By Sarah LaFon
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
One of the overlooked aspects of managing your BV team is the actual office setup. What type of environment is best suited to inspire creative and productive work?
Cubicles that are sleek, minimal and tidy? Or is it ok to be cluttered, slightly-messy, and personalized?
How much does it even matter? A lot as it turns out. And the answer might be different than your what your instinct tells you.
As economist Tim Harford notes, for the past several years, the idea of the “lean office” has been praised. Clutter is understandably discouraged in factory environments because it can cause errors, delays, or even injury. This concept of simplifying the work space has bled over into the modern office cubicle environment, where orderliness and minimalism are often encouraged. Some offices have taken it to the extreme, however, and the effect can be surprisingly detrimental.
In 2010, a couple of psychologists (Alex Haslam and Craig Knight), completed a study to determine the ideal office environment. They used four different layouts, and evaluated how participants felt in each one.
- Lean Office: A very sparse space with only the bare essentials required to work. (i.e. desk, chair, pencil, paper)
- Enriched Office: Essentially the same as the lean office, but decorated with large prints and potted plants.
- Empowered Office: Same components as the enriched office, but with an important distinction: The participants got to make decisions on the appearance of the office and decorate it as they saw fit.
- Disempowered Office: This time, the participants got to decorate the office as they saw fit: THEN, the office was rearranged to precisely match the enriched setting.
So, can you guess which office was the clear winner? It was definitively #3, the Empowered Office. As a matter of fact, people got 30% more done there than in the Lean Office, and 15% more than in the Enriched Office. To put this in perspective: it only took about 3 people in an Empowered Office to do the same amount of work as 4 people in Lean Office!
The most hated office by far: the Disempowered Office. It seems that the most disheartening (and unproductive) option is to give employees the promise of autonomy, only to then whisk it away.
The Lean Office was also considered boring, depressive, or even physically uncomfortable.
The take-away from all of this: the most dynamic office is one where staff can have at least some autonomy in defining their personal work space. Personal choice is paramount: it makes people happier, more comfortable, and—best of all for you—more productive.