The Office Environment and its Impact on Productivity

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I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that the way we work is dramatically different than the way we worked 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Technology has removed countless barriers and made it possible for professionals to work efficiently virtually any time and at any place. But while some changes have ushered in an era of unprecedented productivity, some worry that there are changes that are actually hurting productivity… namely the office environment. Just how much does the environment of your workspace impact your productivity?

Cubicles across America have gone by the wayside as open offices have continued to gain popularity. It’s been estimated that 70% of American employees are working in open offices, and the benefits seem obvious — open communication, collaboration, idea-sharing, and in theory, improved productivity. Sounds like a great day at the office, doesn’t it?

One problem. As cubicle walls have come down, a number of new distractions have reared their heads. Phone calls, conference room meetings, and multiple office conversations are now all simultaneously happening in one big open space, which makes it increasingly difficult for some employees to remain focused on their work. As communication increases for some, concentration goes way down for others.

How employers can improve the office environment

But while I’m sure it’s boosted headphone sales, this doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end of open offices. Companies with open offices should look at keeping separate rooms for conference calls, meetings and other group discussions, as well as quiet or secluded spaces where employees can go work when they need to get away from distractions or disruptions. Just make sure it has an outlet (there’s a reason why that one seemingly prime table at Starbucks is always empty).

Another aspect of the office environment that typically flies under the radar, but can have a significant impact, is office furniture. Those modern chairs and minimalist desks might give you the trendiest office space on the block, but if they don’t make sense for your employees, they may as well be sitting on the floor. Making sure that employees have ample and usable desk space and comfortable chairs will not only make employees happier and more comfortable, it will make them more productive.

Simple considerations like making sure office spaces are well-lit and kept at comfortable temperatures are also easy ways to make sure that your office environment isn’t killing productivity. Whatever your preference is for the design and layout of your office, make sure you’re creating a way for everyone to stay productive.

Tweet us at @trackvia or comment below and tell us what you do to minimize office environment distractions.