What Is the Relationship Between Office Design and Productivity?

In our increasingly connected world, the level of competition companies face is higher than ever. In many industries the consumer's choice is not just a local one but a global one. Therefore an organization needs to provide the highest level of service and products. 

Going hand in hand with this need is employee productivity.

An organization’s success relies on the efficiency of their workers, owners and management. Because of this businesses are constantly looking for new ways to increase productivity. Many overlook one of the most important considerations – office design.

Office design isn’t just about making the workplace look impressive to high-value customers who stop by for a visit. It also needs to be more than functional for employees. 

By utilizing ingenious and proven techniques, office design can actually result in skyrocketing productivity from your workers, dramatically improving your bottom line.

Many office organizational norms that were assumed to be good for productivity have now been shown by studies to have quite the opposite result. Here’s some food for thought driven by actual data that will help you create a truly productive workspace that your employees will love.

Is Office Design Really That Important for Productivity? 

Absolutely – and there’s a wealth of evidence that backs this up. 

As always, the most reliable information comes from the individuals in question.

In one in-depth study, a shocking 97% of professionals said that their current workplace design drained their ability to focus to some extent, while 46% of them described the existing design as ‘impacting heavily’ on their productivity. 

Stress, low morale, and problems concentrating were all reported as outcomes of poor workspace design. With this information in hand, it’s clear purposefully providing office styles that do work for employee productivity is imperative. But what does that look like?

The Open Office Myth & How It Hampered Output

The open office was an early design fad which gained popularity back in the 1950s. The idea was noble enough – it was assumed that this would increase collaboration and result in an improved sense of community. However, the exact opposite has happened.

Research has shown that the increasingly crowded workplaces the open-plan offices tend to enable, along with the lack of privacy, result in defensive behaviors and strained relationships. Obviously, this doesn’t promote collaboration or community. And a now-famous study has shown that open office employees today spend an astounding 73% less time engaging in face-to-face interaction.

It gets worse. Open offices are associated with more stress and fatigue and increased absenteeism. One study flatly said the design style resulted in lower levels of productivity and employee satisfaction. 

Now, this isn’t to say that the proper usage of an open-plan space can’t result in a productive workplace. But the conventional open office should definitely be off the table when you’re planning that redesign. So what should you be thinking of?

Ask Your Employees What Office Layout They Want

We’re more than happy to share our knowledge of office design techniques that have worked well for organizations, but your first step should always be asking for your employees’ input. 

No two workplaces are the same, and while many methods can provide good results consistently, your workers’ needs will be the deciding factor in which design types will work best and how they should be implemented.

Depending on the size of your workforce, a combination of surveying and in-person interviews can give you a clear idea of what’s working, what isn’t, and what the main pain points (issues negatively affecting productivity) are. 

After collecting and analyzing that data, you’ll be surprised at how much more clear the path forward becomes. And believe us - you’ll almost definitely be utilizing some, if not all, of the following tips.

Consider How to Facilitate Collaboration

As previously mentioned, simply creating an open space does not inspire collaboration – in fact, it lessens it. 

It actually takes some effort and thoughtful design to inspire effective communication between staff. 

The creation of purpose-designed collaborative spaces should always be part of modern office design. Productivity can be boosted by ensuring these spaces are laid out and equipped to foster the type of meeting that's necessary for the project at hand.



This has been discovered to be the cornerstone of productivity-inspiring modern office design. The basic idea here is, for every activity and task that must be undertaken by employees, there is a space that will serve them well. 

This type of workplace is known as an agile work environment. By combining the right space, technology, and policies to support them, employees always have the right tools and environment to work at peak productivity.

A particularly effective version of the agile workplace is a concept known as Activity Based Working (ABW). In this style of workplace the design and creation of multiple settings that perfectly support tasks common to that office are executed to perfection. 

There may be an area designed for collaborative coding, another for marketing brainstorming, and yet another for highly focused or security-sensitive work or communication.

Zenbooth’s 1-2 person booth has been embraced for this type of use. Soundproofed and fitted with a work surface and a variety of electrical and communication routings, it’s great for employees needing to work on a challenging project in silence or to make sensitive phone calls.

In one study, employees reported that an ABW workspace resulted in much higher-than-average productivity (67%) and pride in their work (86%), as well as increased creativity and the ability to perform in complex work profiles. The flexibility of this type of workplace clearly makes it something all organizations hoping to increase productivity should look into.

Biophilic Office Design

It’s a complicated-sounding phrase, but biophilic office design is a simple concept. In short, it refers to the incorporation of things generally found outdoors into office decoration and design.

On the design front, windows, skylights and other such inclusions will allow the maximum amount of natural light into the office. Water is also often included in this type of design. This may be in the form of small ponds, for example, but even better is running water if possible. 

Flora (plant life) may be the most desirable feature, however. Plants improve air quality while simultaneously introducing moisture into dry, recirculated office air. 

The result? Healthier employees who can work to their highest potential and take less sick days. In other words – a more productive workforce.

Biophilic office design has also been shown to improve the mental health of employees. Being around nature is proven to reduce stress while increasing confidence and self-esteem. Naturally, less stressed and more confident employees have both the drive and desire to be as productive as possible.

Color Matters

Beyond branding, most organizations give the color they paint the interior of their buildings very little thought. And many will choose good old white or off-white as it’s neutral and inexpensive. 

Here’s the bad news: White is actually one of the worst colors to paint your office if your aim is to inspire productivity in your employees.

It’s true. Studies have shown that white tends to increase boredom and reflection on thoughts unrelated to work. Gray has a similarly negative effect. Data suggests red may be good for detail-oriented tasks but reduces analytical thinking. 

Meanwhile, green and blue seem to promote innovation and creativity. So while researchers are careful to say that colors affect different people to differing extents, it’s a safe bet to say you’ll probably want to paint over those white or gray walls when it’s time to remodel.

Smart Tech & Automation

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘work smarter, not harder.’ While doing both is obviously the best course, the former is definitely a great way to quickly increase productivity. 

As a business owner, you can facilitate this with the inclusion of ‘smart tech’ and other types of automation.

Think of a situation where a team needs to meet, and with no other option, it requires an organizer (or all team members) to figure out each person’s schedule to find a time that works for everyone. That’s a lot of time that could be better spent on-task. Now if your software automatically analyzes all schedules and in two seconds flat sets a meeting for Tuesday at 2:30 pm, that’s a win for productivity.

Smart office furniture and fixtures can also increase output. Smart desks can be repositioned for optimum ergonomics. Standing variants can improve focus as well as overall health, and many are equipped with built-in workstations. 

Some smart chairs, meanwhile, can even sense poor posture and automatically adjust. 

Smart lights can be particularly helpful. Adjustable for color and warmth, they can be set for the task at hand and environment, improving efficiency and lowering fatigue and stress.

The Relationship Between Office Design and Productivity Is Clear

You’ve hired an excellent team and provided them with all the tools needed to succeed. To see the best possible results and success for your company, provide the perfect environment for maximum workplace potential. 

A private office booth like Zenbooth can be an integral part of modern office design. To find out more, check out our FAQ or contact us today.

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