How Design Impacts the Workplace, According to a New Study

ASID HQ, Washington D.C.
ASID HQ, Washington D.C. | © ASID

Home & Design Editor

Most working adults spend at least half their waking hours in the office. A new study from ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) shows how human-centric workplace design can affect productivity, happiness levels, and even cost savings.

ASID HQ, Washington D.C.

When it comes to work satisfaction, most people think of a few factors: their relationships with their co-workers and boss, room for upward mobility, feeling of appreciation, ability to maintain a work/life balance, and of course, their pay. But what about their office space? ASID’s new study shows that the physical design of the workplace may have more of an influence of well-being and productivity than you think.

Earlier this year, ASID’s new headquarters in Washington, D.C. received an unprecedented LEED Platinum rating and WELL Platinum certification, making it the “healthiest” and greenest office space on the planet. But they weren’t just satisfied with the fancy titles and accolades—they also wanted to put these certifications to the test.

The record-breaking office space, designed by world-renowned architecture firm Perkins+Will, is considered a living laboratory for the design community. ASID, in partnership with Delos, Cornell University, and the Innovative Workplace Institute, researched just how this design impacts workers’ behavior and performance, including how spatial design supports the company’s goals.

ASID HQ, Washington D.C.

Through a series of interviews, surveys, and sociometric and interior environmental data, the researchers found that there were notable improvements all around, including employee’s health—all of which were attributed to the wellness-oriented design. Improvements (compared to their previous office) included employee retention, performance, productivity, communication, and environmental satisfaction.

CEOs reluctant to take on this progressive workplace design model (for fear that it costs too much in overhead) can rest assured, as researchers found that all this productivity and happiness results in cost savings. In other words, a productive, design-conscious workplace actually saves money.

ASID HQ, Washington D.C.

Before designing the office, ASID had to first nail down and analyze their own corporate identity and value systems. They wanted the design to mirror their values, and complement their everyday work flow processes. (Mindful, right?). Their criteria was straightforward: design an energy-efficient space that stimulates collaboration, creates attachment, establishes support and employee retention, and encourages healthy behaviors and productivity. They also wanted the design to have an ROI, because, after all, it is a business.

So what were the most important, influential key factors at work in the design? First, it starts with indoor air quality. ASIS required that all product finishes and interior paints, including coatings, adhesives, and sealants, met multiple standards (VOC reduction design). They also used an air filtration system that purifies both outdoor and recirculated air, while keeping CO2 levels below 800ppm during the main business hours.

ASID HQ, Washington D.C.

Another important factor in the enhanced employee conditions had to do with lighting and sound-reduction. By implementing circadian lighting in the new office, 25% of employees noted enhanced sleep quality at night. By implementing acoustics, the average sound levels in the new office were reduced, measuring half the noise compared to the old space.

Speech and visual privacy also played a role in the “happiness” factor. Dr. Ganz Ferrance, a Canadian psychologist, commented in a previous interview on the negative effect of constant visibility in the workplace, “Lack of privacy in the workplace adds to your sense of stress and sense of being exposed. In one sense it’s like you’re being spied on sometimes, like the company always seems like they need to be watching. Not having any space or any ability to have some downtime throughout the day can be very stressful. Some companies will have privacy rooms or areas you can relax and be by yourself; if you don’t have that or that’s hard to get, that can cause real problems for people.”

During the ASID study, the spatial layout and collective form was a determinate factor in measuring well-being. Space affects us in complex, unconscious ways and we’ve yet to fully understand the depths of its influence on our psyche. ASIS analyzed the “performance of physical workspaces in relation to organizational innovation strategies and innovation performance according to key performance indicators”. The results? The office scored an 83.9% of the total 100 points possible, emphasizing the influence of space size and access, space type, and healthfulness.

ASID HQ, Washington D.C.

Unassigned seating also played a role; the study showed that lax seating arrangement sparks both spontaneous interactions and cross-pollination among various teams. There was a 42% increase in communication and a 44% increase in “supporting the sharing and exchanging of ideas”. According to research from the Cornell study, the perceived environmental quality improvements also positively impacted employee turnover and retention.

It’s not all about the mind, though. Designers also included a fitness center, sit/stand workstations, healthy snacks, and a wellness room. Within one year, there was a 2% improvement in physical health scores of employees. Sure, it’s a well-known fact that happy employees are productive employees, but most don’t correlate that “happiness” and productivity with the actual design of the workplace.

The bottom line is that the construction of the office space matters. A lot.

ASID HQ, Washington D.C.
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article