Well-Designed Office Key to Improving Employee Performance
By Fareeha Qayoom
orkplace design has a very real impact on companies’ bottom lines. Businesses that ignore the design and layout of their workplaces are failing to optimize the full value of their human capital. Pakistani businesses are slowly waking up to the fact that the workplace is much more than just real estate and a means to house their people. They are embracing performance-focused workplace design as a strategic business initiative; as the medium that can drive employee excellence, business objectives, and ultimately, the bottom line.
BETTER DESIGN EQUALS BETTER PERFORMANCE
There is a direct link between the physical office and work processes such as innovation, collaboration, and creativity. Employees are more efficient when they work closely with their co-workers. However, most office designs do not promote spontaneous interaction, collaboration, or cooperation and teamwork among colleagues and direct reports. Usually the workplace design discourages innovation and creativity.
WORKPLACE AS A WEAPON IN THE TALENT WAR
There is overwhelming evidence to support the importance of good workplace design for overall employee satisfaction. Quality of working environment affects employee moods, attitudes and their sense of job satisfaction. Companies succeed or fail depending on their ability to recruit and retain top skilled workers. The office environment is taking on an increased responsibility to connect people and support strong corporate cultures that engage workers hearts and minds.
OFFICE DÉCOR AFFECTS MOODS, ATTITUDES, PRODUCTIVITY
Most employee grievances about physical environment usually are lack of space, poor lighting, noise, few quiet areas; uncomfortable workstations; not enough space to meet big or small groups, or to meet customers or vendors, too few or badly designed bathrooms and bad layout and design. Some workplace designs are serious health hazards; yet healthy and secure working conditions are reported as the most important factors in an efficient working environment.
THINK ABOUT AESTHETICS AND IMAGE
First impressions count. What do you feel when you enter your office each workday morning? If the feeling isn’t an overwhelming sense of success and future promise, expect your colleagues and staff to feel the same way. Office décor is an essential element to help keep attitudes positive, ideas flowing, productivity heightened, and business running. Reviving tired common areas don’t have to cost loads of cash or take a lot of time. Colorful rugs, indoor plants, new desk lighting, stimulating artwork, and additional casual seating can raise spirits and create an inspiring spot in the office where your project team can meet to develop strategies and formulate plans. You can create new fun spaces to work and meet; for instance, turn a lunchroom into a multipurpose area with mobile screens and comfortable chairs for small meetings. Seating areas with coffee tables in reception areas can accommodate tea or coffee breaks and casual meetings. A soft chair, ottoman, and focused lighting can create a private enclave for deep concentration.
OPEN FLOOR PLAN VS. ENCLOSED WORK SPACES
Going the cubicle route can work for some businesses. However, don’t forget cubicles are not sound proof. One important issue that is rarely considered when cubicles go up is the quality of the ceilings and floors in the office. Acoustic floor coverings and ceiling panels should be essential part of a plan to reduce office noise. Including a splash of color in your cubicle setup is bound to brighten not only your office, but the outlook of the employee sitting inside it. If your employees spend the majority of their days typing away on computers and have little or no need to be on the telephone (or even talk amongst themselves), an open workspace plan might be a better approach. By the way, research shows that leaders who work in an open plan environment with their teams rather than in private offices command more respect.
IS YOUR BUSINESS MEETING THE DESIGN CHALLENGE?
How many of your employees would be proud to show important customers or potential recruits their current workplaces? Well, here are four corporate workspaces that can meet this challenge; Nishat Chunian Ltd (especially designed office – multi- story building) – a story by Fareeha Qayoom, Levi Strauss Pakistan Pvt. Ltd (rented property/commercial building – 2 ½ floors – converted from big halls into customized space) – a story by Fareeha Qayoom and IGI insurance (rented property, converted from residential to office space, retaining the old building façade while modernizing the interiors) – a story by Aarzoo Naeem Chaudhry and finally Bank Alfalah’s flagship building – Shahdin Manzil (an old historic building restored to its former glory, situated on the mall which nicely also ties in with our Mall story in Urban Landmarks) – a story by Nazish K Siddiqui. Enjoy!
This article was originally published in the print edition “Valuemag”, issue 2, June 2008