How to design your office for better employee satisfaction and productivity

Games room with office pool table at Silverlake office in Taman Sains Selangor. Project by Sachi Interior and EzyOffice

Do you have days where it’s hard to stay focused and engaged at work? You’re not alone.

In a 2017 global workforce study conducted by Gallup, only 15% of employees feel engaged at work. In Malaysia, the number is only at 11%, based on the same study conducted in 2016.

That means, if your office has 20 employees, only around 3 of them are highly involved and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. That is a huge amount of wasted potential.

Why are workers not engaged? The same study suggests that it’s because companies are not keeping up with the “expectations of younger workers”, who see work as part of their identity.

There has been lots of literature around younger workers, also known as the millennial generation, and how their expectations are changing the workplace. So, how can employers create an environment that fosters happier, more satisfied employees who deliver impactful results?

 

Need to speak to our commercial and office interior designers?

Recommend.my has hundreds of commercial and office interior design specialists ready to work with you to design the space you need. From offices and shop lots to factories and retail outlets (as well as f&b outlets), our pros are happy to meet and advise on the right layout and style you need.

 

How your office interior design can impact creativity and productivity

One factor that contributes to creativity and productivity is the office design.

Large companies like Google, Apple and Facebook are leading the way in modern office design. Facebook, for example, created “the largest open floor plan in the world”, according to Mark Zuckerberg. The idea was that having such openness encourages movement and impromptu discussions.

 

While it’s tempting to start knocking down the partitions in your own office to be more like Facebook, other studies show that working in an open plan office can actually be distracting and make it hard to focus.

The trick, then is to create different spaces for different types of workstyles. Those who need a quiet space to work on detailed spreadsheets can find a private pod, while those who need a creative boost can look for play spaces to exchange ideas.

“In a recent 2017 work environment survey, 62% of people wanted access to natural light in the office; 25% wanted spaces for rest and relaxation; and 43% wanted furniture and spaces that are easily reconfigurable”

If your company is committed to fostering a creative and productive workplace for higher employee engagement, here are some modifications you can make:

 

Create a break room where employees can socialise

If you’re Google, you can provide your staff with a bowling alley.

But businesses with smaller budgets can also make do with a modest ping-pong table or foosball table.

The reasons for doing so are the same: to create spaces to boost innovation. Research suggests that creating play spaces can boost innovation by generating ideas, encouraging lateral thinking, and challenging the norm. It’s also a way for employees to feel young at heart.

Games room with office pool table at Silverlake office in Taman Sains Selangor. Project by Sachi Interiors and EzyOffice
Games room with office pool table at Silverlake office in Taman Sains Selangor. Project by Sachi Interiors and EzyOffice

 

Office break room with PS4, dartboard and table soccer at ByondWave office in Bangsar South. Source: EzyOffice
Office break room with PS4, dartboard and table soccer at ByondWave office in Bangsar South. Source: EzyOffice

 

Have a well-stocked pantry with healthier choices

Older offices may have a small pantry with nothing more than a water cooler and tea bags, but that didn’t stop employees from congregating there for an informal chat.

Thankfully, today’s offices recognise the importance of keeping employees well fed. By keeping the pantry stocked with snacks, fresh fruits and even packed lunches, employees can set their own break times and avoid hunger pangs from affecting their work.

In the Malaysian context, keeping your office pantry full also allows employees to stay a bit longer to avoid the evening traffic jam.

By adding an island counter and bar stools, the pantry can also double up as an informal discussion area, or a space for employees to retreat to when their desk neighbour is talking too loudly on their phone.

Airbnb's Singapore office includes not one, but three pantries for employees to stay productive and full. Source
Airbnb’s Singapore office includes not one, but three pantries for employees to stay productive and full. Source

 

Office pantry design with bar counter at ByondWave office. Source: EzyOffice
Office pantry design with bar counter at ByondWave office. Source: EzyOffice

 

Create a mix of spaces for concentration vs collaboration

The open office layout allows departments or teams to sit together and get into a discussion whenever they need. But for introverts, the audio and visual distractions can make it hard to get any real work done.

That’s why, the modern office design now includes small rooms where employees can retreat to when they need to focus.

But if space is at a premium, you can also get office furniture systems that include low partitions. This provides a small amount of privacy, while still allowing instant discussions to take place.

Employee desks with low partitions at the office of Muse Asia. Source: EzyOffice
Employee desks with low partitions at the office of Muse Asia. Source: EzyOffice

 

But, along with the open desks, offices need to create spaces for “deep work” or “focused work”. These can be traditional cubicles with higher walls, or individual desks tucked away from the main traffic flow.

Small discussion room flanked by individual seats for personal space at the office of The Empire State. Source: EzyOffice
Small discussion room flanked by individual seats for personal space at the office of The Empire State. Source: EzyOffice

 

Include lots of natural light and greenery

Research shows that spending time in nature can reduce stress. But when you are at work for most of the day, you need to find other ways bring nature indoors.

It also doesn’t help that many office like to rely on artificial lights, and keep the blinds closed permanently.

The lack of natural light can lead to “sick building syndrome“, resulting in sluggishness, headaches, and loss of concentration. Conversely, research has shown that exposure to lots of natural light has been shown to improve quality of sleep.

The best way to incorporate natural light in the office is to find an office unit that has lots of large windows. A corner office unit has the benefit of additional windows along an extra wall to let in the daylight.

As for greenery, at minimum, your office design should include planters. You can also designate a wall to function as a vertical garden.

The vertical gardens at Six Battery Road in Singapore. Source
The vertical gardens at Six Battery Road in Singapore. Source

 

Vertical garden at the reception area of ByondWave office. Source: EzyOffice
Vertical garden at the reception area of ByondWave office. Source: EzyOffice

 

Office interior design with glass partitions and large outer windows for maximum natural light at ByondWave office. Source: EzyOffice
Office interior design with glass partitions and large outer windows for maximum natural light at ByondWave office. Source: EzyOffice

 

Conclusion: Design the right spaces for different workstyles

Creating the right office interior design and layout to get the most out of workers is a continuous work in progress.

From the rows of desks with executive offices in the 50s, to the endless rows of cubicles in the 80s and the fully open office layouts of recent years, each layout attempts to find the right balance of space for concentration, collaboration, and socialising.

Modern research suggests that having a mix of all three spaces is the best way to increase creativity and productivity. What matters is that your employees (young and old) are given the freedom to find the spaces that work for them.

Need to speak to our commercial interior designers?

Recommend.my has hundreds of commercial interior design specialists ready to work with you to design the space you need. From offices and shop lots to factories and retail outlets (as well as f&b outlets), our pros are happy to meet and advise on the right layout and style you need.

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