How to improve productivity through office design

Office design

Most employers are eager to increase productivity within the workforce, helping their employees reach their true potential while simultaneously increasing efficiency in a way that makes the company more profitable.

There are straightforward ways to motivate productivity improvements, like setting higher minimums for certain tasks, or instating monetary rewards for better performances.

However, you can also take a subtler approach, tweaking the design and layout of your office to encourage higher productivity naturally.

Natural Light

First, when possible, try to maximize the natural light in your office. Ideally, you’ll choose a work environment with ample access to windows—and you’ll keep those windows as open and inviting as possible. If you don’t have access to windows and can’t move, you may be able to come up with a substitute, like indoor lighting that mimics the wavelengths of natural light.

Natural daylight is shown to dramatically increase health and wellness among employees. With ample natural light, workers tend to be happier and more productive, doing their work more efficiently. Exposure to natural light also significantly reduces the chances of depression.

Fireplaces and the “Cozy” Factor

You can also make your office environment cozier and more welcoming with small touches that make it feel more like home. For example, you could install a fireplace mantel, or create a room in the office with furniture arranged like a living room.

There are some conflicting schools of thought on the “cozy” factor. Some employers believe that this type of arrangement will lull employees into complacency, or make them feel like they can relax or goof off instead of working. However, in most work environments, these features are only taken advantage of when workers genuinely need a break—and they return to work feeling refreshed and more capable, ultimately resulting in a net positive.

Ergonomic Furniture

Your employees are going to spend most of their day sitting at their desk, hunched over a computer. Investing in ergonomic, comfortable furniture will have several effects that naturally improve their productivity. For starters, they’re going to be more comfortable, which means they’ll be able to focus on their work more intently—without having to adjust and stretch constantly, and without getting distracted by pain.

Even more importantly, ergonomic furniture tends to encourage good posture, which can prevent a wide variety of possible long-term injuries. Your workers will be healthier, and will therefore take fewer sick days.


There are some conflicting studies about the efficacy of music as a productivity-boosting tool. Most studies suggest that at worst, music has a neutral effect on the majority of the population; at best, it has the power to significantly boost productivity.

There are a few caveats to this finding, however. Both the type of music and the volume of music impact the bottom-line results. Generally speaking, low- to moderate-volume is much better than either silence or high-volume music. Also, personal taste is a factor; people respond much better to music they actually like than genres they hate or have no interest in. On top of that, music with clear, frequent lyrics can be distracting at times, making it harder to communicate or work on verbal-intensive tasks.

Still, overall, music is a good thing for the office, so consider installing a speaker system that all your employees can enjoy. Allow your employees to choose the music on rotation, so everyone gets a chance to hear their favorite music.

Plants (Real or Fake)

Multiple studies have confirmed that the presence of office plants can boost productivity (as well as job satisfaction). There are some personal theories about why this is the case, but these haven’t been fully explored by the scientific community; for example, some people claim this effect is due to plants naturally cleansing the air of toxins, thereby creating a better atmosphere in which to work. However, it’s more likely that plants simply provide more life, color and invigoration in the office. Accordingly, fake plants should work almost as well as real ones.


People often get bored working in the same environment, day in and day out. The days seem to blur, and the office can take on a negative association. You can fight back against this by periodically changing the design of your office, rearranging the furniture, hanging different art, and adding new features; a little bit of novelty goes a long way in making people actually interested in coming to work.

Changing the design of your office won’t turn slackers into superstars, nor is it the only way you should be boosting productivity. However, when used in combination with good hiring practices and solid motivational incentives for your employees, a well-designed office can almost instantly improve your entire team’s productivity.