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What Does an Office Worker Want? A Window View, Apparently

Turns out people really don't appreciate facing the wall in an office.

COVID-19 changed a lot of things when it comes to offices. For starters, managers were able to see that people could be just as productive, if not more, from home. Now, people are wondering how they can make the return to offices as pleasant and as productive as possible.

A new study by UCL is revealing that to increase productivity, workers must have certain criteria met such as be in open-plan offices, face the room they are in, be next to a window, and have few or no desks behind them. They also discovered that smaller offices with fewer desks result in increased productivity.

Lead author Dr. Kerstin Sailer (Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL) said in a statement: “Our findings raise important questions regarding the current popular practice in workplace design of providing large open-plan offices for technology companies."

All the while, the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic pushed employers to find ways to make the workplace as attractive to employees as possible.

The how and where

For their study, the researchers evaluated and analyzed four floors of the London headquarters of a large international technology company. They conducted staff surveys on office satisfaction and extrapolated results from them.

What they found was that a high number of desks led to less office satisfaction as did sitting facing a wall with desks behind the study participants. These findings were speculated to be related to a loss of control over the workers' visual environment and to the likelihood of disturbing others when needing to collaborate or simply chat.

"Overall, staff with more visual control over their environment were up to 40 times more likely to report higher levels of productivity, focus, teamwork, and team bonding," wrote UCL in a statement.

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So what is the key to happy and productive workers? Smaller and more intimate open-plan areas that offer workers visual control by facing as many desks forward as possible. Now, that's easy enough to achieve!

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