Perhaps it’s time to rethink your workplace design?

DateSep 20, 2017
AuthorMarinis Boulmpasakos

Manos Boulmpasakos is an environmental consultant at Groundsure. In this blog, Manos discusses workplace design and the impact that it can have on productivity. If you have any comments or questions about this blog, please email

Nowadays, there seems to be certain ideas on how a company seeks to boost the productivity of their office workers. A growing trend of adjusting or changing the workspace environment in order to potentially affect employees’ productivity is under strong scrutiny.

Open-plan offices and hot desking (no assigned seats) appear to dominate the workplace design. The purpose of this is to encourage easier collaboration between employees and facilitate transparency, as this is believed to contribute to the improvement of employees’ performance. An article in the Harvard Business Review magazine digs into whether enhanced interaction affects workers’ productivity positively and demonstrates a successful example of such change in the workplace. This example showed that staff within the sales department at a pharmaceutical company managed to raise their sales by 10% after increasing interactions with colleagues on other teams by the same percentage.

Based on this data, “management (of the company) shifted from one coffee machine for every six employees to one for every 120 and created a new large cafeteria for everyone” in order to further increase employee interaction; in the quarter following the redesign described above, sales were recorded to have risen by 20%.

A further example of a similar-reasoning workspace alteration (from cubicle to open plan and unassigned seating) for a different type of company (furniture manufacturing company) was analysed in the article. The example demonstrated that the aforementioned change resulted in a decrease in employees’ productivity. Thus, the authors of the article suggest that the companies should measure whether a workplace design positively or negatively affects workers performance. One of the reasons for this suggestion lies in the following image:


“Engagement and the Global Workplace”, Steelcase Global Report

The above image, included in the Steelcase Global Report1, demonstrates that there is sufficient correlation between employee engagement and workplace satisfaction2. Some of the workplace satisfaction metrics that were used in the study are clearly affected by the workplace design.  According to the survey, employees’ needs with regards to their work environment, such as “being able to concentrate, work in teams without being interrupted or choose where to work based on the task” are frequently unmet. This can have an impact on the level of engagement. Furthermore, another finding revealed that highly engaged workers were found to be highly satisfied with various elements of their individual workspace, such as furniture, lighting, ambient noise level and temperature.

An article, titled The Privacy Crisis, refers to David Rock2, author of Your Brain at Work, who recognises that most workers suffer from “an epidemic of overwhelm” as a result of  “huge increases in the amount of information we’re expected to deal with every day and a significant increase in the distractions that come our way”. For this reason, Meg O'Neil, design manager at Steelcase, emphasises that the key to ensuring that office workers perform at their best is to provide them with various workspaces that are tailored to suit different work styles and tasks.

Perhaps, it’s time for all the companies’ leaders to consider investing in re-designing workspaces to suit their employees’ needs; an investment that can lead directly to enhanced engagement and satisfaction within employees and hence contribute to the company’s growth. After all, it is vital that workers feel happy and comfortable in an office space and an appropriate design seems to be one of the ways to go.

1 : The “Steelcase Global Report” was conducted by the research firm IPSOS with 12,480 office workers in 17 countries involved.

2 : Dr. David Rock is the Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and the author of the business best-seller “Your Brain at Work”.


  1. Harvard Business Review, 2014. Workspaces That Move People [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 June 2016]
  2. Steelcase Global Report, n.d. Engagement and the Global Workplace [pdf]. Available at:<>
  3. 360o Magazine, 2014. The Privacy Crisis. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 June 2016]
  4. Gausepohl S., 2016. A Workplace That Works: Designing an Inspiring Office [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 June 2016]

Additional sources

  1. Rach S., 2016. UK workers least happy with office environment [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 June 2016]
  2. Rusch E., 2016. Can the design of an office really impact workplace productivity? [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 June 2016]