Office Interior Design and Increased Employee Comfort.

Posted by: Mitchell H. Kirsch 2 comments

Is there a link between comfort in office interior design and increased productivity? Yes, and it’s stronger than you might think. According to Productive Solutions: The Impact of Interior Design on the Bottom Line, a paper released by the American Society of Interior Designers, a positive relationship exists between feeling comfy and being productive at work.

As the paper explains, 42 percent of ASID respondents say focusing on employee comfort pays dividends – a more aesthetically pleasing, comforting and inviting office interior design increases workplace efficiency and worker morale. The flipside to the office interior design argument is also apparent – decreased employee comfort results in losses to the enterprise, in person-hours lost and liability costs.

The ASID paper joins the growing volume of scientific literature demonstrating how designing for comfort is an imperative in office interior design, one you ignore at your peril. Look at the matter closely, and you’ll see that there are three general areas within the general concept of “comfort”: (Read more)

Ergonomics. Among the respondents to the ASID survey, 20.6 percent reported improvement in employee productivity a year after ergonomic furniture was installed. Apart from the added comfort provided by better-adjusted office cubicles and seats, improved ergonomics provides employees with the satisfaction of control over their environment.

We’ve discussed the subject on this blog before; common wisdom on ergonomics has evolved, moving away from correct posture toward increasing the range of movement. Also, hiring an ergonomics professional may be preferable to doing the whole thing yourself.

Lighting. Bad task lighting does more than just waste energy; it gets in the way of productivity, too. Bad lighting creates glare that causes eye strain, accelerating the sensation of fatigue and discomfort. And many offices are simply over lit, a result of poor office interior design planning.

Wilson Dau breaks it down – many offices are set up to have 50 footcandles’ illuminance, but “in today’s computer-intensive workplace, 50FC is too much light. Plus, most, office furniture is sold with individual task lighting, which ends up flooding 60 or 70FC over the worksurface.”

Part of the solution to bad lighting lies in the use of more natural light in combination with lower overall illumination levels. In a tip of the hat to ergonomics (i.e. giving employees control over their own environments), many comfortable office environments have taken the trouble to install adjustable, individual task lighting.

Air Quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, businesses lose up to 60 million work days annually because of negative air quality concerns. Poor indoor air quality may result from ambient pollution, or from outgassing coming from paint, laminates, and carpeting.

Ergonomics, lighting, and air quality have everything to do with productivity. Many facility managers forget this, because comfort is its own worst enemy, not bringing any attention to itself; nobody attributes their increased sales figures to, say, the new delivery of Aeron chairs.

And yet see how much attention the distraction of discomfort calls to itself!  Which is exactly why discomfort is bad for productivity. Bad office interior design takes up plenty of mental real estate, brain power that can be more productively used tackling work-related problems. But how can one be focused on corporate solutions, when the brain is distracted by that dull and growing ache in your wrist, or the uncomfortable settings of your badly-adjusted office chair?

Is there more to accessibility and office interior design? Sure! Download our white paper, and read more – download “Office Interior Design: Key Factors in Building the Ideal Office Environment” (PDF, 210KB).

Sep 18, 2011
9:44 am

The nice thing about today’s task lighting is that many manufacturers offer options that are LED based. These lamps generates much less heat than a traditional task light – making them more comfortable to work around and reducing the risk of burns.


Mar 19, 2015
8:33 am
#2 anniepark :

There shouldn’t be any surprise that the interior design has a positive effect on productivity, people have always worked better inside nice buildings. Using the fleur de lis furniture inside office buildings would definitely help increase the employee productivity, companies should check it out.

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