The Link Between Office Furniture, Spatial Organization and Productivity

office-spaceDoes the way you organize your office’s furniture affect productivity?

That’s a question that’s been floating around for decades, but as open office concepts have emerged over the past few years it’s become clear that many companies believe there is a crucial link between furniture organization and productivity.

And when you read this article from Entrepreneur, you’ll realize that the productivity-furniture connection is more than just a trend or a new version of feng shui.

“Improving your own and your employees’ performance involves a lot more than finding comfortable chairs,” the article says. “It involves placement of offices and cubicles within the building, proximity to equipment, lighting, desk space, meeting areas, privacy and more.”

Entrepreneur isn’t saying anything new – plenty of similar concepts have been expressed over the past six or seven years. However, we like the clarity of the statement. There was a time in office organization where companies were concerned about getting the most comfortable chairs and the most functional desks.

Even though those factors are still important, they’ve become a secondary issue for many new companies. The most important issue? Creating a workspace conducive to productivity. But how does that work, exactly?

Creating a Team Environment Through Strategic Organization

Think about the traditional office setup. The big bosses often worked on the perimeter of the office while mid- and lower-level employees worked in the open middle area of the office. That type of organization reflected the top-down style of management popular until the past decade.

As a more community-oriented approach has emerged in startups, the way offices and furniture are placed has changed drastically.

These days, it’s not uncommon to see startups eliminate the heavy-wood desks of old and place the founder’s workspace right next to a web developer or salesman. His desk? A streamlined, simple piece of furniture no different than the man or woman next to him.

And remember, his desk is right in there with his coworkers. The result is that there’s instant communication between decision makers and their staff. That instant communication leads to productivity.

“With today’s emphasis on team-building, office design is moving away from compartmentalized offices,” the Entrepreneur article says, “and moving toward large spaces where teams of employees can work.”

A Deeper Look at Productivity

Let’s take a step back and think about this idea that furniture organization affects productivity. The business world is full of trends; some become industry norms while others quickly flare out.

If employees really are affected by spatial arrangement, there’s a good chance the furniture-productivity trend will become a standard, right? To verify the truth behind this trend we did some research.

In 2009, the Journal of Public Affairs, Administration and Management published a study that backed up this idea of furniture organization (and other factors) affecting productivity.

According to the study, both male and female workers were affected by spatial arrangements of furniture. Interestingly, women were unaffected by poor furniture (chairs, for example) while males’ performances tended to be affected by it.

In fact, the study went as far as to say that “spatial arrangement has a considerable effect on the employees’ productivity.” And, in general, the study showed “that when the furniture of the office is not comfortable and according to the needs of the employees, their productivity is affected.”

Some Final Thoughts

We’ve talked a bit about the move away from big executive offices, how spatial organization can affect productivity and how poor furniture can hamper your team’s efforts.

We want to add one more thought: department-tailored workstations. This idea popped up in an article we read by time-tracking company Desk Time. Some departments need more workspace than others. Some departments need certain kinds of desks that just wouldn’t function well for other departments.

Keep this in mind as you think about your office furniture solutions. Workplaces are becoming more and more specialized; capitalize on the movement by finding the mix of furniture and spatial planning that works best for your team.

As you can see, there is some strong evidence in favor of taking a second look at the way your office is organized. Now, we’re not saying that you have to reorganize your office to fit the standards of the tech world. But we do think you should talk with us about possible solutions for productivity-inducing office designs.

Click here to take a look at our Hon catalog, where you’ll find a variety of options for desks, chairs and more. If your office takes a more traditional stance on organization, we think you’ll enjoy browsing our executive furniture. We have a nice mix of traditional power desks as well as streamlined modern workstations.

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