Why you need a posher office

Can a nicely-designed office really make us more productive? Or should we just work from home instead?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Financial firms with well-designed offices have happier staff and enjoy more financial success, according to a new study by consultancy Gensler. Its survey found that companies considered to be leaders in their industry – both profitable and admired – consistently have better designed workplaces than their rivals. Or to put it another way, those companies with nicer offices are more likely to have a healthy top and bottom line: on average, they managed 4% higher revenue growth and 4% better profit growth. And employees at top-ranked companies were far more likely to be satisfied with their working environment.

Of course it’s possible that employees are just generally happier at better companies. But judging by the survey results, you’d be surprised what employees can read into a nice office. Respondents suggested that their workplace made them feel their company values everything from creative thinking, to the environment, to gender diversity – thanks entirely to features like dining areas, ‘rejuvenation spaces’, fitness centres, ‘spiritual practice rooms’, and childcare facilities. In fact, Gensler reckons that improving your office design could make your employees (a suspiciously precise) 21% more productive. Who’d have thought a few comfy sofas could make such a difference?

Then again, perhaps you don’t need an office at all. News reached us from the Institute of Risk Management this week that consumers are getting increasingly accepting of the virtual office. Thanks to the constant improvements in mobile technology, out-of-office working has been getting easier and easier – and as a result, a lot more common.

One side effect of this is that the virtual office – once associated with chancers and fly-by-night merchants – is a lot more acceptable than it was a few years ago. Whereas previously customers might have been quite suspicious if you relied on anonymous PO Box numbers and forwarding numbers, rather than a proper ‘bricks and mortar’ address, nowadays you’re considered to be on the cutting edge of the technological revolution. Plus it means you save money and don’t run the risk of your office ending up under three feet in water, the fate of some small businesses last year.

Then again, it’s not impossible that these two developments are linked. Virtual office workers will more often than not work from home – and chances are that your living room, kitchen or study is decorated just the way you like it. So perhaps workplace design really is the key to greater productivity...

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