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How bad office design harms the employee experience

How bad office design harms the employee experience

Table of Contents

Have you ever considered how your office’s design affects your employees? If not, you should. Here’s why:

  • Research by Talent Works reveals 85% of people feel dissatisfied with their workplace design.
  • A strong layout is shown to make employees 33% happier.
  • Happy workers are 31% more productive.
  • Satisfied employees take 10 times fewer sick days.

So, a good office design brings real benefits. But how can you improve yours?

How decor affects mood and performance

I once worked in an office with the blandest decor I’d ever seen. White walls. Blue carpets. No pictures. No quirks. No plants. Nothing you might consider ‘flair’.

And it was tough. But we only realised how tough after the MD had a change of heart. He brought a team in to decorate the office - and it changed everything.

Suddenly, we had green and orange walls. We had plants. We even had beanbags and free snacks.

And the effect on my own employee experience was amazing.

I didn’t feel like I was working in a bland corporate hellhole anymore. The office became cosier, more comfortable, and - yes - more conducive to creativity.

Now. Think about your own office. Do you inflict a clinical combo of white and blue (or even grey) upon your poor workers? Do you ignore their pleas to mix things up for fear of wasting money?

If you answer ‘yes’ to either question, now’s the time to change. And here’s why.

The power of decor

Colour affects our mood in different ways:

  • Green, yellow and orange encourage communication.
  • Purple and red (in small quantities) inspire comfort.
  • Yellow cultivates relaxation and creativity.
  • Blue and green create an atmosphere of calm.

The right combination of hues can inspire more socialisation, productivity and relaxation.

Try pastel blue and yellow for high-pressure workplaces. Add orange, green or red to meeting rooms to promote better communication.

And a touch of purple works wonders in a break-out area too.

Isn’t it amazing what a tin of paint can do?

Boost collaboration and flexibility

Collaboration is fundamental for any successful company. But it’s easier said than done.

Your first instinct may be to embrace an open layout. And that makes sense. They look ideal for a collaborative culture, especially if your employees hate being stuck in cubicles.

Yet open-plan offices may actually have a negative effect on the employee experience and reduce teamwork.

How so? Talent Works’ research reveals the length of time dedicated to face-to-face conversations dropped by 73%. This increased reliance on emails/messaging by more than 67% overall.

That’s hardly ideal if your brand favours cooperation and close working relationships. But these stats don’t need to be a death knell for open layouts.

You just need to strike the right balance.

Make the most of your space

What is ‘the right balance’?

Create dedicated spaces for different tasks — discussing projects, communicating with clients, relaxing, eating, researching, etc.

Your employees need room to chat, share ideas and bond. But quiet areas conducive to concentration and hard work matter too.

Setting up different areas can be difficult in small offices. But do what you can to give everyone the space to perform at their best.

And don’t restrict employees’ working habits. They don’t need to sit at the same desk for eight hours a day. Let them go where they like to get the job done.

Maybe they want to stand at a high desk for a while to prevent backache. Perhaps they prefer to lounge on a beanbag with their headphones on and zone the world out.

Or they might take their laptop to a coffee shop down the street for an hour or so.

Treat your employees like adults and be more flexible. Don’t fill your office with endless rows of identical tables and chairs just because you think that’s how ‘serious’ workplaces look.

Keep your office design fresh

Don’t let your office get stale.

Employees may find they need another meeting space or quiet rooms. They might tire of the colour scheme or find being so close to certain colleagues distracting. Always be willing to adapt and revise.

Noisy conversations, bad habits, inadequate facilities and clutter can all harm the employee experience. Never expect workers to ‘just get on with it’ in an uncomfortable office.

They’ll feel undervalued and frustrated if they believe you don’t care about them as people.

Invite employees to be part of the design process

Discuss possibilities with your team — they’re the ones who use the office most, after all.

Invite feedback on everything related to the workplace design — decor, layout, facilities, etc. Keep it anonymous to encourage honesty. Some employees might be wary of voicing their opinions for fear of being viewed as a troublemakers.

Integrate good ideas. Ask for further elaboration if need be. Show your workers you respect their contributions and care about their happiness.

In short: focus on creating an office your team looks forward to working in each day.

And don’t forget how impressed clients will be during visits either. A good first meeting is crucial to achieve customer success, and a stylish, creative office can help you do that.


Successful businesses rely on hard work and commitment. It’s hard to expect this from employees when you subject them to a lifeless, uncomfortable workplace.

They may resent their surroundings, their job and - ultimately - you. And that means they’ll walk, possibly to a competitor.

Invest in creating the ideal office design for your team. You may see real results that make a lasting impact on your business’s success.


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