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How to Increase Productivity With Office Design

Aug 18, 2007
Business leaders urged to consider the impact of design, as report shows it can affect workforce performance by up to 11per cent.

Business leaders are being urged to take more account of the links between good workplace design and improved business performance. That's according to the findings of a new report by the Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment (CABE) and the British Council for Offices (BCO) being launched today at a seminar at the refurbished HM Treasury building.The report, Impact of Office Design on Business Performance, recognises the revolution now taking place in the office environment, as the traditional work space becomes a space for social and interactive engagement.

It is estimated that by next year, about 30 per cent of the worlds top companies will adopt a highly mobile work style model, with 35 per cent having a workforce outside the boundaries of the formal workplace.
The report points to evidence that office design influences a range of factors critical to business performance, including:
- staff attraction, motivation and retention
- staff satisfaction
- knowledge and skills of staff
- innovation and creativity
- responsiveness to business and technological change
- customer attraction and retention.

The report provides a range of evidence showing the links between poor workplace design, lower business performance and higher level of stress experienced by employees. With differences in productivity of 25 per cent reported between comfortable and uncomfortable staff, due to basics, such as, air quality, temperature, overall comfort, noise and lighting. Both good lighting design and adequate daylight have been linked to a 15 per cent reduction in absenteeism and increases of between 2.8 per cent and 20 per cent in productivity.

Moreover, the report identifies the issue of staff satisfaction as a primary driver to enhancing knowledge worker productivity. The workplace is responsible for 24 per cent of job satisfaction and this can affect staff performance by 5 per cent for individuals and 11 per cent for teams. In one major UK company staff turnover at a call centre reduced by 11per cent after a move to new well-designed offices and output doubled during the same period.

In another example, an assessment of the BP Blue Chalk programme of office redesign revealed 13 per cent greater performance, 15 per cent greater communication, 18 per cent greater collaboration and 10 per cent increased creativity. In the report, Frank Duffy of DEGW, states that the collective failure of todays business leaders and architects to understand the work environment shapes business performance, is comparable to early 19th Century physicians and their limited notions of how diseases were transmitted.

Paul Morrell, CABE Commissioner and President of the BCO, said:

'This report is a call to arms for all employers striving for improvements in staff satisfaction and the performance of their workforce. This provides both a checklist and a positive way forward for those facing the challenges and opportunities of addressing their business changing accommodation needs. As the pressures of competition place new demands on differentiation through quality of knowledge management and creative thought, new environments are needed to encourage interaction and teamwork. 'Those employers who ignore the evidence of office design as an enabler of staff satisfaction and performance risk the loss of key staff and ultimately business success.'

Richard Kauntze, CEO of the British Council for Offices, said:
'No part of the BCO's work is more important than developing a greater understanding of the relationship between an office building and the effectiveness of the people who work in it.'The workforce is by far the most valuable asset of any business, and almost always the biggest cost. A business that gives serious attention to the physical environment of the office is far more likely to increase staff productivity than one which ignores the building.'

He believes that there is the need for a standardised approach to post-occupancy evaluation, with further work needed on the following:
- A system of metrics for measuring staff satisfaction and other aspects of staff performance
- A consistent approach towards post occupancy evalution
- A similarly consistent approach towards case studies, with a view to building a body of knowledge that deepens the understanding of how individual design variables serve business strategy
About the Author
Hugh Roberts has been a specialist in office design and build for 20 years and a regular contributor on this subject.
For more articles and surveys on this subject visit www.interiorsgroup.co.uk
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