee focus by encouraging movement and activity

Every individual has their own style of working—which is why it’s important for people to be able to work from the type of space in which they feel most productive. Two key factors give employees a feeling of autonomy and comfort in their workspace: the ability to move around the workplace (from a desk in an open area to a couch, for example), and the freedom to move things around, too (aka reconfiguring the space to meet your needs).

Research has shown that being active within a workspace and moving regularly throughout the day has many benefits, including improving the ability to focus and be productive. That’s why an office with diverse space types is especially beneficial. Whether your business is a team of one or a team of 20, each person should be able to get up and find a quiet space when they need to concentrate or an open, collaborative space for a brainstorm, all under one roof. As opposed to a static desk, which encourages little movement throughout the day, having multiple space types dedicated to various office activities supports an active body and mind. 

WeWork 31 Zongfu Lu in Chengdu, China.

With studies linking an increase in employee productivity with more physical activity, consider the humble staircase, for example. They’re typically relegated to back exits and hardly a centerpiece in an office. But making staircases a more prominent part of your design strategy, coupled with multilevel access to those diverse space types mentioned above, can increase employee productivity even further (and increase connections between coworkers). 

2) Increase efficiency with intuitive office design

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and can only resume their interrupted tasks after about 25 minutes. That adds up to over 2.5 hours each day spent on tasks or activities that have taken time and attention from the work at hand. When you take a look at your workspace, is it providing everything you and your teams need without much effort and interruption? In other words, is your workday spent dealing with small yet distracting issues that could be easily eliminated?

Intuitive design is the process of creating something that people can use without any guidance. In the workspace, that means that employees should be able to easily access amenities, like coffee and tea, so they don’t have to spend time sourcing them. When you sit down to work, there should be an outlet for charging devices. The office should make it easy for you to perform routine tasks, like printing, making a phone call in a quiet space, or booking a meeting room—allowing you and your teams to be as productive as possible.

WeWork Landmark Center in Shanghai, China.

Technology is another key aspect of intuitive design. A recent Global Workplace Analytics survey showed that at least half of the time, 4.7 million employees (3.4 percent of the U.S. workforce) work remotely. That means that your workspace needs to have tech-enabled meeting rooms for video calls with remote teammates. Your workspace should also have a tech team in place to help fix any issues that may arise.

3) Improve connection to increase job fulfillment

With loneliness rising worldwide, and one in every five Americans reporting feeling lonely or socially isolated, now is the time to join peers in a welcoming, connected work environment. Another benefit of feeling connected? Increased productivity. 

“We actually found that the people who were coming into an office were 46 percent more productive in terms of hitting their quotas than people working out of home offices,” says Rich Liu, chief revenue officer of TripActions, a business travel startup.

WeWork 64 York Street in Sydney, Australia.

According to Harvard Business Review, even when given the ability to work from anywhere, employees can still productively benefit from being around their peers. In fact, HBR advises keeping newly hired employees located in the same office with experienced peers long enough to benefit from the informal learning that happens organically in that face-to-face environment. 

In addition, productivity is aligned to mental energy, physical energy, and motivation derived from the feeling of doing meaningful work, cultivated by focusing on a larger meaningful goal. In other words, is the work you’re doing part of a bigger picture, and do you feel fulfilled and connected to the work you and your team are doing?

One way to increase your connection and fulfillment at work, as Forbes explains, is by ensuring your workplace is designed, first and foremost, around your company’s values. In other words, if your company values collaboration, you should provide your employees with the space and technology to collaborate together. 

In this way, showing, not just telling, your employees the value that they provide is an important step to increasing their productivity.

WeWork empowers small businesses, startups, and individuals to focus on doing their best work by offering premium workspace at the best value with the flexibility to grow and evolve their business. Whether you need a hot desk (a guaranteed place to work from a WeWork location), a dedicated desk, or a private office, WeWork has the space for you and your team to be productive.

Marnie Williams is a global content marketing manager at WeWork. She writes about the intersection of business and real estate. Previously, she created data-driven editorial and video at Oracle.

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