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Microsoft Blogger Series graphic showing woman working on her Surface Laptop at a high desk in an open-plan office environment.James is the small-business Lead on Microsoft 365. With over 15 years’ corporate and seven years’ start-up experience, he understands what it takes to start a company, hire people, and drive business growth. In his spare time, he’s a family man who plays rugby for his local club and is occasionally known for his DIY endeavours!

Business leaders should be doing all they can to make things easy for their teams – and themselves – to drive productivity in the workplace. But where’s the best place to start? And what effect does office space have on productivity? Giving employees the choice of how and where they work can make all the difference, helping you foster a culture of creativity.

Imagine it’s Saturday night and you’re going out for dinner with your friends. In your group, you’ve got a vegan, a steak-lover, someone who fancies a salad, someone who loves their carbs, and someone who just wants dessert. You arrive at the restaurant, only to find that there’s no menu. You all have to eat exactly the same thing and sit exactly where the waiter tells you.

How successful do you think this restaurant would be?

Everyone has different tastes. Your business is no different.

Some people might thrive in a busy office, while others need peace and quiet. You’ll have employees who like to white board in a group, while other individuals prefer to present projects to a smaller team. There will be those who like bean bags and laptops, and those who’d choose a full desktop set-up.

It’s up to you to provide them with different options for working, so they can make the choice that’s right for them. Because only when people can choose how they work can they be truly productive.

Building productive office spaces is something I have a lot of experience in. Over my career, I’ve led a number of businesses to success, often setting them up from scratch. These are the questions I’ve asked myself over the years, and ones you should ask yourself next time you’re in the same situation:

  • First off – open plan or not?
  • How many meeting rooms do I need? Think bookable and unbookable
  • Where will my employees relax?
  • How will I enable collaborative working?
  • Music versus quiet spaces – how will I give employees a mix of both?

Of course, I understand that it’s impossible to cater for everyone. But if you give your people the option to work their own way, they’ll be more productive and want to keep coming back.

Physical meets virtual

Once you’ve thought about the physical layout of your office, consider implementing virtual working. Why? Because if you’re looking to attract the very best people for your team, you need to cater for their working preferences. Some employees really struggle with background noise in an open plan office and find it hard to concentrate with the background noise. I’ve seen this become problematic, where by asking others to be quiet, the office atmosphere was destroyed for those members of the team who gain their energy from being around other people.

Virtual working for those who need to focus doesn’t have to mean lower productivity. With tools like Microsoft Teams, your people can communicate as easily as if they were all at their desks, while also being able to tune out to concentrate. Whether people want to work from home, on a client’s premises, or on a train; Teams pulls everyone together.

Virtual working is just another choice. One that your employees will appreciate being given. When you offer it, what you’re really saying is: “I trust you to be productive, no matter how you choose to work.”

Concentration x creativity = work done

If you give your people the space to concentrate and the tools to get creative with the way they work, they’ll do just that. In turn, you’ll deliver projects on time, hit targets sooner, and do even better business.

So, now you know how office space affects productivity. If you take anything away from this article, make it this. My five-point plan for setting up your work space so your people can be as productive as possible:

  1. Understand the emotive nature of offices – people have preferences, like they do at restaurants.
  2. Think about the diversity of your team and the different choices they’ll want to make.
  3. Consider offering remote working to supplement the workspace available to your employees.
  4. Get the right technology in place to enable seamless working, in and out of the office.
  5. Involve the whole team in making it work.

Learn more

Overcome 3 common productivity barriers

Surface creativity in your workplace

Keep your employees engaged