11 Tips for Creating a More Functional Workspace Design

Angela Kambouris

The average employed adult in the U.S. works approximately 1,811 hours per year. Collectively people are spending more hours at work and working harder. Our work environments impact the team, affect how productive and purposeful their work is delivered, and can influence behavior at work. 

When people feel as if they belong within their workspace, they feel more balanced and more likely to tap into their flow state. Many design factors can contribute to a functional workspace that encourages productivity and purpose such as lighting, color, plants, art, food, seating. However, at the end of the day, a more functional workspace takes care of people’s needs and supports the team to thrive.

Poorly-designed workspaces inhibit our ability to do our best work. In one study, 46% of professionals described a direct link between their workspace and how their productivity had been impacted. The WELL Building Standard focuses on human health and wellbeing in the design, construction, and operations of buildings. The standard embraces seven key concepts of building performance through healthier buildings – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind to significantly impact health, satisfaction, wellbeing, and productivity.

Employees want to work in a quality workspace that is less stressful and allows them to be more productive. When companies invest in the physical work environment, they create a space that feels more comfortable, calm and supports them to produce their best work.

Here are 11 principles to help you create a healthier work environment and a more functional workspace for your employees:  

1. Ask Employees for Feedback on Workplace Design

Before designing or redesigning any workspace, ask quality questions to understand what you are trying to accomplish. Explore the challenges that your current team faces, ask “how can the space serve their specific needs”, and “how will the design change with the team?” Invite people to focus groups or through a survey, delve into how people like to work, and the activities that must occur in each space. Once results have been obtained, review to determine the next steps. Not all views or recommendations can be implemented. However, all people must feel included in the process and feel heard. 

2. Explore People’s Work Styles

When creating a balanced workplace, think about the purpose of each space. People operate differently, and it is essential to understand the different types of work styles. For instance, some people need quiet spaces, and others need areas for collaboration and building prototypes. Some spaces will require whiteboards, more natural light, and others will crave nooks and crannies to remove them from the bustle. 

Workplaces require a mix of combinations of workstations, phone booths to host calls and small group conversations, and larger space areas to accommodate big gatherings. LinkedIn’s New York Office provides flexible office design to support various work methods such as multiple conference rooms, lounge areas including one with a fireplace, and an office library.

3. Let There Be Light

When it comes to functional spaces, lighting is paramount. Lighting affects many aspects of work-life, from productivity to mental health and workplace safety. Harvard Business Review reported that access to natural light and views of the outdoors outranked office perks such as cafeterias, fitness centers, and daycare. 

Natural light improves mood, boosts vitamin D, and supports the body’s circadian rhythm. Cornell University found that office workers with natural daylight reported that an 84% decrease in headaches, eye strain, and blurred vision. When there is limited natural light, companies can consider using layers of different types of lighting in a workspace, such as task lighting, to localize lighting and provide the correct amount of light needed to suit the task at hand.

4. Add a Splash of Color

Color is a powerful communication tool and can be used to influence mood and psychological reactions. Specific colors have been associated with increased blood pressure, increased metabolism, and eyestrain. According to Very Well Mind, natural colors like green can evoke optimism, and compassion, orange can be very attention-grabbing, exude warmth. In contrast, white can convey cleanliness, simplicity, but on the flip side, white can seem stark, cold, and isolated. When selecting colors, think about the purpose and function of the space and then match the right color to align with your company brand.

5. Improve Air Quality 

The Occupational Safety and Health Organization estimates that the total annual cost of poor air quality in work environments costs employers $15 billion “due to worker inefficient and sick leave.”  The World Green Building Council highlighted an 11% increase in productivity due to increased fresh air to the workstation. To create a functional workspace, consider adding office plants, reducing clutter in the officer, implement air filtration systems, and where possible, open windows as fresh air is gold. 

6. Encourage Hydration

The human adult body is made up of 60% water. According to the Journal Of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water and the lungs 83%. Water serves as a vital nutrient to the life of every cell, regulates our internal body temperature, and assists in flushing waste. It also assists our ability to focus, keeps us aware and alert to be more productive in work and life. Within the workplace, companies can provide filtered water coolers or consider providing top quality, toxin-free BPA free water bottles to allow employees to refill, save money, and reduce waste.

7. Encourage Healthy Eating

By encouraging your people to eat a nutritious, balanced diet and to develop better eating habits, the company is placing their people in a better position to feel energized, focused, and more productive. Workspaces can improve staff access to fresh fruit, promote healthy food options, or gift vouchers for cooking classes.

8. Encourage Physical Movement

The human body was not designed to be stagnant. Research suggests that physical exercise benefits the brain and the body. Engaging in movement can reduce anxiety, improve mood, boost self-esteem, minimize stress, and enhance cognitive functioning. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week (30 minutes for five days) of moderate aerobic activity, whether it be running, walking, or swimming. 

Companies can invest in shower facilities, bicycle storage, vouchers for gym memberships, or create a space for physical activity. Perhaps collaborate with a gym to provide a reduced rate for employees. Twitter has been reported to be one of the healthiest workplaces in the US due to their on-site gym and company-wide yoga sessions. 

9. Provide Comfortable Workspaces

In today’s work environment, where many people sit for most of the day, having a correctly fitted table and chair to fit your body is imperative. Ergonomic checks are one way that companies can contribute to ensuring that computer screens are at eye level, feet either are on a footrest or resting on the floor, and a slightly reclined chair posture can reduce pressure on your spine. Standing desks are another alternative, and studies show that when a person spends more time standing rather than sitting, they may reduce the risk of shoulder and back pain.

10. Increase Greenery in Your Office

Plants add so much value to workspaces. From reducing stress, clean filter air and can reduce noise levels, and boost creativity, low maintenance plants can make your space greener adds value both to employees and the company. When living green plants are integrated into workspaces, workers report a 15% higher level of wellbeing, are 6% more productive, and are 15% more creative. Companies can also capitalize on making the exterior of the workplace more green by investing in lunch seating with access to native flora or establishing employee gardens where workers play a role in nurturing the plants. 

11. Provide a Space to Relax

The workspace has a significant effect on how we think, work, and behave. When we create spaces that optimize employee’s emotional health, there can be improvements in focus, collaboration, and creativity. Companies can generate relaxation spaces to allow people to de-stress and design outdoor areas where people can congregate to socialize or celebrate achievements. By offering people an area to recharge, companies are making a positive impact on employee wellbeing. 

A Well-Designed Workspace Helps Retain Healthy and Happy Employees

A workspace can have a profound impact on how people behave. When companies provide an innovative and thoughtfully designed workspace, there is a positive impact on your company’s bottom line. 

To leverage workplace performance, companies must think about the workplace as an ecosystem of spaces where people can have a choice and control over where and how they work. When this occurs, people feel supported, perform at their best, and it's where the magic happens.

Are you interested in making your workplace more efficient? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.

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