The effect that office interiors have upon staff’s morale and productivity has been a hot topic of conversation across the FM industry for quite some time now. FMJ takes a look at the research several companies have actually conducted whilst finding out how to improve their office layouts
This is a question that has been pondered by workplace furniture manufacturers KI Europe and business psychologists OPP who hosted a multi-disciplinary panel discussion to explore the impact of personality type in the workplace.
The panel was based upon OPP’s primary research study: ‘Type and Work Environment’, a survey which clearly demonstrated that many people feel that their workplaces are a source of dissatisfaction. Open-plan offices, which account for up to 70 per cent of work spaces, were found to reduce motivation, productivity, happiness and a sense of wellbeing.
Perspectives were given by CIPD and BIFM, the discussion highlighted the challenges felt by Human Resources and Facilities Management teams.
In the course of the discussions four key themes were outlined:
Human Resources and Facilities Management are two sides of the same coin: but they’re not communicating
Spatial design and office layout has an enormous impact on the daily experience of employees. HR teams implicitly understand that comfortable, motivated employees are more engaged and productive.
However, to a large extent, office design and layout is the reserve of Facilities Management. Concerns over cost and footprint can take precedence over matching the space to the job function and the preferences of the workers themselves.
Businesses are missing a trick, and wasting money, by not considering the whole picture.
Paying attention to personality preference isn’t self-indulgence: it’s plain good business
Organisations can use awareness of MBTI personality type to improve communication, manage conflict, build resilience and improve productivity. All of these things have marked impacts upon the quality of work, employee satisfaction and retention.
John Hackston, head of research and development at OPP, explains: “Our research clearly demonstrates that physical space has a profound effect on employees. For example, introverts who work in a private office are significantly more likely to rate themselves as satisfied with their job; extraverts prefer to have more people around. Some personality types love the idea of a clear desk policy, while others find this unnecessary, even oppressive. These insights can provide the basis for adapting almost any office to be a more enjoyable and motivating place to work for all.”
However, this shouldn’t be the sole reserve of HR. All parts of the business can take advantage of an understanding and appreciation of personality difference.
A workspace should reflect the nature of its people, not just the nature of the work being done
Of course, one size does not fit all – each individual and the culture of their organisation is different. That is why a prescriptive approach to office planning based on the nature of the work being done may fall flat. The ideal space in which to collaborate, focus or socialise will vary from person to person. Dictating and defining such activity-based ‘zones’ in an office can therefore become redundant, and lead to the under-utilisation of space.
Considering personality preferences from the outset can help organisations get the mix right when creating an office landscape rich in variety and choice. They will be able to make more informed decisions about the appropriate use of space and provision of furniture, and thereby deliver a better return on investment for the business.
A considered and productive workspace needn’t cost the earth
Facilities managers are answerable to their business, and are often driven by cost. Even the most wonderful solutions can’t be adopted if they’re unaffordable.
Companies such as KI Europe are responding. Thorough consultation, intelligent design and modern manufacturing techniques can combine to create practical and cost-effective workplace solutions that provide variety and choice without sacrificing valuable space. As OPP’s study found, the least expensive solutions can often be the most effective. Both introverts and extraverts attached great importance to personalising their own work area, questioning the more draconian implementation of hot-desking and clear desk policies. It isn’t just about procuring the right furniture for the right workspace, it’s about understanding how people wish to use it.