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How office design can impact productivity

From the arrangement of office spaces to the choice of colours, furniture, and lighting, every aspect of office design can influence employee mood, creativity, and ability to concentrate.

In this article, we will explore how office space design plays a crucial role in enhancing productivity and ultimately contributes to people’s wellbeing. Here, we delve into the key considerations that can shape a productive and inspiring work environment.

LinkedIn Shanghai entrance

What is productivity?

In today’s era of knowledge workers, productivity is no longer solely about the quantity of output. So, it is important to dispel common misconceptions that prioritise quantity over quality and speed over efficiency, as these can lead to stress and burnout.

The definition of productivity varies across industries, teams, and roles. Ultimately it reflects an individual’s value to an organisation. In the following sections, we explore office interior design ideas that address different aspects of productivity. Such as focus, creativity, and collaboration. We also take a look at the conditions that support overall productivity, including comfort, wellbeing and motivation.

Personio focus area
Miro collaboration area

Designing for focus

Achieving a state of “flow” is essential for productivity. Flow, as defined in positive psychology, is a mental state of being fully immersed in and energised by a task or activity. Research suggests that the average time spent in flow ranges between 20 minutes and 2 hours before the brain requires a break. When creating an office design layout for flow, we focus on minimising distractions and empowering individuals with personal control over their workspace.

Ways to increase flow in design:

Reduce distractions
Noise is often cited as the most significant distraction. Our designers address this by incorporating zoning strategies, such as:

  • Creating separate areas for quiet work and phone calls.
  • Implementing acoustic treatments to reduce sound transmission.

Increase personal control

  • Personal storage to organise work and reduce clutter.
  • Personalisation and customisation, for example settings that can be customised for height and preference, as well as typologies in different areas for personal choice.

These can empower employees to create an environment conducive to focus and productivity.

Lazada focus booth
Steelcase booths

Designing for creativity

Creativity is vital in fostering innovation, a valuable asset for businesses. Creating an environment that supports divergent thinking, problem-solving, and generating meaningful ideas helps increase creativity. Studies show that the physical environment influences creativity. For instance, high ceilings have been linked to encouraging expansive thought, while lower ceilings help people to focus and complete more complex tasks.

Dyson collaboration area

If high ceilings are not feasible, alternative strategies such as incorporating large open spaces, inspiring artwork, or areas that encourage exploration and playfulness can be employed.

M Moser living lab artwork wall
EY Amsterdam ideation court

Designing for collaboration

Often seen as the key to competitive advantage for businesses, collaboration has been a big driver for getting people back to the office after the pandemic.

But getting people back to the office isn’t enough; businesses have to consider how their office design enables people to be more collaborative. For example, old hospital studies found that placing chairs along the walls of resident day rooms or lounges prevented socialising. Researchers therefore encouraged interaction by organising furniture in small groupings throughout the room. That’s where proxemics come into play.


Proxemics is the study of human dynamics concerning space. They can easily be defined as:

  • Sociopetal: facilitates interaction and communication
  • Sociofugal: prevents social interaction.

Examples are parks and dining room tables (petals); libraries and airports (fugal).

To encourage productive collaboration, considering the design of sociopetal spaces is essential. Seating arrangements should be social and cooperative as opposed to oppositional and avoidant.

Finally, minimising other factors that may disrupt the flow of communication by having good technology and available plug sockets is key.

Miro campfire
Hudson River Trading Tink[er] Tank

Designing for comfort and wellbeing

The saying “happy workers are productive workers” holds, and research from Oxford University reveals that happy workers can be 13% more productive. Physical, mental, and social health are essential in an office design and build to promote wellbeing. This can be achieved through:

  • Physical health:
    • Comfortable and ergonomic furniture and spaces that encourage movement (e.g., sit-stand desks) contribute to employees’ physical health.
    • Natural light, which aligns with our circadian rhythms, helps synchronise our sleep-wake cycle, enabling daytime alertness and restful sleep at night.
  • Mental health: Connecting employees with nature through views, plants, or natural patterns through shapes, images, colours or sounds.
  • Social health: Providing social spaces for interaction and non-work-related activities to build culture and community. 
Lidl café

Designing for motivation

Overall, motivation is critical in driving employees to give their best effort. Creating an environment that instils pride in one’s work, workplace and purpose helps motivate people. Brand immersion can remind people of the organisation they work for, showcasing creativity and the company’s values in the environment. Impressively designed reception and arrival areas and amenities that support employee lifestyles also contribute to an inspiring environment.

Spotify entrance portal

Additionally, providing spaces where employees can take breaks and recharge can help maintain motivation and engagement.

Lidl gym
Hudson Rouge terrace

In summary, office space design significantly influences productivity and the overall wellbeing of employees. Businesses can create environments that optimise productivity by strategically considering factors such as:

  • Focus can be increased by minimising distractions and empowering individuals with personal control over their workspace.
  • Creativity is fostered by creating an environment that supports divergent thinking and problem-solving, considering factors like ceiling height and incorporating open spaces.
  • Collaboration is facilitated by office layouts that prioritise sociopetal spaces and cooperative seating arrangements.
  • Comfort, wellbeing, and motivation are essential aspects of office design, achieved through factors such as comfortable furniture, natural light, connections with nature, social spaces, and amenities that support employee lifestyles.

If you’d like to learn more about how to optimise your office design for productivity please contact our workplace strategy team.

Sophie Foster

Associate, Workplace Strategy

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