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Is your workplace layout helping or hurting productivity?

It’s a lousy feeling to reach the end of the workday and realize you haven’t gotten much done. With a lengthy to-do list staring back at you and nothing crossed off, it’s only natural to wonder what the heck happened. To be sure, circuitous meetings, unscheduled calls, and other sudden interruptions outside our control are often to blame. But what about the environment in which we’re working? Could the space itself be hindering our productivity?

Defining productivity

First, it’s important to recognize that the meaning of being productive differs from person to person. We don’t all place the same value on the same tasks — and that’s okay. What matters is our own individual sense of achievement in relation to the goals we have set for ourselves.

Second, we need to emphasize that productivity is futile without positive engagement. Imagine finishing everything on your list, but hating absolutely every minute of it. Not only would you probably do a terrible job, but you wouldn’t want to stay in that role very long either. Every vocation comes with its set of banal tasks, of course, but we ultimately need to find some aspect of our work enjoyable. This could be anything from learning and growth opportunities to the colleagues we interact with. Being engaged in our work is a critical component of sustaining productivity and feeling good about the work we do.

How workspaces can affect mental health

We published an article in April 2017 that explored the impact our homes and workplaces can have on our psychological well-being. Simple tricks like bringing in plants and flowers, reducing unpleasant noises, and introducing natural lighting can be demonstrably helpful for creating a mentally healthy environment.

This feeds right into productivity. It’s difficult to get things done when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. Surrounding ourselves with people and objects that uplift our spirits can help clear our minds and improve our ability to focus.

Designing the best layout for your team

While the needs of each employee and organization differ, there are some general spatial considerations every workplace should accommodate to maximize productivity:

  1. Prioritize movement. An increasing number of professions are requiring employees to sit for inordinate amounts of time each day, and it’s having harmful effects. Make sure you build a space where stretching, walking, and other forms of dynamic movement are encouraged.
  2. Create appropriate spaces for collaboration. The best brainstorming sessions happen when everyone has room to spread out and think big. This can’t happen in a broom closet. If your workplace doesn’t have rooms large enough for people to meet and share ideas together, check out spaces in the surrounding area like libraries, parks, plazas, college campuses, malls, hotels, and even restaurants.
  3. Provide areas for isolation. Conversely, sometimes that broom closet is exactly what an employee needs to hunker down and pound out their deliverables. The ideal workplace has a balance of large, open spaces and private, little nooks in which staff can shut out all distractions and get to business.
  4. Encourage relaxation. It’s customary in many countries for employees to go home on their lunch break. This time is used to rest and recharge, and is highly conducive to employee well-being and productivity. If your staff isn’t able to head home to enjoy the benefits of a quick nap, even something as simple as having a couch to lounge on or a small garden to stroll in can help them unwind.
  5. Make sure everyone has enough room. Nobody likes being elbow-to-elbow on a short train or bus ride, let alone for eight hours straight at work. Cramped workspaces are uncomfortable, messy, and bad for employee privacy. If you can’t ensure enough space for everyone, consider using hotelling stations or tweaking shift hours so not everyone is required to be present at the same time.
  6. Let employees work from wherever. Even the most amazing workspace can get stale. While working from home is all the rage these days, not everyone has a dedicated den in which they can feel productive. Granting your staff the opportunity to change their scenery by working from anywhere, including a café, library, or even another country can boost their creativity and problem-solving skills immensely.

More ways to boost employee engagement and productivity

Over 500 companies are using the LifeSpeak employee well-being platform to keep their staff focused, productive, and thriving. It contains 2000+ resources on mental health, physical wellness, relationships, eldercare, parenting, and many other topics that affect people every day. Book a free walk-through to find out how we can support your organization.