Improving workspace can improve performance by 22%: Report

A global research piece has found performance at work can be dramatically improved with simple design changes to the work environment.

With an average of 40 hours a week spent in the physical workplace as well as being an organisation’s largest cost item, second being human resources, there are some simple design steps which can be taken to improve performance levels, long-term business savings and employee satisfaction.

In its research paper, entitled “Wellness by design”, architects Perkins+Will, in collaboration with Habits@Work (Chicago) and The Total Office, a UAE-based company specialising in modern, ergonomic and environmentally friendly workspace solutions, has shared a piece of research to determine the effects of the physical workspace on employee productivity.

The research report by BRATLAB revealed designing a working environment to optimise employees from around the world’s physical and mental states, results in as much as a 22% performance increase.

Simple changes to background noise, room temperature and clutter have an impact of more than 20% on employee performance.

Among key changes employers can make to improve performance are: noise levels, reporting a 66% drop in performance for ‘memory for prose’ tasks when participants were exposed to different types of background noise with 99% of people surveyed reporting their concentration was impaired by office noise such as unanswered phones and background speech. Maintenance of room temperatures between 19 – 24 degrees offers a 20-50% performance increase. A reduction of clutter and general untidiness is reported to provide a 150% improvement in persistency of tasks.

Sleep and activity were also big impactors on performance, with employees who sleep 7-8 hours a night being twice as creative as those with fewer hours of sleep. The report includes findings from NASA suggesting a 26 minute nap during the day can boost productivity by 34% and alertness by 54-100%.

The report recommends the 20/20 rule: move around for 20 seconds every 20 minutes or 15 minutes every 2 hours. A trade-off of 2 minutes per hour of sedentary activity with an equal amount of light-intensity activity was associated with a 33% lower risk of death in the general population.

Diane Thorsen, Perkins+Will’s Principal Design Director, says: “The workspace is simply one of the tools that help workers perform their tasks. Understanding how people use their space enables consultants to assess if the way it is designed supports people’s health and wellbeing. This will include ensuring light quality, sound levels, air quality and temperature are well considered in the spaces people occupy. It also includes the furniture people use, the stairs, the bathrooms, the support areas such as print areas, social spaces and break out spaces.  It is any space that is used for work so we address its quality as a function and how people emotionally experience that space.”

Hanlie Van Wyk, Principal Researcher at Behavioral Research and Applied Technology Laboratory (BRATLAB), adds: “Business as usual is unhealthy. We’re on a mission to create lives that work and businesses that flourish, through the practice of positive habits.”

Perkins+Will is one of the largest architect companies in the world. It is the current Middle East Architect Awards GCC Large Architecture Firm of the Year as well as Interior Design firm of the year, with over 100 professionals delivering award-winning projects across the region, including Best Office Design winner for LinkedIn Dubai at the CID awards.