04/07/2014

By Jack Lacey

Small business owners are always looking at ways of boosting productivity. As we know, pressure to do more with less frequently leaves business owners or employees feeling stretched, stressed and sometimes overwhelmed. Resources are still tight. Despite rising employment in the UK the feel-good factor is still some distance off. Unemployment figures remain stubbornly slow to fall in the USA.

For many businesses taking on more staff still isn’t feasible, so one way to get more from your team and yourself is to take a look at your work environment and see what changes could improve productivity.

If you’re looking for inspiration for modern office design, then few companies lead the way in creative thinking more so than Google, which opened its new London office at the end of last year.

Like most offices today – up to 70% of US offices according to the International Management Facility Association – open plan spaces are the layouts of choice. Here are a few tips to ensure your office space is best optimised for productivity:

Create different spaces for different gigs
Think about the different tasks you and your staff do. The spatial environment we work in can cause issues when different job roles cohabit the same space, for example, salespeople with copywriters or journalists – two groups requiring different environments to perform their tasks. If it’s not possible to segment office space according to job function, then ensure there are areas available that offers peace and quiet.

Break out areas
Much has been made of break-out areas and meeting rooms, but both are essential in modern office design to give workers flexibility to choose their area of work. Break-out spaces with Wi-Fi provide relaxed spaces to chill out with co-workers, have lunch or work in a more relaxed environment and can help foster a sense of togetherness that reflects company values and culture. Google’s choice of lounging areas may be too much for many businesses, but their intention shows the value of different spaces to office workers.

Meeting spaces
Private meetings rooms allow workers space to get together whether it be for face-to-face meetings or conference calls. Avoid your business developing a needless meeting culture, but one advantage of having enough meetings rooms is when they are not being used they offer workers a quiet space to do some concentrated tasks.

Outside space
Even if you’re a small office, giving your workers access to a small outside space can really help them feel energised. Fresh air is important in stimulating the brain and encouraging workers to take breaks outside regularly prevents them succumbing to a stale office environment. Take a look at Google’s roof top garden, offering staff outside space, greenery, views and Wi-Fi.

Bring the outside in
If you don’t have the luxury of outside space, then bringing the outside indoors can help. House plants are well known for absorbing stale air and making it fresher and more oxygenated, good for brain function and researchers have shown that they can boost productivity and concentration.

Lighting design is essential too, both in reducing costs but and to boost productivity. Well-lit office space can help you and your team feel energised and dynamic. People often refer to an open, airy atmosphere feeling productive, so don’t neglect good ventilation either.

Don’t skimp on chairs
Whether it’s you or your office workers, the most used furniture will be chairs. Ergonomically designed chairs will prevent bad backs and necks, but if not available then encourage your staff to try things like wobble cushions, they are cheap and can help improve posture and core strength and reduce back pain.

Enforce a tidy office culture
Heaps of paper spread all over desks means minutes, even hours wasted finding that important memo. So don’t let it happen. While the paperless office might be a myth, it is possible to adopt a clean desk policy ensuring your employees tidy and file every night before leaving. It will take 10 minutes in the evening, but will save many more minutes the next day.

Enable staff to work remotely
More and more of us are doing it, but be careful to ensure that when these devices connect to your network they don’t bring unwanted viruses or malware into the network. Implementing a solid Bring Your Own Device policy will help protect the safety of your systems and data – read this AVG BYOD ebook for more information.

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