The Psychology of Workplace Design: How Office Design Influences Employee Behaviour

Office design plays a crucial role in shaping employee behaviour and creating a productive and positive work environment. A well-designed office space can foster creativity, boost productivity, and enhance employee satisfaction. Conversely, a poorly designed workspace can have the opposite effect.

In this article, we explore the various aspects of office design that influence employee behaviour and provide insights for those seeking to create an optimal work environment.

The Impact of Office Layouts on Employee Behaviour

The office layout significantly contributes to how employees interact and behave at work.

Open Office Layout

There is no standard definition of what an open office layout consists of, but generally, there are no barriers between employees and no separate cubicles. Employees in an open office space are often situated all together in one, large communal area. While open office layouts have gained popularity, they come with advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s examine the pros and cons of incorporating an open office layout:

Promotes interaction and collaboration, fostering teamwork and idea sharing.Increased noise and distractions can hinder focus on complex tasks.
Facilitates accessibility and easy communication among colleagues.Limited privacy, which may pose challenges to confidential work.
Offers flexibility to adapt to changing needs and working styles.Higher stress levels due to noise exposure, potentially impacting job satisfaction.
Potentially reduces real estate costs due to lower square footage per employee.Limits personalisation options, affecting employee ownership and comfort.
Pros and Cons of an Open Office Layout

Balancing the Pros and Cons

To strike a balance, companies can adopt a hybrid approach that combines open and closed office layouts. Here are some strategies for incorporating a hybrid layout:

  • Incorporate designated quiet areas or enclosed spaces for focused work and confidential conversations.
  • Separate meeting rooms and collaborative areas to support teamwork without disturbing others.
  • Utilise modular furniture for flexible workstations and collaborative spaces.
  • Create communal areas for breaks, socialising, and fostering a sense of community.
  • Incorporate funky acoustic panels to reduce noise levels – adding functionality and aesthetics to the space.

The ‘right’ office layout will be different for every organisation, depending on team structures and personal tastes, but these tips can help companies create a workplace environment that promotes collaboration, respects privacy, and improves employee satisfaction.

The Impact of Lighting on Employee Behaviour

Proper lighting design contributes to a productive and positive office environment.

Here are the benefits of well-designed lighting:

  1. Enhanced mood and well-being: Ample natural and artificial light positively impacts employees’ moods. Exposure to natural light has been linked to increased serotonin production, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. Well-lit, bright spaces can also help to combat symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) during the winter months and can reduce the risk of eye strain and headaches.  
  2. Increased alertness and productivity: Well-lit spaces help to reduce drowsiness, improving cognitive function, concentration, and task performance.
  3. Promotion of collaboration and communication: Well-lit environments create an inviting atmosphere that fosters positive interactions, collaboration, and teamwork between employees.

To optimise lighting, consider distribution, colour, quality, and quantity. A well-designed lighting plan should align with specific tasks, and individual preferences, and incorporate both natural and artificial sources.

The Impact of Biophilic Design on Employee Behaviour

Integrating nature into the workplace through biophilic design positively influences employee well-being and behaviour. Consider the following benefits:

  1. Stress reduction: Nature-inspired elements create a calming environment, helping employees cope with stress.
  2. Improved Productivity: Exposure to nature or natural elements has been linked to improved cognitive function, attention span, and productivity. Incorporating biophilic elements can help to improve task performance, and therefore the quality of work produced.
  3. Enhanced Well-Being and Mood: Biophilic design also has the potential to boost employees’ overall well-being and mood. Interacting with nature has been associated with increased happiness and improved mental health.
  4. Sustainability: Biophilic design fosters a connection to the natural world, promoting sustainability and eco-friendly behaviours throughout your company, which is extremely important in our current climate.
  5. Improved air quality and health: Incorporating plants or living green walls enhances indoor air quality by reducing pollutants and increasing oxygen levels, benefiting employee health. 

Strategies for implementing biophilic design include introducing plants, optimising natural lighting, using natural materials, providing access to outdoor spaces, and incorporating water features. Consider the needs and preferences of employees when implementing biophilic elements and think about the constraints of the office space. By creating a more nature-inspired workplace, companies can improve employee well-being, engagement, and overall satisfaction.

The Impact of Ergonomic Design on Employee Behaviour

Ergonomic design focuses on creating workspaces and equipment that fit individuals’ needs, positively impacting health and productivity.

Here are a few ways in which ergonomic design can influence employee behaviour:

  • Improved Posture and Movement: By providing adjustable chairs, ergonomic keyboards, and desks at the appropriate height, the ergonomic design encourages proper posture and healthy movement patterns, reducing discomfort and promoting healthier habits.
  • Increased Comfort and Satisfaction: Employee comfort leads to reduced pain, increased job satisfaction, positive attitudes, and higher motivation levels.
  • Enhanced Focus and Concentration: Ergonomic design minimises physical discomfort and distractions, allowing employees to concentrate on their tasks more effectively. This promotes better focus, concentration, and productivity.

Incorporate ergonomic furniture and design in the office space to create a work environment that promotes healthy habits and improves employee well-being. These factors all contribute to higher engagement levels, increased productivity, and a more positive work environment overall.  

Design of a President's office with blue sofas and biophilic features.

Office design plays a pivotal role in influencing employee behaviour, productivity, satisfaction, and overall well-being. By considering office layouts, lighting, biophilic design, ergonomic principles, and more, companies can create a workspace that fosters collaboration, respects privacy and enhances employee satisfaction. Involving employees in the design process and seeking their feedback is crucial.

Enlisting the help of office design and build experts, such as Oaktree Interiors, can also ensure the creation of an ideal office space that aligns with your company’s goals and values.

To learn more about optimising your office space, contact us at or call our friendly team at 034521 86955.

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