Workspace design

One of my favourite topics just started to get an airing on the web, Work Space design.  It’s been an interest of mine ever since I can remember, it’s the frustrated Architect in me, (I was never good enough at art to take it at University).  Anyway what really bugs me about the topic is my belief that it has a huge impact on individual and team effectiveness, but receives very little focus and even less investment by many companies.  Even companies that reap huge profits from their consultants tend not to invest in their productivity.  I talked about this in a previous post, but mainly from an IT SW perspective. 

Since I have been working from home I have invested quite heavily in my own work environment and I certainly notice a huge improvement in my productivity.  The biggest improvement comes from two large monitors driven from the same desktop PC, supplemented by a management console that I use to monitor my lab and anything else that I need to check frequently.  I also have a dedicated portable that I can just pick up and carry away whenever I need to move around the house, I use a dedicated portable for this because I don’t get any issues with windows being resized and moved around between monitors and because I want my primary machine to be my desktop, (that way I get two large 19″ monitors”).

As all of my machines run Windows Terminal Services, X Windows or Remote Desktop, I can easily connect to any of them from any machine, and I have dedicated short cuts to them all to make it really quick.  As my desktop is running Windows Server 2003, I have two short cuts one to take over the console, and the other to login a separate session.

I have made a few other investments:

1.      A fan to keep the air moving

2.      A nice big table next to my desk in case I have meetings or need layout space

3.      Everything within easy reach

4.      A great scanner and Paperport to minimise the amount of paper clutter

5.      A good but simple filing system

6.      Music

7.      A good speaker phone

8.      A desk lamp

Anyway that’s a bit about me.  But what about a workspace design in a corporate context, I might talk a bit about my experiments in this area, (mainly flexible offices), in another post but I wanted to link to some other interesting posts that I have just come across.

It starts with the results of a survey by Microsoft which concludes:

Nearly two-thirds of office computer users tie the fatigue they experience during the week to working at the computer for long periods. In addition, nine out of 10 said the design setup of their workstation directly affects their ability to be most productive at work. More than 50 percent of those surveyed said one of the best ways employers can show their commitment to employees’ success is to provide them with the latest technologies so they can do their jobs more efficiently.

I particularly liked this bit:

This compares with 23 percent who said they would prefer motivational tools such as morale-building and social outings, and 16 percent who would opt for perks such as free soda and parking, which are commonly offered in workplaces today.

It goes on to say:

Researchers have found that individual performance increases by 25 percent when employees use an ergonomically designed workstation

However this is from a study in 1991, so is probably not that relevant today, but check it out and make your own judgement.  25% is a lot!!

In a similar survey by Logitech, reported by CNN, it states:

In a survey by office furniture manufacturers Logitech asking workers to grade the design of their workspace, 56 percent rated their office or cubicle as a “C” or below.

Only six percent of employees gave their office an “A” grade.

More than half of those who rated their desks as “C” or worse said they would feel more valued if they were given more input into shaping their environment and 84 percent said their comfort levels could be improved.

According to the research, workers now spend an average of 37.5 hours at week at work — more than 14 hours a week longer than in their living room — and a majority say they place equal importance on the comfort and design of both.

To get you thinking here are some hints and tips on Work Space design taken from

·        Do try to arrange your space in an L-shape or triangle, with a swivel-style desk chair in the middle of the configuration. With a spin of your seat or a slight roll backward or to the side, all essen­tials are within arm’s reach.  

·        Don’t skimp on comfort, especially when it comes to your desk chair. Choose one with a cushioned seat and back, adjustable height so your feet are flat on the floor, a back that tilts and curves, and wheels on the bottom to get around easily.  

·        Do group equipment and furnishings into different centers of operation. These might include your computer, phone/fax, mail handling area, and worktable.

·        Don’t be stingy about storage space and lighting. Put in as many cabinets, cubbies, and shelves as you can without crowding your workspace. Illuminate individual work areas with their own direct lights.  

·        Do plan with portability in mind. Cordless phones and laptops allow you to move your work close to your children, if necessary. Other portable conveniences are furniture on casters, baskets that can quickly be repositioned when needed, and a rolling cart to easily transport files and correspondence so you can work in the kitchen, family room, or even outside for an hour or so.  

·        Don’t set up your office where it should be; put it where you want it to be.  

·        Do personalize the room by hanging up children’s drawings and other favorite artwork, propping family photos on the desk, painting the walls your favorite color, including a knickknack or two, and adding other special touches. These not only make for a cozier space, they can help reduce stress.  

·        Don’t do everything at once if money and/or time are tight. Start with the bare-bones basics, adding on when you can afford more. As your profits increase, you may even consider hiring a profes­sional designer to help you make improvements. Most charge be­tween $75 and $150 an hour for a consultation, and it would not take long to toss around some design ideas.

·        Do plan for future growth. Architects and designers recommend that you project 25 percent more space than you currently require, especially if you’re remodeling your home to accommodate an office or buying a new house with work-at-home potential.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

1 Response

  1. Anonymous says:

    I must admit this is an interesting approach, I am actually intrigued myself, work productivity is strictly related with the environment we are working in: furniture, machines, people, interior design and so on. I am intrigued that some respectful companies tend to ignore that. I am actually working home and I personally designed my space and bought home office furniture so I can get maxim comfort.

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