What Office Design is Best for Creating a Happy and Productive Workforce?
This year, the office cubicle turns 50 years old! Love it or
loathe it, it can’t be denied that cubicles revolutionized the
design of offices all over the world. With an eternal struggle
between privacy and interaction at the workplace, it looks as
though office design has gone full circle since the
emergence of the white-collar age.
Privacy vs. Interaction:
This design was first used by F.W. Taylor (1856-1915) and was
inspired by ‘scientific management’ – a technique used in labour
factories that emphasised economic efficiency. No doubt, this office
design soon went out of fashion as managers realised it was
The beginnings of cubicle design:
This is what prompted Robert Propst, of Herman Miller Furniture
Design studio, to come up with an alternative solution to office
design. Here he came up with ‘Action Office’ a design that gave
workers a makeshift office space, with storage and privacy in a bid
to boost productivity. Propst believed that workers needed
autonomy and independence – and cubicles seemed like an
efficient way to achieve just that. Propst introduced vertical
office shelving systems, which were groundbreaking at the time.
Is open plan best?
More recently, companies have been dismantling their cubicles and
opting to go back to an open plan environment – this time in a more
team-orientated layout. Having a ‘cool’ open-plan office has become
popular in more recent years. But which design actually increases
productivity? Surprisingly, a study carried out in 2013 found that
productivity actually dropped by 6% when an office opted for an
open plan design. However, a reason for this could be that more
people are sharing ideas – meaning the work that is being carried
out is to a higher quality. Another unusual statistic from a study
carried out in 2014 reveals that 54% of open-space office workers
would actually prefer to have a private cubicle.
The perfect office design:
Realistically, the perfect office design (probably) doesn’t exist. An
office design that works for your company may not work for others
and vice versa. Advancements in technology means that work
doesn’t have to be done sat down at a desk with a desktop
computer. More companies are embracing this and bringing in
alternative interiors to match the ever-changing working landscape.
Having an alternative, fun office space means that work-life is more
fun, which in-turn leaves workers feeling happier and more fulfilled
with daily office life. And as the cliche goes, a happy worker is, of
course, a productive one.