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Office design & productivity in numbers

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Rather than looking at office facilities as a pure balance-sheet expense, forward-thinking companies consider their offices as a key component of corporate strategy.

A better office design can make employees happier and healthier, but from a “numbers” point of view, is it worth it?

One of the main objectives of redesigning an office is to increase employee productivity, - and unless concrete figures are offered, it can be difficult to envision this project as having a solid return on investment (in dollars!)

Studies differ in the variables examined from one to the next, but overall, we can describe two key components  that affect office workers’ productivity: the quality of environment (ventilation, heating, natural lighting, décor, cleanliness) and the office layout (Informal/formal meeting areas, quiet areas, privacy, storage, desk, circulation space)

Quality of environment:

The World Green Building Council (WGBC) research on productivity identifies some key factors*:

  • Air quality - There are clear health benefits from good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Better IAQ can improve employee productivity by 8 – 11%. Joseph Allen, a professor at Harvard University, recently conducted a series of experiments to test the effects of green buildings on workers. Participants inside a green, properly ventilated building scored between 61%-100% higher in cognitive function than those that were monitored in conventional office blocks. Allen and his team estimate that it costs up to $40 per person per year to double the ventilation rate in a building – but the study suggests that productivity benefits range from $6,000 to $7,000 per person per year. “The costs are trivial compared to the benefits, any way you look at this,” he says.

  • Thermal comfort - employees experience a 4% reduction in performance at cooler temperatures and 6% at warmer temperatures.

  • Lighting - office workers with windows sleep an average of 46 min more per night and experience 27% less headaches.

  • Noise - office workers’ performance drops by 66% when exposed to distracting noise.

Office layout:

Research shows that benefits and penalties to workplace productivity are experienced equally across open-plan and enclosed office environments.

Apart from requiring less space per person (and therefore less costs), the open-office plan can enhance information flow, communication and teamwork. However, for activities that need a high-level of submersion and concentration (like writing long reports or developing software), this design can be detrimental as the number of interruptions and level of noise is higher.

Clearly, no office-design can be applied blindly to every type of business and work function. Differences have been found in what is optimal for different business functions and groups of workers (younger/older, female/male).

At DMA, we believe that productivity is directly associated to the workplace and are advocates of high levels of customization and variety. We have designed award-winning task-specific spaces that fit the purpose and maximise the benefits whilst minimizing the detriments for productivity when carrying out each task.

Does your workspace require a makeover that boosts productivity, employee health and happiness? Discover how we could help you develop a workplace that makes your business thrive by contacting our Managing Partner, Philip Martin, at


* Haynes, Barry, Suckely, Louise & Nunnington, Nick (2017). Workplace productivity and office type: an evaluation of office occupier differences based on age and gender. Journal of Corporate Real Estate, 19 (2), 111-138.

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