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How to Create a Workspace That Improves Productivity

Jennifer Post
Jennifer Post

Your surroundings influence your productivity. Here's how to optimize your workspace to be more productive at work.

Productivity is the heart and soul of a business. If you want your employees to improve their productivity, it could come down to the structure and setting of your office. Not just the location, either, but the layout of office furniture and equipment, the flow between employee space, and the overall vibe of your office. 

Luckily, there are resources out there to boost your business's productivity levels and make your office a place where your employees want to get their work done. Keep reading for tips and advice on how to accomplish that.

1. Don't focus too much on the physical layout.

While physical space is certainly important, it's also critical that you cultivate an atmosphere of productivity in your workplace. This means generating excitement about your company mission and communicating to employees that they are integral to achieving those goals. 

"Making your office more efficient starts with company culture, in my opinion," said Raven Beria, founder of brand consultancy firm Brandalaxy. "It doesn't matter what kind of technology or office layout you have if you haven't defined the values or clarified the vision of your business." 

Beria says it's because the company culture is the foundation of your business. "By focusing on clearly defining your company culture, you set the expectations of behaviors. To sum it up, efficiency starts with mindset, communication and alignment of culture."  

Simon Hansen, founder and blogger at Best Sports Lounge, also believes efficiency and productivity start with a strong company culture that rewards effort and encourages employee buy-in. 

"An office is more than just its building. It's important for companies to reward progress, assure flexible working and encourage the key people in their company: their employees," Hansen said. 

Sometimes it does come down to the design of an office, though. Kayla Pendleton, owner and founder of coworking space Her Space, recognizes that and incorporates it into the physical design of her locations. 

"As the creator of a coworking community, it was extremely important to create shared spaces that used the best features of flexible workspaces to promote community but also helped my members be extremely productive," Pendleton said. "I've learned that if you have an open office space or shared spaces, then you must also have meeting spaces where people can have privacy for concentrated work or for phone calls." 

The design and layout of your office also depend on the type of business you're running. 

"If the workplace is uncomfortable or full of distractions, it can make for an unhappy workplace. And when something makes you unhappy, you are simply not as productive or engaged as you could be," said Kenny Trinh, managing editor at NetBookNews. "For example, an open office layout is good for employee interaction but prone to noise and visual distractions that can make it difficult to focus on their work." 

Trinh said there's no perfect or "best" office layout, but as long the needs of your employees are prioritized, you're on your way.

2. Create opportunities for movement.

"The best way that I stay focused during a long day of work is to acknowledge when I've hit a productivity wall and to take lots of short, quick breaks to gain a new perspective on what I'm working on," said Jamie Fertsch, director and co-founder of Xdesk, a U.S.-based company that creates customized, ergonomic desks out of environmentally friendly materials. 

Fertsch's company makes a stand-to-sit desk that encourages changing positions and moving throughout the workday, but you can build other opportunities for movement into your workspace. Things like putting the copy machine or phone on the opposite side of the room from the computer and having a central water cooler create reasons to stand and move. 

"Productivity is not directly correlated with time spent on a task," Fertsch added. "It's important to make sure that you're recalibrating and refueling once in a while." 

Part of creating movement could also mean giving your employees the opportunity to work from home or create flexible schedules, if your business allows for it. 

"[Consider] a workspace that doesn't confine employees to one spot and gives them the option to work remotely, sit outside, etc.," said Sean Hayes, head of technology at Hausera.

3. Get a plant.

No, really! An assortment of plants isn't just for pretty social media photos. They serve a great benefit in an office as well. 

"I like to make my space feel a little more alive," Fertsch explained. She stated that houseplants are not a traditional method of creating a productive workspace, but that doesn't mean their impact is imaginary. 

Ron Radu, co-founder of Léon & George, said plants can create an environment conducive to increased productivity. 

"Having lots of plants around the workspace helps produce cleaner air, and it motivates employees to be more energetic and creative," Radu said. "Scientific studies have proven the positives of more greenery for offices. From reducing stress to increasing productivity and creativity, plants have oodles of pros." 

4. Give gadgets a home.

Smartphones, tablets and other gadgets can help you stay organized and efficient, but they can also be a big distraction and time-waster. For Fertsch, the best way to avoid this wasted time is to find a home for gadgets and leave them there. 

"These days, we all have so many screens competing for our attention, so create a 'home' for your smartphone, smartwatch and other potentially distracting gadgets," said Fertsch. "Keep them in a dedicated place while you do your work so you won't be sidelined by a constant stream of notifications." 

A good place to stash your electronics is in a drawer. Out of sight, out of mind.

5. Keep your space clean.

If you're sitting in a messy area thinking about how messy your area is and how you should clean it, you're probably not getting a lot of work done. 

"Take a few minutes every day to tidy up your workspace," Fertsch said. "You can do this by throwing out unnecessary items and maintaining whatever organization system suits your style, so those extra distractions and clutter don't bog." 

In addition to cleaning or organizing her workspace every day, Fertsch organizes her to-do list so she doesn't waste time at the beginning of her workday. At the end of the day, she sits down and writes what she needs to get done tomorrow. 

"This helps me reflect on what I accomplished for the day and how I can move forward to produce great work tomorrow," Fertsch added. 

Ron Lieback, founder and CEO of ContentMender, recommended treating your work desk like a new document ‒ and with that new document, you're about to draft a blog entry or email. 

"A blank document actually allows your mind to focus more. Now picture that document filled with random words and numbers all cluttered onto the paper, and you have to write in between this. Your mind will play tricks on you and focus will be impossible. The same goes for an unorganized office."

6. Get personal.

Personalizing your space – in moderation, of course – can increase your emotional connection to your work, but it's important to not let the personal touches become the clutter that Lieback warns against. 

"While items that you don't frequently use shouldn't take up valuable desk real estate, I still like to tailor my space to appeal to my visual side," Fertsch said. 

In addition to a productivity-boosting plant, she keeps a personal desktop calendar, which helps her stay on track throughout the workweek. 

She also recommends choosing personal items that inspire you to be productive. 

"I like to keep a framed photo of my kids on my desk. They're the ones that really keep me motivated throughout the day."

No employee is the same; there is no approach to office layouts, design or functionality that suit everyone. Giving your employees the flexibility to not be in the office during the entirety of the workday, letting them have some plants and personal touches, and giving them space to breathe, be creative, and express themselves will make employees want to be more productive, and it helps them be more successful in achieving that goal.

Jennifer Post
Jennifer Post,
Business News Daily Writer
Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily and business.com. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, New Jersey, or binge-watching "Pretty Little Liars" for the 700th time.