Office makeover | Improving productivity

Dear Natalie,

“Our board of directors has asked us, the HR department, to organise a long overdue makeover for the office. Do you have any top tips on how to do this? What can we do to make sure the re-design is a success?”

Jo Causon:

Office design and ergonomics are, potentially, business critical issues which are often overlooked by organisations. It is not just a matter of where people sit, or what colour the walls are painted, as office environment can have an impact on employees’ productivity and morale…
Research by the Chartered Management Institute (The Workplace Survey) found that many offices do not meet employees’ needs. For example, almost one in five managers do not think they have adequate meeting room space and nearly half think their meeting rooms are badly equipped. This not only gives a negative image to external visitors and clients but can have the knock-on effect of decreasing your managers’ commitment to the organisation.

Before undertaking the makeover, find out what staff actually want. You may not be able to accommodate every request, but you should demonstrate a willingness to listen to and consider ideas from all levels. This will increase the chance of buy-in when the changes are finally put in place as individuals will feel they have been involved in the process. If changes to the physical environment are made without consulting those who occupy it, the logical accusation could be that staff opinion doesn’t matter.

When you have brainstormed ideas with members of staff, think about the type of environment you are trying to create. If yours is a sales environment would an open plan, noisy, environment be best? Consider whether some staff need to work undisturbed and, if so, whether it’s possible to allocate space or rooms for quiet work.

Accessibility is also an issue to consider: 44% of managers have their own office within the workplace, but if leaders are cut off from colleagues, does this create a feeling of “them and us” and will it foster a “closed door” culture? The answer will, naturally, depend on the nature of your organisation’s work and the attitude of staff, across all levels.

In the Institute’s survey, seven out of 10 managers claimed that some desks or offices in their organisation are unused at any one time. Unused space has cost implications, so work towards reducing this. Maybe allocate some unused desks for hot-desking purposes; after all, remote workers often need a base when they do come into the office. If rooms are under-utilised, consider defining a purpose for them. Do you need a place people can go to relax or brainstorm or do you need additional storage space?

Ultimately, the office makeover is a chance to improve the working environment. Use it to help create a more productive and welcoming atmosphere. But don’t let this makeover be your only attempt at addressing workplace environment issues. Whether it’s looking at health and safety issues or more general comfort you should remember that people’s needs change over time.

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One Response to Office makeover | Improving productivity

  1. Catherine Marsden 2 October 2007 at 8:17 am #

    Essentials to consider when designing an office. Space, functionality, cost – that few people think of it as a means to distinguish their business from every other business in the market.

    A workplace needs to do more that look smart. It has an invaluable role in the battle against perceived sameness, helping a company stand out as being relevant to it’s customers.

    The office communicates an image that people will associate with your product or service. Treat your space as three dimensional branding, more like a traditional marketing campaign.

    It’s an opportunity not just to woo employees but also customers, making your space your marketing weapon.

    Only a small percentage of companies take professional advise about intelligent space planning. Even getting the basics right can be a challenge. Noise levels, climate control, toilets, furniture and storage are all key areas causing employees distress.

    A good office design can revolutionise a business, it’s culture and the way it works.