Chances are you’ve seen it. An office no longer divided up by cubicle walls and coated by one central color theme. With mural walls, abstract seating, and an open layout—things are changing up for employers. There will always be firms that take it to a “too-much” level with in-office playground structures; but I believe there’s something behind a brand image going beyond a brochure and spreading itself across an office space. Something superior to simply looking good. Is there an impact on employee morale, and potentially employee performance? Being involved in office space fit-outs and renovation projects, I’m left to wonder if the trend is just keeping up with the Jones’—or is there an actual physiological impact? Does this potential impact have the ability to affect operations?
I recently read an article that coined the term “cubicle farm,” referring to the rows upon rows of workers confined to their own portion of a grid—a set-up that some would claim limits collaboration. Not to mention, from a construction perspective, can represent an installation cost that could have otherwise been avoided.
Brian Neese’s The Price of Collaboration, supports the logic that the openness of open layout offices can be a bit too open. He claims research supports that these layouts can actually discourage communication due to the lack of privacy. The article claims “As the open office trend increases in popularity, so too does the understanding of its shortcomings. A number of studies offer insight into how the open office environment distracts employees and negatively impacts their health, productivity and job satisfaction.”
Without any research many workers can say with confidence that when they’re happier their work is better. For some, vibrant colors and an interesting workplace can stimulate creativity, but for others it truly doesn’t make a difference. Any employee impact depends on the individual, but there is a strong correlation between natural light, functional design, and happiness. From that contentment, there is potential for employees to stay with a company longer and have enhanced work output from feeling happy in their work environment.
Human Behavior and the Interior Environment emphasizes the reality around colors and its impact on employees. The majority of a space’s size and appearance perception can be traced back to color.
The following are some pretty interesting links between color, aesthetics, and human reaction brought to light by Human Behavior and the Interior Environment:
– “Certain colors may make a space appear larger than it actually is, while others cause spaces to appear smaller.
– Certain colors may cause a space to seem warm, while others may make it seem cold.
– Colors have a definite effect on the mood of the observer. Some colors are stimulating, others are relaxing.
– Colors that clash with each other may produce feelings of irritation or uneasiness.”
When embarking on a new construction project with these reactions in mind, it is important to focus less on the ‘trendiness’ of an office space, and more on the practical function of the finished product. As tenant improvement projects are on the rise to attract top talent, it’s important to remember the effect of these environments and the smooth operation of a business, rather than solely the immediate attraction.
It’s validating to see the influence of spatial considerations on something as seemingly unconnected as employee performance. Point being: construction projects have much larger significance than keeping a roof overhead. Plan wisely, and understand the critical involvement of designers and interior experts who weigh these debates daily.
Image courtesy of:
Oliver Butler, The Studio in The Hive Offices; www.studiovenues.co.uk/