Office design is amongst the key factors affecting employee mood and productivity. This might seem over the top, but it is not; building a pleasant working environment is a key responsibility for any business owner.
Many small businesses shy away from conscious or concerted office design, presuming that it is too expensive or that they simply cannot spare the time. But by following a few simple tips, you can quickly (and cheaply) improve your workplace – and improve productivity as a result.
1. Concentrate on ergonomics
Ergonomics is amongst the most important areas of office design – and yet it is also amongst the most frequently overlooked.
Ergonomics is a vital consideration for a number of reasons. Primarily, poor ergonomic design will lead to health problems for you and your employees; back complaints are amongst the most common reasons for time off. Similarly, uncomfortable employees will not be at their most productive.
Make sure that chairs are properly reclined and offer good lumbar support, and that computer monitors are at or just below eye level.
2. Create distinct spaces
Where possible, think about ways that you can partition the space in your office to create a number of distinct areas. You might have a meeting area with more comfortable chairs, as well as a kitchen area separated from the rest of the office.
This separation can help to encourage a sense of order and structure amongst your employees. It can also help ensure that workers take proper breaks – another key productivity enhancer.
3. Think about lighting
Lighting is vitally important in any office. Poor lighting can make a room feel cramped and claustrophobic – and, as a result, can severely damage your employees’ ability to do their jobs properly.
Avoid endless fluorescent lighting where possible. Natural light will improve employees’ moods – and reduce your energy costs. Position workspaces near to windows, and consider installing skylights to increase the amount of natural light available.
4. Don’t skimp on furniture
Good quality furniture is key to any successful office design. If your employees spend a lot of time at their desks, make sure they have suitable chairs. These should recline, and should be adjustable in height. Look for office chairs with proper lower back support, and adjustable headrests.
You should also consider storage. Make sure that employees have space to keep documents and other items they may need, for example in pedestals by their desks.
5. Limit noise
Persistent background noise can have a disastrous impact on productivity, and can seriously affect employees’ moods. Try to isolate unnecessary noise as much as possible, in order to minimise distractions.
Background noise often comes from electrical equipment like air conditioning units. If you have your own servers these can also be noisy. Consider fitting noise reducers to these items, or moving them into a more isolated area.
You should also think about moving equipment that is loud, but used infrequently, into a separate part of the office. For example, document shredders or printers can be distracting; isolating them with something as simple as a curtain can make a big difference.
6. Prepare for expansion
Growing businesses are, sadly, often limited by their premises. If you predict that your business will expand in the foreseeable future, the last thing you want is to be shackled by your office space. As such, you should make sure that your office design is as future-proof as possible.
If you intend to take on extra staff, remember that they’ll require desk space. You may wish to set aside areas in advance, and use them as temporary meeting spaces in the interim. Similarly, remember that your desk layouts may have to change in order to accommodate extra employees. As a result, you should try to keep your lighting arrangements as flexible as possible.
On a general note, it is worth remembering that you may not always need the most expensive furniture, or the most expensive lighting system. You can vastly improve your own working experience, and that of your employees, with just a few simple steps. After this, you might want to consider investing in new items to really help kick-start your employees’ productivity.
Finally, if you are really struggling for inspiration, think about talking to an office design professional. You need not hire them to actually redesign your office; instead, a single consultation will often give you all the inspiration you need to get started yourself.