Boosting productivity through workplace design

better productivity through office design

Taking the time to understand how a business environment affects an employees’ performance is crucial for an effective workplace design. And it was just this topic that was discussed and debated at a recent Officeworks business breakfast held at the Shard.

Co-hosted with Leesman who provide the largest independent measure of workplace effectiveness, insights were shared into what are the constituent parts of a high performance workplace when answering the questions:

  • What are employees doing?
  • What physical features do they need?
  • What services features do they use?

Since 2010, the Leesman Index has been measuring the relationship between people and place in organisations of varying sizes, sectors and global reach. Now carrying data from more than 145,000 respondents, it has been assessing their satisfaction in 90 areas including workplace design, activities, features and facilities.

Worryingly, only 54 per cent of respondents agree their workplace design enables them to work productively. Understanding how a business environment affects employees’ performance is crucial to enhancing workplace productivity and there is much that, according to Leesman, businesses can do to improve their physical environment and incorporate into their workplace design.


Employees dissatisfied with noise levels report low personal productivity levels. With open-plan workspaces now popular, it is not surprising to find that overall satisfaction with noise levels according to Leesman data is only 30 per cent.
Businesses offering a variety of workspaces, however, appear to be bucking the trend; their noise satisfaction levels are at 45 per cent (still low, but higher than those which offer no choice).


Workplace flexibility is often seen as offering an open-plan environment with a floor of desks without allocation. This may offer a choice in where to sit (by the window or coffee machine) but it does not allow employees to opt for the environment best suited to the task they need to perform.

When asked to identify activities important to their role, respondents to the Leesman Index chose an average of 12, indicating a one-size working environment will not fit all. Higher satisfaction levels are reported by those whose workspaces vary and they also appear happier with noise levels.

Being together

The creation of more flexible workspaces is a clear productivity trigger, but it can also become a barrier if it reduces social cohesion. People working in different areas may have fewer opportunities to come together.

Top-performing respondents to the survey report high satisfaction with tea/coffee facilities, restaurants and social breakout areas which create a feeling of togetherness and getting work done.

The so-called ‘we’ spaces are the differentiators – although they’re difficult to justify on a floor plan. ‘Me’ spaces – areas to work individually with a desk, chair and single workstation – are considered hygiene factors but integral when it comes to choice.

All responsible managers want employees to be comfortable in their working environment however there also needs to be a mindset change to view workplaces as a competitive advantage tool rather than something to just house employees. As the Leesman Index shows one of the greatest benefits of a well designed workspace – including the option of privacy in the office – is an increase in engagement and productivity of workers.

Officeworks is collaborating with Leesman to apply evidence based workplace design to boost productivity by placing employees at the heart of office design.