How to improve productivity, creativity, and morale in the workplace through office design

When it comes to your employees’ mood, morale, and general performance, there are a number of factors that can have a considerable impact. These range from offering rewards and benefits, to encouraging an environment that champions open and honest dialogue between staff and their managers.

However, did you know that you can also boost creativity and productivity in the workplace through office design?

As Cityscape explains in their article, ‘Biophilic’ design takes over U.S. office space: “It’s no secret, the workplace can be a stressful and demanding environment. The majority of stress comes from work pressures within a grey, dull and often windowless built environment – a factor which architects, designers and psychologists are trying to reverse.

“In a recent study, Human Spaces, a platform dedicated to biophilic design, analysed data across eight countries around the world and looked specifically at the impact of biophilic design. The report found that workers in office environments with natural elements such as greenery and sunlight had a 15% higher level of well-being, were 6% more productive, and 15% more creative compared to employees who were without these natural elements.”

As well as being savvy with colour schemes and keeping offices bright, open and inviting, one of the best ways of ensuring an inspiring workplace is by bringing nature into the office. According to the theory of ‘Biophilia’, which was popularised by biologist E. O. Wilson, humans feel an intense connection with nature, and have a biological need to be close to it.

This is something that’s strongly evidenced by the positive impact plants (and even just pictures of natural landscapes) can have on a person’s health, mood, and cognitive function.

Dean Kahl, Marketing Manager at SEC Group, says: “Biophilia is about much more than bringing plants into the office; and it shouldn’t be reserved for the Google’s of this world either as incorporating biophilia can be cost effective! Think about using printed vinyl wallpaper that depicts scenes of nature (especially if natural light is at a premium) and using natural materials for furniture or floor coverings. These bring huge psychological benefits when we spend so much time at our desks!”

Here’s just some of the ways you can improve productivity, creativity, and morale through office design…

Incorporate plants and natural materials

Office with wooden dividersOffice plants have been proven to have a substantial effect on employees’ mood, productivity, and general wellbeing, making them essential for any thriving workplace. In fact, according to a study by scientists at the University of Exeter, the introduction of office plants boosted workers’ creativity levels by up to 45%, and productivity by 38%.

This is likely to be because plants increase the air’s humidity, as well as reduce levels of CO2, bacteria, and dust. Because of this, employees are less likely to experience headaches and dizziness, both of which can negatively impact cognitive function.

As well as placing small plants on desks, shelving, and windowsills, large indoor plants can also be used to frame doorways, and you can even go a step further by installing a living wall. And it’s not just plants that can boost your mood; incorporating natural finishes in office furniture (such as wood and stone) can also have a ‘biophilic’ effect.

Keep the office bright and open

When designing your workplace, you should aim to incorporate as much natural light as possible. Not only does harsh fluorescent lighting have the potential to cause eye strain and headaches, but workplaces with good daylight have been shown to have a 3 – 40% gain in productivity and sales. Office with plant and yellow wall

Research has also found that workers with more exposure to daylight (via a window) typically sleep better at night, while those working in artificial lighting tend to feel more tired at the end of the day. Additionally, 20% of people in the UK are thought to experience symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Defective Disorder), such as anxiety, overeating, and problems with concentration. However, one way symptoms can be improved is by getting more exposure to natural light.

Make sure desks are positioned towards windows, and if access to natural lighting is limited in your office, consider installing skylights. To keep spaces bright and open, you should also eliminate partitions between desks, or instead opt for glass panels; these maximise the amount of natural light entering the room, while allowing employees to have a degree of privacy when working.

Decorate with an uplifting colour scheme

It’s vital to ensure that your office is practically designed, as well as being comfortable and physically inviting. However, as the colours you paint your workplace are said to have a considerable impact on your workers’ happiness, and therefore their creativity and productivity levels, this is an idea to explore before you pick your colours!

Biophilic office with green furnitureTo improve productivity in the workplace through colour, it’s suggested that you should move away from the shades of white, grey and beige that are so commonly used in corporate offices;  according to research from the University of Texas, these colours could be more likely to induce feelings of sadness (particularly in women). However, purple and orange were reported to have a similar effect on men.

Green and blue have been proven to have the biggest impact on productivity, and this may be due to the fact that these colours appear often in nature. Yellow is also thought to inspire innovation, creativity, and optimism. However, subtly may be the key to incorporating these colours into the office’s design!

Provide space to move around

Finally, to boost your employees’ creativity and productivity in the workplace, you should be encouraging them to keep healthy and active. This is because regular exercise has been shown to cause the release of serotonin (which is also known as the ‘happiness hormone’); this not only has the potential to help feelings of anxiety and depression, but improve how people deal with stress.

Those that do regular exercise also suffer from less colds and experience less severe symptoms; thus, less work is lost from sick days. To incorporate this into the office design, consider standing desks and treadmill desks alongside standard ones.

Sitting staring at a screen for extended periods can cause eye and muscle strain, as well as mental fatigue. However, this can be relieved with regular breaks; encourage them by having a breakout area in the office, so your staff can get up and move around when needed.

One last important thing to be aware of is that employees need a certain amount of space to work in. As per the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers should provide their workers with at least 40 square feet per person in a typical office area. They also need enough space to comfortably move around the room. (source)