Work is no longer something we do at the office. From the couch to the airport, the pace of technological change means that we’re now able to work from different places in new ways. We don’t have to be in an office to collaborate, learn or focus; but that’s not to say it doesn’t help. A modern workspace – and the technology that fuels it – has to work as a physical and digital hub, enabling work and creating opportunities. Here are five smart and simple ways in which workspace design can increase productivity.

1. Choice

The results of Gensler’s 2013 Workplace Survey suggest that choice and autonomy can have a significant influence on employee motivation and satisfaction. That is to say, companies who allow their employees to choose where and when they work are more likely to have a happy and productive workforce, performing better as a result.

2. Second Spaces

A balanced, productive workplace should enable collaboration and help employees focus. When output is the result of concentrated, individual work, workspace design should allow for and support this. The deliberate creation of secondary spaces for meetings and conference calls, or any interactions that may distract others from their work, enables employees to carry on working privately while others share and collaborate.


3. Flexibility

Any business trying to use space design to increase productivity is likely to have a number of different goals, whether silo-busting, facilitating deadline work or improving group efficiency. This is why it’s important to build flexibility into an office design at the beginning, combining areas of private offices or assigned seating with more open plan and adaptable areas suitable for project development or similar tasks.


4. Enabling Interaction

It may have been almost forty years since the publication of Managing the Flow of Technology, Thomas Allen’s seminal study of communication in tech and science organizations, but many of its insights still hold true. Allen famously observed the strong negative correlation between physical distance and communication: if we’re further away we are from a colleague, we’re less likely to talk to them, making effective coordination much more difficult. Ideas for promoting communication don’t have to be new. In Silicon Valley and elsewhere, communal dining is just one of a number of ways in which organizations try to increase the number of potential ‘collisions’ and get employees talking.


5. Making Use of Tech

That the Allen Curve should still be true for modern offices despite all the increases in space-shrinking technology says something for the value of face-to-face interaction. Cloud computing and BYOD have both extended the digital workspace and it’s now easier than ever to share information, chat and collaborate with colleagues in other places; but the lessons from the most successful – and happiest – workspaces is that digital communication works best when it complements, rather than replaces, physical contact.

Technology is changing where and how we work. The trick is balancing the physical and digital to create smarter, more flexible workspaces that enable employees do their jobs while also creating new opportunities for innovation and success.

Is your office a flexible workspace? How does it encourage employees to collide, physically or digitally? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below or via LinkedIn

Images via Flickr: Marcin Wichary, Rasmus Andersson.