7 things to consider when designing a productive office space

There are a number of elements within the work environment that have been found to have positive effects on productivity. In this post we cover the 7 most important factors for any office redesign project to address.

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1. Noise

The issue of noise and the impact it has is specific to the individual, as well as the task at hand. Some people may be able to carry out a task perfectly happily in a busy open plan office, while others may struggle to function at all. Giving staff the choice of environment means they can decide where they will be able to work best. This can be done by creating separate environments for noisy, collaborative work and quiet, individual work, as well as having employees who work in a similar way sitting closely together.

2. Room temperature & ventilation

Working efficiently can be a struggle for staff when they are either too hot or too cold. Getting the right combination of temperature, airflow and humidity is essential for people to feel comfortable. The ideal office temperature is 21.6 degrees Celsius; it has been found that there is a one to two per cent decrease in performance for every one degree above or below this.

So, provide individual controls for each enclosed space, such as meeting rooms – studies have argued that workstations with advanced thermal controls can increase productivity by 2.8 per cent ( Also, make sure there are plenty of open-able windows to provide fresh air in the office.

3. Nature & natural light

The office environment can feel very restrictive and oppressive when there is limited access to natural light and the outside world.  It’s important for our psychological and physiological functioning, which directly affects our ability to be productive. People respond more positively when the environment feels more natural. It can improve wellbeing and reduce levels of stress. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Glass partitions are great for maximising light and ideally more windows in an office means this will be natural light. The odd plant or two here and there can’t hurt either.

4. Colour & stimulation

Dull offices can numb the senses and affect the alertness of employee’s. So access to views, a variety of colours and textures, spatial variability and pleasant odours is stimulating. Introducing art, sculptures and plants can certainly liven up the environment.

The colours around us have an effect on our moods and brain function. It evokes both a physical and emotional response. So choosing the right colours for your work space has the ability to affect your productivity. Use colour in areas where you want to promote a certain mood.

Bright colours (such as red) – are associated with accuracy and focus

Blue – is associated with a calming effect

Red – is associated with a feeling of strength and energy

Yellow – is associated with alertness

Orange – is associated with a boost in self-esteem and enthusiasm

5. Task orientated working environment

As previously mentioned the open-plan office has been the layout of choice; millions of us have been working elbow to elbow with each other for some time now. However, research has suggested that open plan layout makes many employees miserable and distracted. It is now believed that employees perform better when they can control their environment. With some tasks requiring intense concentration and others collaboration, offering a choice of working environments, including spaces for quiet, individual work and spaces for noisy collaborative work, will encourage greater productivity.

6. Hmmmm, what’s that smell?

Smells can affect our mood, mindset and so productivity. The evidence suggests that scent can have a powerful effect on performance – research carried out by Takasago, Japan’s biggest producer of fragrances, found that 54% of typists made fewer errors when they could smell lemon, 33% fewer with jasmine and 20% fewer with lavender.

Dot a few air fresheners about and try using these scents:

Pine – Increases alertness

Cinnamon – Improves focus

Lavender – Helps to relax you during a stressful work day

Peppermint – Lifts your mood

Citrus (any) – Wakes you up

7. Crowding & clutter

Feeling crowded, either by the number of people or the clutter around, has been linked to a decline in productivity, particularly on more complex tasks (there could also be a link noise levels, surrounding activity and consequent sensory overload).

Bright, airy rooms with lots of mirrors create the sense of space, along with the strategic use of furniture, plants and décor. Other ways of reducing the feeling of crowding is to orientate workstations, reducing the view of workstations and where possible providing views through windows.

Clutter also isn’t particularly helpful for focus and productivity either. Encourage staff to de-clutter and dispose of papers, old equipment and stationery and provide them with sufficient role related and personal storage will help minimise clutter at work stations.



On average 80% of an individuals work now depends on working with others, so it is definitely a good idea to make sure your staff and colleagues feel comfortable at their desks. Once you’ve assessed how you are doing on the points above, use our Office Fitout Checklist to plan your upgrade project.