How Science Is Influencing Office Design

Another recent Wall Street Journal article, “How Neuroscience Is Optimizing the Office” (John Medina and Ryan Mullenix, May 1, 2018), shares the findings of an award-winning architectural firm and a molecular biologist who team up to research the office environment.  While some of their findings may seem self-evident on a more general level, the idea of taking similar concepts that we know to be important personally and applying them to the work environment is encouraging many office designers to take a fresh look at certain decisions and selections.

Noise Can Lower Productivity

One of their biggest findings hinged on the impact of noise in the working environment.  Voices that are over a certain decibel level and even those that may not be but are engaged in “halfversations” – where a person hears only half of someone’s conversation (if that person is on the phone, for example) – are especially distracting and damaging to overall office productivity.  To combat these noise nuisances, the authors suggest “sonically diverse environments” to keep collaborative work spaces working, but more private or traditional desk areas quieter.

There are a lot of options when it comes to sound masking efforts in the office.  Some furniture pieces have sound masking features that are built right in and can either be employed or stowed when not needed, allowing private conversations to stay private.  Sound masking panels are also a great way to add color and emphasize your branding while keeping overall noise in check.  Another great option focuses on the importance of soothing background noise.  LogiSon® Acoustic Network is an award-winning sound masking system that reduces noise in office environments and works especially well in wide open spaces with higher ceilings.  This system distributes a soft ambient sound throughout a facility, masking frequencies in speech, which helps to increase privacy and reduce disruptions, while also covering incidental noises that can affect comfort and concentration.  The sound can also be customized for different areas throughout an office depending on the needs.

…But Open Offices Help Creativity Spread

Although noise is of special concern in more open spaces, the authors did note that these types of spaces – which many businesses have been outfitting with benching systems and a range of alternative seating options in small group clusters – foster more creative thinking.  Colors also have a big impact on the office environment, but for some reason – as much as we might add it to our homes – the emphasis on color becomes seemingly forgotten once we step into an office.  Adding specific colors – “blue for stimulation, green for focus…orange for decision-making” – cannot only help motivate and enhance employees’ efforts but can also be strategically aligned with a company’s own brand, allowing for the visual reflection of the company directly in the office, and offering a striking difference from your competition, which current and prospective clients will notice when they come to visit.  And now that so many furniture pieces come in a range of color options – including sound masking panels, storage doors, and chairs – it’s easier than ever to incorporate these colors throughout the environment.

For many, a focus on a healthy lifestyle is important, but only recently is this being carried over into the office environment.  Yet helping to keep employees healthy is not only the right thing to do, but also makes sense from financial and overall operational points of view.  Office design can help be a part of this too – incorporating more open spaces that encourage walking back and forth to talk with someone and creating other spaces within the office specifically designated for employees to take a stretching or yoga break (for example).  Adding a variety of sit-stand desks is also a great way to make sure your workforce has the option to move around more throughout the day, even on the busiest of days.

A more focused workforce is a healthier and more productive workforce.  Select furniture pieces, designs, and technologies can help enhance the workplace environment to achieve these goals.