15 Apr 2019, 19:14

Does Office Layout Really Matter?

Open plan office? A closed-space office environment? How about cubicles???

Which office layout is the very best in terms of productivity?

This has been the source of countless debate over the years, with seemingly no clear winner. But, at the end of the day, does it really matter?

Is it worth the cost of redesigning the layout of your whole office (and bringing in to play all of the disruption such a huge undertaking will cause) just in an effort to make your staff work a little bit more productively?

A brand new study by Kristine Spure on Trello has found that there is just a fraction over 5 per cent difference in productivity when comparing the three most often-adopted office layouts of the modern day.

To track the relative performance levels, Ms Spure used DeskTime, a time-tracking and productivity app, to get to the bottom of a never-ending discussion of which office set up squeezes the most juice out of its workers.

And the results?

Pretty marginal, to say the least...

Around 3 in 4 workplaces now tend to run with an open office style layout because of the perceived social, communication and collaborative benefits they bring.

However, the DeskTime study by Ms Spure found that the open office setup was actually the least productive of the three, scoring just 85.8 per cent in terms of productivity.

The more anti-social closed-space office environment fared slightly better, coming in 3.5 per cent higher at 89.3 per cent productivity levels.

Standing proud at the top of the productivity podium, however, was the much-maligned and often despised office cubicles design.

That particular office layout clocked up productivity levels of 91.1 per cent, beating its closest rival by almost two per cent and boasting an outright margin of 5.3 per cent over the hugely popular open office design.

Offering some balance on the mixed blessings of the ‘winner’ of her DeskTime research, Ms Spure said:

“While it’s partially enclosed, providing some degree of privacy, you still won’t be able to shut the door in the face of an annoying colleague. And the company will still end up needing more square footage than if using desks alone. Furthermore, a 2013 study found that cubicle workers had the highest rates of unhappiness with their work setup.”

So, is it really worth choosing the most efficient office layout in terms of productivity just to get a 5 per cent boost?

Well, if the payoff is that all of your employees are going to be miserable at work, then, in all honesty, it’s probably not.

Surely it’s much better just to work with what you’ve already got and see how you can adjust your current office setup to make it more productive.

You can find out more about the office layout research and the methodology behind the study on Kristine’s Trello article here.