Cabe report says office design affects workers’ output

British business leaders are being issued with the stark warning that company productivity is directly related to office design, and employers who ignore the evidence risk the loss of key staff and overall business success.

Paul Morrell

British business leaders are being issued with the stark warning that company productivity is directly related to office design, and employers who ignore the evidence risk the loss of key staff and overall business success.

The findings are revealed in a new report called The Impact of Office Design on Business Performance, undertaken by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the British Council for Offices.

The study claims that there is a clear link between effective workplace design and business performance. General office design affects workforce performance by up to 11 per cent, the report maintains, and it can influence a range of factors such as the motivation and retention of staff, innovation and creativity, responsiveness to business and technological change, as well as customer attraction and retention.

According to the analysis, the workplace accounts for 24 per cent of a person’s job satisfaction, and can affect staff performance by 5 per cent on an individual basis and 11 per cent for teams. The implication is that creating the optimum office environment should be more highly prioritised by business.

The report goes on to show how key design factors such as effective lighting design and adequate daylight have been linked to a 15 per cent reduction in absenteeism and increases of between 2.8 per cent and 20 per cent in productivity.

The findings claim that while the office space is being revolutionised – it is estimated that by next year, about 30 per cent of the world’s top companies will adopt a highly mobile framework – there is a lack of understanding on how companies should adapt to this working model.

‘This report is a call to arms for all employers striving for improvements in staff satisfaction and the performance of their workforce.

‘It provides both a checklist and a positive way forward for those facing the challenges and opportunities of addressing their business’s changing accommodation needs,’ says Paul Morrell, Cabe commissioner and president of the BCO.

The study recommends that organisations seek to create a new balance between collective and individual spaces, acknowledging the increasing importance of the work environment as a zone for social and interactive engagement.

According to the study a renewed emphasis should be placed on using the office to communicate the company’s brand, with the challenge being to find ways to accurately measure the value of design, since the implications of corporate identity and branding are often intangible.

Branding a building and making use of public areas such as the lobby, reception space and public meeting rooms to tell a story and communicate with staff is becoming more important to members of the general public, who are becoming increasingly aware of the built environment.

Kenny Holmes, executive director of brand experience at Landor Associates, believes it is vital to use office space to create a dialogue with staff and argues this area has traditionally been the victim of under-investment.

Landor Associates recently created a series of branded experiences for the headquarters of Numico, the specialist baby food and clinical nutrition company (DW 19 May).

‘Historically, the office space has been treated in a more functional rather than emotional way. This is changing as companies look to create a sense of personality in the office that smacks of the brand,’ he explains.

The report gloomily suggests there is a collective failure by UK companies to understand how the work environment can affect businesses performance. Designers must bring their expertise to help plug this gap and meet the challenge head-on.

The Impact of Office Design on Business Performance

The findings

• The workplace accounts for up to 24 per cent of people’s job satisfaction

• Office design directly affects the workforce performance of staff by a factor of up to 5 per cent for individuals and 11 per cent for teams

The recommendations

• The report calls for a new research programme to explore aspects of business performance in ‘real world’ conditions

• This would involve practitioners from a wide range of disciplines including: design, business, information technology, corporate real estate and human resources

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