How to Design an Office to Support Productivity and Collaboration

It’s probably safe to say that improved collaboration is one of your main business objectives as this new year dawns — not too far behind increased productivity. As luck would have it, the two are closely linked. People will stick with a task 64% longer when working collaboratively than alone. They’re also more likely to be engaged, energetic, and successful.

Business team working at office desk

Hiring right can help, of course. As the founder and CEO of Spartan, I believe you need a crew around you who’s just as passionate and motivated about a company’s mission, vision, and goals as its leadership team is. The physical workspace is a critical part of the equation, and there appears to be truth behind this notion.

A recent Capital One survey found that 90% of workers reported performing better in a well-designed environment. But design is more than just aesthetics. Sure, layout will always be at its core, and so will color, lighting, and even climate. A workplace’s design also relates to its function, as 88% of people feel they perform better with a space for “focused” work, while 77% say collaborative spaces are a necessity. Employees want options for where to work.

A Focus on Design

How you go about providing these options will depend largely on the company and the industry. When our Boston headquarters needed a revamp, we approached VARIDESK, a workspace innovation company, for help in creating an open, modern space that provided not only mobility but changeability. We understood the need to reconfigure our office space to support an expanding workforce and the inevitable changes to the company’s goals.

We were also looking for space that promoted movement. I’ve always pushed my employees to get up and move throughout the day to increase blood flow, muscle movement, productivity, and collaboration — which stands to reason. I started Spartan to motivate people to live happier, healthier lives by getting off the couch and becoming more active. I want the same for my employees, and the work environment must get people moving.

An open, comfortable office with more common spaces, flexible furniture options, and fewer barriers between co-workers made it much easier for our teams to collaborate. It also made the company more appealing to potential employees. In fact, people are 30% more drawn to a company versus a competitor when the workspace is attractive, according to a recent Gartner study. They’re also 18% likelier to stay and 16% more productive.

When potential employees enter Spartan’s office, they’re now greeted by a bright and inviting space that has drastically helped with recruiting efforts. It has also aided productivity and overall employee retention.

Clean office

The Right Balance

So what are the essential design elements for a space that supports productivity and collaboration within a workforce? The following are often the best places to start:

1. Plan for tomorrow

Variety isn’t just the spice of life; it’s the key ingredient to a healthy and productive work environment. Scrap the utilitarian approach to office design, which tends to focus almost exclusively on present needs. Instead, look for more flexible solutions that let you offer a combination of open and enclosed areas. Employees then have a choice of “me time” and “we time.” Think workstations and huddle rooms. Better yet, go fully adaptable with movable walls, partitions, and other furnishings. This provides even greater flexibility for all kinds of work — be it cloistered or collaborative, scheduled or impromptu, professional or informal.

2. Start small

All too often, we go directly to “total renovation” when in desperate need of workplace improvements. But sometimes, all that’s necessary is a minor reconfiguration to promote the desired results. Replace a row of moored cubicles with a modular system that’s just as conducive to solitary work as group discussions.

Use wasted space for an informal meeting area. Ditch corporate art for something more unique. Even playing with the arrangement of furniture can change the look and feel of the workplace. Each of these options is not only cost-effective but measurable in its impact on productivity and collaboration. Keep what works and experiment from there.

3. Keep things moving

With the exception of occasional bathroom breaks, most people could spend an entire day seated behind their desks. This level of inactivity isn’t the answer to good health, nor is it the answer to productivity. People need to be up on their feet in order to start collaborating. It’ll also keep them more alert, energetic, and happy, so look for ways to encourage movement in the office space. Standing desks are a good start, but you can amp up the energy by positioning both necessities and amenities throughout the physical environment to draw employees away from their workstations.

Business meeting at a serviced office meeting room

Starting a successful company is difficult enough. You don’t need a poorly designed workplace to get in the way. If you keep your sights on your future needs and make it easy for employees to collaborate, you’re building a solid foundation for business — today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.


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