Is your workplace designed for productivity?

Most people would agree a workplace should be designed to promote productivity and collaboration.

Yet in many offices, the physical workspace doesn’t allow for high performance.

While reading this, if you’re surrounded by grey walls and general office clutter, your office design isn’t helping kick your productivity into high gear.

Managing Director of Futurespace interior design and architectural studio, Angela Ferguson, argues that variations in design can have huge effects on business – for better or worse. 

And she should know: Futurespace’s impressive client list features companies at the forefront of workplace design. Among them Google and Qantas.

Ferguson stresses office design lies at the heart of employee productivity “influencing a person’s health and wellbeing, and in turn the way they work,” she says.

Drawing on over twenty years’ experience as an interior designer, Ferguson argues emphatically that people are the product of their environment, whether in the home or office.

“Interior design can change the world because it influences people’s behaviours, their physical and emotional wellbeing and their ability to thrive as human beings.”

“In my experience, an organisation changes for the better once we redesign their workplace,” she says.

Ferguson explains that when a company does “humanise” its workplace, there’s a detectable positive effect not just on employees’ quality of work and output, but also their lives in general.

“We have known for a long time about ‘sick building syndrome’ – where a building’s systems and materials can make people physically ill. Sustainable and good environmental design was in many ways a response to that.”

“Now that we’ve got very good at building healthier buildings and interiors, the next logical step is the implementation of health and wellbeing programs for employees.”

Ferguson mentions the Sydney offices of US Fortune 500 company Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) as a standout case study where Futurespace designed a workplace to inspire wellbeing and productivity.

JLL Sydney workspace

JLL Sydney’s workspace creates an activity-based working environment. Image credit: Tyrone Branigan

The JLL project was honoured with the Property Council of Australia’s Innovation and Excellence Award for Workplace Design in 2014.

“It implements an ‘activity-based working’ environment that enables the business to expand and contract within a fixed real estate footprint,” Ferguson says.

“The design provides employees with an enormous amount of choice as to where, when and how they want to work based on their tasks on any given day.”

And determining the ROI of employee-friendly office designs like JLL isn’t limited to anecdotes.

Studies assessing the relationship between the design of a workplace and business performance support the notion that the workplaces designed with human needs in mind excel when it comes to productivity.

After 12 months in the new environment, more than 70% of JLL employees reported being more productive.


Boost output and workplace wellbeing with these three workspace hacks

Here comes the sun: increase natural light in the office

Business owners, go easy on the fluorescents. People want and need access to good natural light.

Not all offices have floor-to-ceiling windows, but this is a matter of maximising what you have.

Pull open the blinds, move boxes away from windows and make sure everyone has access to whatever views are available.


Plant yourself productive

Research suggests that houseplants make you smarter, boost your attention span, and reduce indoor pollution.

And if that isn’t enough, it turns out even photos of trees and greenery can make people happier and reduce levels of stress.


Variety is the spice of productivity: let employees choose where they work

Open office plans don’t suit all businesses or employees.

Provide employees with a range of spaces that support their various work modes. These include quiet, collaborative, individual, playful and social areas.

Spaces can be created with mobile screens, curtains, or furniture settings.

Choice in workspace, Ferguson argues, is both mentally and physically stimulating and can promote autonomy and innovation amongst teams and individuals.