Three Growth Factors to Consider in Office Design

By Scott Henley

Office design is the great equalizer in the workplace. Unless your team is entirely remote or mobile, your office design will impact your bottom line because it impacts your greatest investment area – human capital.

According to a study by Britain’s Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment, the framework through which office design variables, from architecture choices to seating arrangements, can be summed up in three key objectives:

  • Efficiency – Making economic use of real estate and driving down occupancy costs (getting the most from the money)”
  • Effectiveness – Using space to support the way that people work, improving output and quality (getting the most from the people)”
  • Expression – Communicating messages both to the inhabitants of the building and to those who visit it, to influence the way they think about the organization (getting the most from the brand)”

All three of the objectives listed above impact or are impacted by the way that people utilize an office space and everything associated with the office building. To achieve all of the objectives above, whether you are considering occupying a new space or you are choosing a new build site, human capital costs and opportunities should play a role in your office design and facilities planning. Here are 3 ways that you can grow your business through office design by making your people and your place top priorities.


Tech companies, SaaS providers, manufacturers, and more are often headquartered in peripheral locations outside of urban cores. While the specific causes vary widely, the outcome is the same: some companies benefit from less visibility by positioning their physical presence in subtle locations. Proximity to suburban housing, real estate costs, and a behind-the-scenes approach to business often drive corporate decisions to choose less-visible site locations.

With regard to the pursuit of higher visibility through physical space, a new breed of retailers, led by companies like Apple and Microsoft, are provoking a shift in the way traditionally “quiet” corporations go about positioning themselves in the public eye. Utilizing site selection as a primary positioning or marketing tool is now a major factor that companies are considering when developing or occupying a new location. You should strongly consider commute times, public image, marketing, real estate costs, and more when you are choosing a site for your business.

Walls & Halls

Office enclosures are either open, closed, or somewhere in between. Your company’s culture, effectiveness, sales strategy, recruitment, and even sick leave are all linked to the way your office is laid out. A 2014 Journal of Ergonomics report revealed that short-term sick leave was reported more frequently among workers who spent the majority of their workdays in open floor plans versus those who enjoyed the privacy of their own offices. More communal space means more opportunities for sickness to infiltrate entire workforces in a building. Also, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, and reported about in the Washington Post, workers are more easily distracted by sound privacy, visual privacy, and other common occurrences in the communal areas. These distractions led to frustrated, ineffective employees. The report also concluded that “the loss of productivity due to noise distraction … was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices.”

In short, open office plans are proving to be a trend, led by companies like Google and Facebook, rather than the most effective way to conduct business. When choosing an office enclosure, consider your employees, guests, and the culture of your company. Laid-back, “Google-style” business cultures do not necessarily benefit from open office layouts. Conversely, private offices that have function as fully-enclosed barriers to the rest of the office space can present hindrances to effectiveness.


Your office space is a tool that you and your design team can harness to shape the direction of your company. There are techniques that you can employ to create an environment of inward perspective, outward perspective, or something in between. Your office design can channel concentration or collaboration, energy or relaxation, warmth or abrasiveness. Colors, layout, wall treatments, location, proximity to other businesses, accessibility…even the type of chairs you choose, all matter when it comes to the main focus of your office design.

According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, begin your discussion about office design by leading with the following questions:

  • Who are our employees, and who will they be in the next 5 years?
  • Who else uses our space (visitors, clients, community members, etc.), and why?
  • How do we want clients, prospective hires, or other visitors to perceive us when they enter our space?
  • To what extent do we value flexibility and choice over how work gets done?
  • Are certain modes of working seen as a privilege only available to a select few?
  • What current workplace behaviors would we like to change?
  • What are the most satisfying attributes of the existing workplace that sustain productivity?
  • If people aren’t regularly coming to the office, do we understand why not?

Common mistakes can be avoided and business-shaping opportunities can be realized by working with an experienced commercial real estate adviser. When considering your next office design update or a site change, contact Scott Henley at Newmark Grubb Phoenix Realty. or 904-514-2883.

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