Redesign Your Office for Productivity

By Anna Johansson, writer
Mar 01, 2018
Image Credit: Kelleher Photography/Shutterstock

The physical layout of a workspace greatly impacts the work environment.

A workplace that promotes a career-ladder climber might have elicited productivity in the past, but that doesn't necessarily work today. The majority of the current workforce is millennials, who aren't all driven by higher salaries and promotions.

Millennials seek satisfaction of various kinds, including a meaningful job where they can learn new skills. A survey from Udemy for Business found that millennials are likelier to leave their jobs out of boredom.

Engagement is a key ingredient for productive outcomes, but many corporations have yet to implement a structure that fully engages millennials. This Gallup study found that, as of 2012, engagement in the workplace was at 30 percent, costing U.S. businesses as much as $550 billion in lost revenue. Companies that have low engagement are holding on to an outdated motivational structure that has a negative effect on many millennials.

Millennials want high-energy workspaces.

There's a reason Facebook was recently named the best workplace of 2018 – its culture and perks are tailored to millennials, and so is the open office layout. Staff enjoy the open layout because it fosters a high-energy environment that drives productivity. Rather than walling off spontaneous social interaction with cubicles, Facebook's open layout in its Manhattan office inspires team members to engage with one another, even if it's just with a quick smile across the room.

You don't have to be a social media giant to transform the structure of your office. You only need the desire to increase productive outcomes for your team, and structure your office with millennials in mind.

Here's how to get started.

1. Use shapes and symbols to create specific environments.

Interior design is not just for the home. The decor of every environment has an impact on people, from their mood to their level of inspiration. An interior decorator would craft a beautiful theme throughout a residence to create a specific feel, and you should craft your office to similar effect.

You have the power to craft specific, individual environments for various rooms around your company space. This design element is apparent in Facebook's offices. The company has a library room filled with books, an interview room with overhead lights and decor that looks good on film, and other spaces with various types of furniture and artwork.

Paint the walls different colors from room to room. Add textures to the wall, such as shag carpeting. Have your graphic artist come up with a design that represents the main theme. Turn that image into a 3D metal sign with backlighting to bring depth and purpose to the room.

2. Eliminate cubicles as your main design element.

Many traditional office layouts consist of rows or clusters of cubicles with aisles that resemble a maze. This layout maximizes the number of employees in an area, but it's ineffective in other respects.

Cubicle walls encourage privacy but also make people feel as if they're alone, on an island. Also, workers can't lock their eyes on their desk and walk straight to it. They may have to walk long distances blindly, with twists and turns around multiple corners, like rats wandering through a maze.

Cubicles also send a subconscious message that it's not OK to enter someone else's space. That message can have merit, of course; nobody wants to be interrupted constantly while they're trying to work. For a software programmer, for example, an interruption while they're deep in code could be disastrous. Some team members shouldn't be interrupted.

However, the problem with cubicles is that they may isolate team members who should be collaborating and communicating openly throughout the day. For this reason, cubicles could undermine the success of your business. According to research from ClearCompany, 86 percent of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

When employees are sitting in a cubicle, the rest of the company almost ceases to exist. Being walled off from the team is discouraging for millennials, who especially crave interaction with one another to be productive.

3. Intentionally engineer the layout of your office.

The layout of your office matters more than you think. But there's no one solution that works for every employee. Some people thrive in open spaces, but others can't function outside the security of a cubicle. Here's how to make it work for both types.

Create a hybrid layout.

If you're not sure an open layout will work for everyone, consider a hybrid layout. In a hybrid environment, you can create an open workspace and place sections of cubicles strategically around the perimeter for staff who need a private environment.

For instance, programmers, designers and drafters may need long periods of uninterrupted time to work alone. Cubicles give them the solitude they need to produce their work.

Marketing and design teams, on the other hand, benefit from an open environment. Unlike programmers, creative teams need to collaborate regularly, often between departments.

Let your employees be creative.

What do your employees find inspiring? What do they want to look at all day? Consult with your teams to create an environment that inspires a level of collaboration that will demonstrate its worth in terms of productivity.

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends.
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