7 Design Tips for a More Productive Office

From Mashable - By Taylor Casti

The right workspace can greatly increase employee peace of mind and productivity. But before you panic and install a Google-style indoor go-cart track in your accounting firm's headquarters, relax. All you really need to do to boost your employees productivity is make a few small design tweaks.

It may seem trivial, but a few simple design fixes in your office environment can make you and your employees happier, healthier and much more productive.

Whether it's as big as painting the walls or as small as adjusting your desk chair, here's how you can tailor your office's design for maximum effectiveness:

1. Ergonomics
We don't even need to cite science on this one (but we will), because it just makes sense. You're not going to be productive if your back is killing you from an improperly adjusted computer screen or desk chair.

Take five minutes and adjust, adjust, adjust. Specifically, focus on the heights of your desk chair, desk and computer monitor so that your thighs are parallel to the floor and your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor. Your wrists should be almost straight. You want to ensure that everything is within easy reach without straining any of your muscles.

Trust us. Your body will thank you later.

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2. Lose the Clutter
Another no-brainer, but keeping a clutter-free desk will greatly increase productivity and organization. As a manager, it can be difficult to enforce a "clean desk" policy, but you can encourage employees to scan documents for a more paperless desk.

As an employee, do your best to keep things neat and tidy in your personal space, including your computer folders. You'll save more time by developing a system and sticking to it than by scrolling through endless documents trying to find the one you want.

Some easy tips to get you started: Stick to a pattern for naming file names, labeling with the relevant project or event; develop an organized file system; and occasionally take the time to delete documents you no longer need, or nest them within one "Old Projects" folder.

Pro tip: If you are going to go paperless, please, for the love of tech, back up your files.

3. Color Me Productive
Color has long been proven to affect people's productivity at work. The Color Affects System, developed by world-renown color psychologist Angela Wright, determines that while individuals might have certain preferences for color, the effects of color influence people universally.

According to Wright's theory, blue stimulates the mind, yellow inspires creativity, red affects your body and green creates a calming balance. But just choosing a color isn't enough. Even more important than the actual color is the saturation and intensity of the color choice. Highly saturated, bright colors will stimulate while softer, muted colors will soothe.

If you can't change the color of your whole office, opt for accents so that different teams are surrounded by the colors that will best suit their type of work.

4. Get One With Nature
If you can't change the color scheme of your office or have no control over the lighting design, adding a small potted plant to your desk decor is one of the quickest and easiest ways you can maximize your productivity at work.

Two studies, one from 2011 and one from 2013, found that having a plant on your desk increases productivity and cognitive attention, as well as filter the air to remove mold and bacteria, keeping your employees happy, productive and healthy.

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5. Light It Up
Letting in a lot of natural light increases productivity, energy and creativity, according to this study, which showed natural light improved test results and let to customers spending more time in stores.

It's unrealistic to assume every office can knock out a few more spots for windows and skylights, but you can work with the light you already have by making sure that as many desks are within view of a window as possible. It also helps to ensure all the windows and skylights are cleaned regularly for maximum light intake.

If natural light just isn't a possibility for you, it's better to opt for indirect light — that is, light that bounces off the ceiling or wall — as it's more soothing and calming than light that shines directly on employees.

6. Ditch the Open Plan
OK, so yes, this goes against everything that you've heard about open plans being great for collaborative work and productivity. But according to a recent study by Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear of the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture, workers who were lumped together in an open floor plan often are less satisfied with their working environment, citing the lack of privacy — specifically "sound privacy" — as the reason.

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If you need proof, just walk through every open plan office and count the pairs of headphones. Hardly anyone collaborates, because it's intimidating to talk to someone else when the whole office can hear your conversation.

If you must have an open floor plan, make sure there are plenty of private nooks or conference rooms available for people who want to have small meetings or to make a phone call, but don't want everyone in the office to hear them.

7. Up and At 'Em
Even the most well-designed office will make employees unproductive if they feel chained to their desks. Make sure that employees have the space to get up and take a walk occasionally, or maybe a lounge area where they can get a little work done without sitting in the same place all day.

An office environment goes beyond good design; it comes down to culture, in addition to whether or not your employees feel comfortable taking a 20 minute break to walk around for a mid-afternoon recharge.

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Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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