Office layout: how can it improve productivity?

Office development

Over the past century, offices have seen many variations in layout and style. The impact of an office’s design on employee productivity is a widely debated topic and studies have been conducted to determine whether a change in office layout affects the productive output of employees.

In the 1920s, offices had a simple but sombre feel. Desks often faced a supervisor, with one employee sat at each desk, as this was believed to maximise productivity. The office cubicle was introduced in the 1960s, allowing employees the chance to experience their very own miniature office environment. The open plan office style arrived in the 1990s and has stood the test of time, as it is still widely adopted by organisations.

Impacting productivity

So does the open plan office layout help or hinder employee productivity? Created to promote a flexible and collaborative working environment, the thinking behind it was for management to keep employees positive and productive by encouraging spontaneous and innovative conversation across the office floor. Figures from GSK found that after moving to an open layout, email traffic dropped by 50%, also resulting in increased productivity rates. Many companies cite that their use of an open office layout has even led to the generation of creative ideas by employees not originally involved in discussions.

Despite the positives, multiple studies have exposed the disadvantages of an open office. Ipsos published a study revealing that 85% of people were dissatisfied with their workspace, as they were unable to concentrate. Privacy was also highlighted as an issue with only 41% of those surveyed stating they could work privately.

A collaborative office layout can also impact on sickness rates. Employees working in offices with an open plan layout had on average 70% more sick days than those who worked from home according to one survey. Organisational psychologists also found that the increased amount of disruption occurring in an open office reduced employee concentration and motivation, subsequently lowering a company’s productivity. A Gallup report suggested the overall employee disengagement caused by office layout is costing UK businesses a minimum of £52 billion.

The search for a new office layout

New office environments that promote productivity more effectively are being explored. A ‘virtual office’ is considered to be the ideal solution for many companies; it allows staff to create their own working environment suited to their individual requirements and increases staff wellbeing through decreased travel time. Managers using virtual office schemes have reported a surge in productivity, as employees become more goal orientated instead of focusing on the number of hours they spend at work.

Every employee requires the right tools to enhance the productive atmosphere that the layout of their office aims to create. The Rexel team is committed to supporting a productive working environment by focusing on the development of new products that use cutting edge technology. If you’d like to receive the latest updates and offers, sign up to our newsletter here 


This post is also available in: German