Is Your Office Layout Hindering Productivity?

Every office has its share of different personalities, from the introverts and the organizers to the creatives and social butterflies. And while combining so many different types of people in close quarters day after day certainly keeps things interesting in the workplace, it can also lead to problems — Gensler office study 2013 quietespecially if management isn’t conscious of the diverse needs of its team.

A 2013 survey by Gensler shows that only one in four U.S. workers is in an optimal workplace environment. That means productivity, innovation and engagement are all negatively impacted — all because the workplace design isn’t well suited for its workers. This could have something to do with the rise of the noisy open office concept, which has been shown to be detrimental to a wide range of workers. Or it could just be that the detail of design just isn’t considered a priority when many companies are setting up shop.

No, you can’t spend all your time trying to make everyone happy; that would be an impossible mission. But you can take the time to create an office environment that helps employees do their best work. Here’s how:

Take stock of your team. We’ve already established that you’ve likely got a wide range of folks working together under one roof. But depending on your industry, you’re likely to see some trends among your staff. A marketing agency will tend to have very different employees than a small design firm, just as a magazine’s staff would differ from that of a construction company.

Personality types for office selectionPsychologist John Holland’s famous Theory of Career Choice breaks it down into six personality types: Investigative, Artistic, Realistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. By analyzing the dominant personality traits and skill sets displayed in your workplace, you should be able to narrow down the type of people you’re working with.

Article Continues Below

Assess your setup. Whether you’re starting from scratch or considering revamping your office design, it’s a good idea to consider all of the options out there. An infographic recently published by Quill lists five of the most common workplace designs today — Open Office, Cellular Office (or private office), Cubicles, Co-Working Spaces and Telecommuting — as well as information about the personalities that thrive in each one. Is your staff populated by artistic types? Private offices could kill their creativity, while a high-energy sales staff may do as well there as in the chaos of an open floorplan.

Consider hybrids. Maybe one office setup will serve the needs of everyone on your staff at all times, but that’s probably not the case. A truly modern workplace will adapt to serve the needs of different personalities and projects. So while an open floorplan may indeed work for your staff, it’s a good idea to have a few quiet spaces where people can get away when they need to focus on something. Likewise, you might choose to allow flexibility for remote work while still providing a communal office space to encourage creative collaboration and employee interaction.

Talk about it. Don’t forget your most important resource here: your employees themselves. They can tell you straight up whether they’re happy working in your current setup or if they’d feel more productive in a different arrangement. If you don’t think they’ll feel comfortable offering honest feedback directly to you, arrange an anonymous office-wide poll to assess what’s working in your office and what isn’t. You may discover that some major changes are in order, or that just a few small tweaks could help you create the ideal workplace for your team.

Erica Jackson Curran is a writer and editor based in Richmond, Virginia. After working in cellular offices and cubicles for the first seven years of her career, she’s now happily working remotely—usually either from her home office or her favorite local coffee shop with a nitro cold brew in hand. You can read more from Erica on her website and reach her on LinkedIn.

Topics