We’re constantly seeking the magic formula for productivity.
Is it 3 cups of coffee? A sweet morning mood-booster playlist? A balanced breakfast?
Sleeping well, eating right, and putting on some great tunes may help make you more productive (and if that fails, there’s always more coffee.) But your environment has more impact on you than you think.
Your physical environment, such as the amount of light, the organization of your desk space, and access to outdoor spaces can all affect your productivity. But it’s the dynamic interactions that occur in the office environment that impact productivity the most. That means that the way your office environment encourages or discourages interactions between you and your coworkers, or invites noise and distraction, directly impacts productivity.
Whether you work from home or commute to an office each day, it’s no surprise that your work environment dramatically affects your productivity. Each company is different, but office design tends to fall under these categories:
Open Floor Plan
Everyone loves to hate the trendy open floor plan.
If you have an open floor plan, you’re not alone: 70% of all offices now use that type of design. An open floor plan means that there are no walls or barriers between workers (perhaps in cubicles); they sit side by side or together at desks throughout the office.
They’re meant to encourage interaction with everyone, regardless of role, department, or title. It’s commonly put in place as a way to facilitate communication, generate ideas, and break down (literal) barriers between teams. By putting everyone together, there’s a much higher likelihood of the spontaneous conversations that lead to new projects or innovations. This shakes up the traditional order of things, which can take some getting used to, but it also means that sales folks on calls are in the same room as engineers working on code.
But open floor plans are, no escaping it, noisy. And they can severely limit productivity due to constant interruptions and excessive noise pollution.
Staying focused depends on your personality and how you like to work. If you love the low hum and chatter of a coffee shop, you’ll feel right at home; if you’re accustomed to the blissful silence of a closed office, then it may be tough to concentrate.
Either way, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones to get in the zone.
Everyone works differently based on personality, but also on role and task. Including a mix of spaces for collaboration and private work may be the best way to go. That way, there’s space for teams to collaborate in groups, but also to work silently.
For instance, my alma mater’s library structured work spaces this way: the first floor encouraged talking, the second floor allowed whispers, and the third floor enforced silence. That way each student had space to collaborate and do group projects without sacrificing the quiet space needed to dig into difficult problem sets or essays. The same can be reproduced in an office environment.
Providing a variety of spaces also allows employees to mix up their routines and organize their day, rather than spending 100% of their time in one place, isn’t just good for health: it encourages employees to become more creative and more innovative (it’s science!).
The new favorite: working from home
As more and more companies embrace the remote work model, workers can toil from their home offices or hang out on their couches (pants optional) to get things done. While not an “office design” per se, your work environment at home can completely change your productivity. A new set of distractions awaits you: the television, the fridge, and your family.
When working remotely, it’s key to separate your spaces. If you can retreat to an office, do so; if not, designate specific locations in the house where you’re in “work” mode instead of kid or relaxation mode. If you try to do work on your bed, for example, is it any surprise that you may feel like taking a nap?
Second, condition yourself to be “at work” by getting completely ready for the day. It may be easy to lounge around in comfy clothes or skip your morning routine because you don’t have to suit up for work, but pajamas aren’t the uniform of someone who gets things done.
Most of all, set up your home for success: have access to ambient light, keep things quiet and tidy, and establish clear boundaries with spouses and children to make sure you can get things done (and still enjoy having them around.)
Find your space
To stay productive in any office, you’ll need to find your space—which may be different than what you’ve been assigned. Whether that’s taking over a conference room for a day or experimenting with different organizational plans, shaking up your routine can help jolt your mind into being more innovative—and more productive. Experiment to see what makes you work best.