Its no secret that our environment has a massive influence over us, with an unpleasant working environment likely to result in reduced productivity, ill health and discontent.
A well-designed office space could raise production figures by almost 20% and certain factors contribute to a more productive workspace, such as layout, noise, colour scheme, furniture, temperature, air quality, lighting and plants.” says Leon Breytenbach, national manager of the Rawson Property Group’s commercial division.
Below he outlined the most important factors to consider when building the perfect office space.
Size and layout
Whether relocating to new premises or revamping an old office space, careful design is essential, and the nature of the business will dictate the final layout, said Breytenbach.
“Innovative departments often require open areas, as sharing ideas aids the creative process. However, whether you have open-plan or closed offices, employees require sufficient space to perform their tasks efficiently, so having to work in a crowded tiny space will reduce their productivity,” he said.
He noted that the trend of cubicles has given way to an open-plan design, but neither style has been totally successful, as the accompanying noise and distractions impact on productivity.
“Current trends lean towards smaller executive offices and public areas, with glass walls providing enough privacy to encourage focus on the set task,” he said.
“Employees are inspired to work harder, as they see their boss setting the example, while they still have visual contact with colleagues.”
He added that break rooms are often disregarded, but they are a necessary addition to every office design, as a few minutes break can greatly improve an employee’s concentration and productivity.
Colour schemes, furniture and art
“Colour plays an important role in the health and performance of employees; it affects moods and brain function, which directly influences productivity,” Breytenbach explained.
He said that grey, beige and brown were popular colour choices in the past, but these promote a general sense of laziness, while white appears efficient but provides little stimulation.
In comparison red intensifies emotions, reduces analytical thinking and arouses the appetite. Blue is calming and peaceful, encouraging greater productivity, but can make a space appear cold; green and orange encourage broad-thinking and creativity, and pink is calming and relaxing.
Tasteful paintings or pictures on the walls, particularly nature and landscapes that tone with the general colour scheme, can also ease stress and promote productivity by providing a different dimension to look at, he said.
“Sitting at a desk for most of the day necessitates a comfortable chair for optimal concentration. Ergonomically designed furniture is important for staff posture and health.
“New trends in office furniture include kneeling chairs for typists and sit–stand desks that can be raised or lowered as required. Adequate storage is necessary for reducing clutter; storage units make excellent dividers between desks, increasing privacy and minimising distractions.”
Temperature, air quality and plants
Temperature is a volatile subject in every office, as employees all have different preferences, said Breytenbach.
“Studies show that slightly warmer temperatures are more conducive to higher productivity and accuracy. Office temperature is usually kept in the region of 21°C, but it would be better to raise the levels closer to 25°C.
“However, it is easier for someone to put on a jersey when cold than to get cool when too warm,” he said.
He added that air quality is also important, as it affects employees’ ability to think or focus clearly.
“Fresh air is preferable, but modern buildings tend to have in-built air-conditioning, so installing air filters is a good idea,” he said.
“Planters filled with palms or ferns arranged around the offices will lift employees’ spirits and make the place more attractive. They also absorb significant amounts of chemical compounds from the air given off by plastics, synthetic fabrics, paint and cleaning materials.”
According to Breytenbach, lighting impacts heavily on health, mood and productivity, yet is often neglected by employers.
“Access to windows and sunlight is optimal, but artificial lighting may be improved with daylight bulbs, which provide softer, warmer illumination,” he said.
“Bright lighting is beneficial to analytical thought processes, though harsh fluorescent lighting may cause UV-related eye disease. Bad lighting causes fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and lack of focus.”
Using mirrors in the décor also helps to increase ambient light, he said.