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Workplace Design: Boosting your Employees’ Productivity

Recent research into business performance has shown that many employees find their offices are undesirable places to work, causing them to feel demotivated, unfocused and bored. Despite these facts, over half of employers’ interviewed didn’t consider workplace design a relevant business investment. This is an important mistake commonly made by business owners, and is likely to be the reason why over a third of UK workers describe themselves as unhappy or disconnected at work.

So, how do you prevent your employees from falling into this category?


The Psychology of Colour


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It is a psychological fact that colours have an effect on our mood and brain functions, causing a subconscious physical and emotional response. Therefore, it’s important to carefully select the colours used within your work environment to avoid unwanted provoked feelings and reactions. Colours should be implemented relating to the nature of the business as well as the desired feelings in each room. The best use of colour is used to accent rooms with furniture and decorative features, and paired with a more neutral shade such as white or grey, and/or a subtle wood.

Red – Stimulates and energizes employees by causing the brain to release adrenaline into the bloodstream. Over-exposure may lead to aggression and temperamental emotions.

Ideal for: meeting rooms, creativity, food companies (increases appetite), fast-paced environments.


Orange and Yellow – Having happy and positive connotations, these bright colours cause the brain to release serotonin, leading to feelings of joy, enthusiasm and inspiration. Prolonged exposure can lead to eye-strain, anxiety and fatigue.

Ideal for: receptions and lobbies, leisure products, food companies (increases appetite), sport companies, creativity


Green and Blue – Reduces anxiety and minimises stress by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Studies have proven that people are more productive in green and blue rooms. Blue generates feelings of security and trust, and green encourages kindness. Over-exposure however, can lead to feelings of sadness and fatigue.

Ideal for: offices, break-out areas, law firms, bank and finance, relaxation, travel, technology, charities, safety and protection, health and wellness


Pink and Purple – Associated with beauty and creativeness, and can cause feelings of compassion, inspiring intellectual thoughts and achievement. Can however be seen as casual and is linked with immaturity.

Ideal for: meeting rooms, cosmetics, fashion industry, inspiration, informal environments



Break-out areas



Having the freedom to adapt to the requirements of your business, a breakout room can potentially be whatever you’d like it to. Their typical uses include; informal meetings, brainstorming, relaxation, lunch breaks, and team building activities. People are also more likely to create closer social ties in breakout areas, which can boost company morale and lead to a high level of solidarity within the team.

These spaces have a significant impact on employees’ productivity as they are used to take breaks away from their work stations or desk space. Encouraging your staff to take breaks throughout the day has been proven to reduce stress, eye-strain and improve brain power, consequently helping them to stay focused on tasks in hand.

A cleverly designed zone with comfortable seating, personal & shared storage solutions, and ambient lighting will give your staff a secure and creative space which they, and you, will be thankful for.


Bring in Nature



As biological creatures, we are naturally drawn to nature. Understanding our primal biology means we can embrace the things that stimulate our subconscious. The outdoors was our original workspace, and implementing greenery such as plants and flowers, or more commanding features such as grass and trees, has been proven to increase the efficiency and productivity within work environments.

Research has found that employees were 15 percent more productive when a few houseplants were brought into their office – due to a higher engagement with their surroundings. Not only does it improve attention, it boosts memory retention and gives for an overall happier workforce.

It can be as simple as artificial potted plants, or can be all the way up to beautiful living wall art. This is a cost-effective and successful way to kindle a creative attitude within the office, as well as being a great way to filter indoor air pollution and muffle noise.


Work Stations


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Cluttered, cramped and disorganised work stations are detrimental to the cognitive processes, so it’s important that we determine what is required in our daily work environment, so we can reduce it to its essentials. Providing personal storage options such as lockers or draws can prevent desk and walk-way clutter, as well as offering a secure store for valuable and private items.

Each workspace is unique in its size, aims and character, so one layout option doesn’t fit all. Some businesses decide to have open plan environments while others opt for closed cubicles; it really depends on what type of work is being carried out and the business culture you are trying to create. However if you get it wrong, it can seriously affect productivity and office morale. We suggest using aspects of both.


Open Plan

This modern form of layout is enthusiastically favoured by businesses. For more creative industries, an open office is ideal for encouraging communication and collaborative teamwork. It enables face-to-face interaction, and social connection between colleagues, as well as being of a more space saving design. However, it can result in a severe lack of privacy, which is particularly damaging to businesses which require confidential conversations and sensitive negotiations. Although it gives a more pleasing first impression to clients, it may produce a more distracted and unfocused team.


Closed Cubicles

Whilst cubicles may look like the more expensive and inconvenient option, it guarantees employees have their own space and an increased level of privacy. They were brought into design in the early 1960s by a designer who concluded that office workers need autonomy and independence for a higher level of productivity and efficiency. These shouldn’t be used in offices where free flowing ideas are necessary, and especially in professions requiring frequent team work. Being segregated from other staff may also lead to unhappiness and feelings of isolation in their daily role.




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Poor illumination has been associated with a diverse array of complications in the workplace, including eye-strain, postural problems and headaches. In higher risk environments, the consequences of substandard lighting can be even more extreme, which can lead to serious injury and fatalities.


Artificial Lighting

Harsh, dim bulbs or flickering florescent tubes can all be destructive to productivity. Glaring lights against gloss white walls are commonly seen in offices today, but they evoke negative reactions which effect both employees’ health and productivity. Eye-strain and headaches are the main by-products, but it also leads to severe lack of concentration, fatigue and anxiety.


Natural Lighting

Not only does natural light boost productivity, it improves workers’ sleep patterns, physical activity and quality of life. Rooms with windows receive 173 percent more white light exposure, which in turn has a great number of health benefits via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism. Research has found that daylight is the number one wanted element in workplace design, and in some cases increased productivity by 40%. Upgrading to natural light sources such as windows, skylights and french doors will also save you a lot of money on your energy bill – it’s definitely worth the investment.




Beth Meakin writes for Cardinus a leading health, safety and risk management specialists offering online and onsite business solutions. Cardinus provide compliance solutions for ergonomics & DSE - in partnership with the Health & Safety Laboratory.

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