What is Space Planning and Why Does it Matter for Productivity?

Have you ever worked in a space that felt too cramped, was unorganized, or had mass amounts of unused potential? If so, you may have experienced the lack of motivation or energy to get tasks completed in a timely manner. Although there are a number of reasons that productivity might be lacking within a business, having a poorly planned workspace can definitely have a negative impact. The understanding of space planning within a business office is just the beginning of the concept.

What is space planning and why does it matter for productivity? Space planning is the system of arranging furniture and office equipment in a logical, functional, and highly efficient manner. Proper space planning influences productivity by developing a way to simultaneously save time and add comfort.

The understanding of space planning can require complex thought and knowing exactly what you are trying to accomplish in the workspace. Once space planning has been done properly, the changes to productivity are incredibly positive. Learning exactly why certain parts of space planning have an impact on productivity levels can encourage businesses to utilize the strategy in all areas of the company.

How to Plan a Workspace

Now that you know that space planning is basically understanding where to place office furniture to maximize output, the logical next step is to actually learn how to do it. You don’t have to have a degree in interior design to comprehend the necessary information surrounding space planning. In fact, it is often easiest to simply focus on the main points of the concept.

One of the most important aspects of space planning is to consider the size of the space. Think of it from a bird’s eye view. It is likely the easiest to draw out a blueprint. Accuracy in dimensions can help to avoid overfilling of the space. Label the wall length and be sure to draw in any doors or windows. Since the space in question is a workspace, it is imperative that you also mark on the paper where all of the electrical outlets are located. Lastly, consider the location and positioning of heating or air vents or any obstructions that might prevent you from placing furniture as planned.

After marking the above-suggested items, it is recommended that you take into consideration the flow of traffic through the room. Draw in the spaces where you should not place any furniture. In compliance with ADA standards, a walkway should be 36 inches wide. In order to allow for traffic in both directions, it may be helpful to expand the walkways to 60 inches, which is the required width for two wheelchairs to pass.

If the office space has a focal point, such as a large window or a sign displaying the company logo, it is important to also document that on the drawn layout. In many offices, the focal point would be an area where collaboration is done, or possibly the supervisor’s work area. Typically in space planning, arranging a collection of items around the focal point helps to further define it as such.

Then you will need to find balance in the room. Balance lines can be drawn on the blueprint by simply measuring the halfway point on both the x and y-axis. Depict the balance lines with dotted lines to differentiate these from physical walls. Having the 4 quadrants defined on the layout will allow for a simple plan for the true balance. The labeled quadrants are useful for determining whether one area of the space has more items than another. Balance is found when all 4 quadrants are of equal weight.

Once your blueprint is complete, it is time to fill it with the necessary furniture items. Keeping these items accurate to scale is important to ensuring that the area will be properly planned. It is likely that you will have numerous drafts so that everything flows the way it should – and that is okay. When placing the items, consider the needs of the office.

There are a variety of questions that must be asked when space planning. The comprehension of what you are trying to accomplish is a large aspect of knowing what specific questions should be asked. Begin with the most basic questions, such as: How many people will be working in this space? Will every position require access to the printer or copier the same frequency? Do some positions need quieter areas than others? By determining the answers to these (and other) basic questions, it can be easier to develop a plan for space.

For example, perhaps the graphic designers or artsy jobholders work with a large whiteboard. It is not functional to place the whiteboard away from the desks they work at, nor is it logical. By applying some logic to the situation, a space planner might determine that a dry erase board on wheels can be placed strategically between the designers’ work areas.

You may find it useful to pick the brains of people working in the industry, especially your own employees. Learn what they have found to work in their office space, what they hate, and what is necessary. By obtaining the opinions of many, you are more likely to ask all of the important questions. More importantly, you are able to find the arrangement that best fits employees’ needs.

While “placing” your furniture on the blueprint, take into consideration what you have learned about functionality in addition to the layout. Then, use the plan to physically place the items in the room. Do not simply use it as a recommendation or a guide, but ensure that each item is placed exactly as it was depicted in the drawn layout. If it becomes clear that something is not going to work in this setup, consider going back to the blueprint to make changes, rather than just moving things around.

By creating a blueprint and utilizing it in the creation of a workspace, you are developing a more functional and more attractive office. These seemingly harmless factors have been proven to alter the productivity of the employees within the space.

Productivity Impacted by Space Planning

When done correctly, space planning can promote productivity in a variety of ways. Perhaps understanding exactly where the increase in productivity comes fromOpens in a new tab. can help you to grasp its importance. It can also inspire companies in all industries to create a workspace where employees want to work.

It has been determined that a whopping 37% of potential employees will willingly accept a job with a lower salary if it offers a more enticing culture and work environment. This typically means that a company with a cluttered, closed off office space that displays a less collaborative space will attract 37% fewer candidates than those that have properly planned out their space to reflect an engaging culture and alluring environment.

In today’s world, an alluring environment consists of plenty of maneuverability. In fact, 70% of employees under the age of 44 desire the ability to be mobile throughout the day. If you were to drop the age portion of that statistic, the percentage of employees that want to have movement during the work day only drops to 50%. Since meeting the desires of employees help to retain said employees, ensuring that there is a sense of mobility to the space will help to decrease turnover rates within the company.

Another important statistic is related to the satisfaction of employees in saying that 69% of companies state that employee satisfaction improves significantly when there has been an addition of a healthy appearance to the office. This healthy appearance is in reference to the types of desks, plants and greenery, and the overall space in general.

While only 50% of total employees in the workforce desire mobility, 85% expect a more mobile workplace in the future. The current trend in a working environment is collaboration – and it seems to be working well for numerous companies. By creating a space that not only allows but encourages, coworkers to work together on their projects, companies are opening the doors to further innovation.

Studies show that nearly 43% of the world’s employees will be mobile by the year 2022. A space that includes this type of mobile work – such as providing charging stations for cell phones and tablets throughout the office space – will be one that is far more prepared for the change in mobility in the coming years. Planning for the future can be a massive time saver when it comes to space planning. However, this does not necessarily mean that your space plan is permanent.

Often times it is the most innovative companies that make space planning both individual offices and group workspaces a priority. In fact, innovative companies are 5 times more likely to place an emphasis on the space planning for an office. Becoming a more innovative company will likely start with space planning the office area. Reorganizing can do a lot to revitalize a workforce.

Learning the statistics surrounding employee expectations of a workspace, the environment, and the concept of space planning, in general, is a simple way to discover the significance of your office layout. Space planning will be the way of the future, as employers are finding more and more reasons to please employees and regularly increase output. It may be the type of workspace that makes an impact as well. Space planning for a variety of areas will cover all of your bases.

Individual vs. Collaborative Workspaces

Although some employees prefer working alone and others take the collaboration route, the truth is that most employees switch between the need for both. If we were to break it down, employees actually move between four styles: focus, collaborate, learn, and socialize. Providing appropriate spaces for each of the four work styles will create the uncommon ability to perform each of these as needed throughout the work day.

The focus aspect of the four work styles is the part of the work day in which we prefer to work as an individual. An individual workspace is one in which workers have the ability to get away from distractions caused by the rest of the office. Distractions are often office chatter, other workers’ phone calls, or even eating or offered snacks. An individual workspace offers more privacy for phone and video calls and helps to keep the required information confidential. Additionally, studies show that a private office is up to 15% more productive than an open office space.

Other advantages to consider in a private, or focused, workspace, is the ability to avoid sick coworkers. It is no secret that the majority of people will go to work with a cold or some form of sickness. Since employees can get away from the germs easily with a space of their own, they are less likely to get sick. In turn, they are also less likely to need to take sick days. It also can be said that employees with individual office spaces feel trusted and important to the business, and therefore, are happier with their jobs.

A focused area of the office can be provided to employees via private offices, as aforementioned. However, since not all businesses have the space nor ability to give everyone his or her own office, there are ways to divide up spaces and offer a greater sense of privacy. For example, by separating desks with temporary walls, a company can allow the employee to choose when they are focused or when they want to be less so. Another option is to keep desks well spaced so as to give the illusion of a personal work area. By getting creative, a focused workspace is possible in any office.

A collaborative space has a number of benefits that should be wielded as an incentive for more creative and communicative work. This is mainly due to the teamwork that is established as coworkers develop a sense of familiarity with one another. Teammates might approach a problem differently than you would, meaning there is a likely chance that the level of creativity, a change in perspective, and the productivity will be improved upon.

An open space has also proven to be a less stressful area, as it allows more physical movement than most standard private offices would. With less stress, an employee will often show a massive decrease in depression and other mental health problems associated with a stressful environment. There are a number of physical health advantages as well, from an improvement in obesity among employees to lowering blood pressure. Both of which are good for both the employee and the employer.

The idea that employees can not only share ideas and ways of thinking with one another, but can ultimately learn from each other is just another positive aspect of collaborating in a common area. From a worker’s perspective, learning more about the business and tips or tricks of the trade can only help to further his or her career. On the flip side, an employer gains a more qualified person within the company. Since this type of learning is often developed from a mentor/ mentee relationship, it gives the employer a person that can continue in the mentor’s footsteps after his or her retirement.

A company that offers a collaborative space is likely to have more satisfied clients and customers. The positive changes that are made on the inside of a business are often seen on the outside. Such changes make a lasting and advantageous impact on those persons that companies are often trying desperately to keep interested. Clients often see more than we are willing to give them credit for.

In order to offer a collaborative space that doesn’t take over the entire business office, a company can have conference rooms equipped with any necessary tools. This often includes a dry erase board, projector, and seating that allows employees to charge laptops or tablets as they work. A different collaborative space might simply be an area with bench seating. Whatever the style is that works for your business and space, the ability to bounce ideas off someone else can help productivity immensely.

The next portion of the work day is often learning. Although a worker most likely has the resources available to learn in their own office or learn from coworkers as they collaborate, having the ability to hold daily trainings or meetings is important to most employees so that they can get a grasp on any new concepts. It also makes learning more of a priority rather than a happenstance.

The learning aspect of your workspace should include the ability for people to observe and take notes. This often means that there should be enough seating for numerous people to attend. It also means that the space planning should determine how traffic will flow when there is a training in session. If you have to break employees up into 2 groups (one morning training group, one afternoon training group) to ensure that there is plenty of room, it is ideal for the learning not occur where it might disrupt the other areas of the space.

While a conference room might do well for learning sessions, it might also keep some employees from collaborating. A company would have to determine if the sacrifice is worth it or if they would prefer to create a separate space. If the effects would be too detrimental, it is possible to create a number of conference rooms so that one can be used for this purpose while others remain free to the employees and their collaboration efforts.

Socialization is the final aspect of a work day. There are actually a good number of employers that discourage socializing in the workplace. Many see a brief chat as a distraction from work. However, there are quite a few benefits to communicating with coworkers that should be made known to those in doubt.

The efficiency that comes with a group of people that truly know one another is astounding. When we socialize with our coworkers, we get to know them. From the way he or she thinks to his or her experiences, each conversation tells us something more about them that not only makes us more comfortable to speak with them but helps us to know how they work best.

That knowledge and relationship create a better situation for collaborating. Because collaborating often means working with someone smarter or more experienced, socialization means that hesitation during a collaboration session is less prominent. Coworkers become more like friends and employees feel less pressure and ultimately less fear about the situation. They will more freely provide opinions and ideas with the group.

Becoming friends with coworkers often means that employees are more likely to enjoy their place of employment. Rather than seeing the office as strictly business, it can be the place where you work and occasionally catch up with friends. The stress relief that comes from chatting with a friend is an added benefit.

Networking is a benefit that creates a web of connections. This is a positive aspect for the business itself simply because the more you share with coworkers, the more likely you are to find a connection to the client that you’ve wanted to get. Networking can also help a worker to find an outside company, whether it be that they are more qualified, more inexpensive, or more efficient, to assist within a department. For example, if it is getting complicated for you to handle the business’s taxes, it is likely that someone knows a great accountant.

Socializing with coworkers is a great way to practice communicating. By observing body language, employees can find what to watch for in clients and other coworkers when discussing work related topics. Talking can also teach workers how to speak with a variety of people. The practice can also help someone learn how sentences should be worded. For instance, discovering the best way to make clear statements can take an employee far.

Socialization also helps with diversity. A person can learn a lot from someone that is different from themselves. By talking with someone from another economic background, country, of a different race than your own, or even someone of the opposite gender, you can learn about his or her experiences and come to understand that diversity is not only beautiful but necessary to succeed.

Creating an area for socializing should be included in your space planning. This can be the break room or simply at the water cooler. It might even be a small lounge area. Whatever the space is, it is simply important to offer it to employees.

The four styles of work are often put to use by all employees throughout the course of a workday. By organizing an area that meets the needs of each style, employees are provided the ability to work within their own comfort zone as they see fit. Perhaps the work day would start alone and focused, but develop into one that included collaboration, learning, and socialization. By fostering these needs, productivity will reach new highs.

Productivity Boosting Space Planning

It seems rather obvious at this point that space planning has an important part to play within productivity. It is a good idea to remember a few key points in order to establish the most productive space plan for your business office.

Remember what you are attempting to achieve. If your desire is to move from point A to point B more efficiently, make it a priority while planning. Don’t let that need detract from the room’s balance, however. Also, use a focal point to direct attention to the desired area.

The office area as a whole should also be aligned with the company culture and be clutter free. It is also ideal to create a space that includes the probability that a large chunk of work will be completed while mobile. Take into consideration the likelihood of technological advancement and needs in the near future.

It should also be considered that each employee has 4 likely work styles. These include focus, collaboration, learning, and socialization. While most people hit all 4 styles within the work day, it does not mean they spend equal amounts of time on each style. With the differing personalities within the company’s workforce, providing space for each style is imperative to cater to the needs of people doing their best work.

Planning out your workspace can be a tedious and lengthy process. Despite this truth, it is also very worth the effort. When done correctly, it is likely that a company will see the productivity improvements quickly. There are always ways to improve, but space planning is often learned by doing. Sometimes it takes trial and error, other times you may have asked the perfect questions and figured out exactly what needs to be done. Space planning is not magic, rather logic applied to design.

Related Questions

Can space planning be applied to my cubicle? Despite its small size, your cubicle can be improved with some space planning. However, use your desk surface as your blueprint. Discover where you might place all of the items to reach their full efficiency.

Does space planning work for Feng shui? Yes, you can draw a blueprint and plan where items should be placed based on Feng shuiOpens in a new tab.. Some of the same principles apply.

Is collaboration the only way to inspire communication among coworkers? No. While collaborating opens doors that otherwise might have stayed closed, group activities, a break room, and daily meetings can help coworkers to.communicate with one another.

Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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