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The Science Behind Effective Workspace Design

01 June 2023

When you spend about a third of your life in your workspace, you'd want to at least make sure it's designed the right way. After all, without a workspace that's at least satisfactory to spend that much time in, you wouldn't be able to get a lot of work done, and that can cause further problems down the road.

From fatigue to outright burnout, there are many issues with a poorly designed workspace, so it's clearly something you should be paying more attention to. Let's take a look at the science behind effective workspace design so you can improve yours.

Key Factors in Office Design

There is a lot of talk around offices from an interior design perspective. A funky layout here, some pretty looking furniture there - you can definitely make your office space look nice, but you may not be doing much for how productive and safe workers can remain within it.

There are some key elements of a workspace that you should be keeping in mind when designing it if you want maximum efficiency and to keep your employees happy.


How much does your workspace allow your employees to connect with nature? If your employees are too indoors, you may just be creating a problem. According to research, there is a bond between humans and living beings that exists instinctively - to the extent that even visibility can have an impact.

Human beings respond positively to nature - but only to real nature. A simulation can't produce the same effect that real nature can, so you want to have real nature in your office space somehow. This could be in the form of a window that gives workers a view to the outside as well as letting in natural light, or a few plants dispersed around the office.

Interacting with nature promotes better cognitive performance and thus, better output. It also influences stress levels and keeps employees relatively less stressed than if they were simply indoors with no connection to the outside world.


Another factor to consider is the distance between people within the office. A greater distance would result in much less interaction with them. This is intuitive but it's important to keep in mind what it can imply.

You'd think interaction simply means how much employees make small talk with each other and form friendships, but it also affects how much employees are willing to collaborate and work together on projects. If you want to encourage collaboration in the workspace, it's important to keep the distances between desks in mind. While it's give each employee space, you don't want to create a feeling of isolation.

On the other hand, you don't want to keep employees too close to each other because they may end up feeling suffocated, or may end up engaging in too much small talk. You want to provide them with enough space to get work done, but not so much that you curb any interaction between them.


On top of walking distance, you have to consider the visibility from each desk as well. You don't want to keep your employees hidden away, because simple things like eye contact can also influence your likelihood of interaction.

Even a brief glimpse at someone can act as a reminder of the fact that you wish to interact and keep in contact later, so you want to make sure people are able to see each other from their workspaces - especially if they work in the same team.

Visibility isn't just about the desk, though. Even something as simple as keeping building circulation like stairways and corridors in places that encourage visibility and interaction can help with encouraging employees to improve relationships and result in better sociability and collaboration.

Social interaction isn't just better from a productivity perspective but is also an important part of keeping your employees happy.

Noise Levels

Nobody likes loud noises - unless perhaps you're at a party - but loud noises can actually be detrimental to your productivity, especially in office spaces. Most people do keep this in mind when it comes to designing buildings, but it's also an important aspect to consider when designing your office.

Research suggests that we have a pretty clear threshold for what level of noise is acceptable, what gets distracting, and what becomes outright impossible to work in. About 70 decibels is the middle ground between too loud and too quiet and allows for the most productivity.

You want to make sure your workspace is designed in a way that loud items like printers and fax machines are kept at a distance so employees aren't constantly getting distracted, and that individual employees' activities don't disturb others.

But you want to keep a minimum level of noise so the office space doesn't feel like employees are trapped in it.


Smaller offices tend to be closely packed, but an important part of workspace design is that you give your employees room to move around. Sometimes you simply do not have the choice because of the limited amount of space available, but then you should find alternative options to create opportunities for movement.

Your employees should be getting up and walking around to stretch their legs and take a break from sitting at their desks every once in a while. Sitting for long stretches is unhealthy, though most people will not actively choose to walk around the workspace.

There can be plenty of ways you give them the opportunity to do so. For example, you could keep copy machines and printers in one corner of the room and have a water cooler in the middle of the room. Employees are more likely to move around when there's an acceptable reason to do so, rather than to simply stretch.

You can opt for sit-stand desks instead of regular sitting desks so that they can move in their own space when they feel the need to stretch their legs and not have to actually move when doing so. A desk like Flexispot's Pro Standing Desk E7 is a great option for a sit-stand desk.

These are also great for improving productivity because they allow you to work while standing, which helps reduce the fatigue you feel when you end up sitting for too long. As a result, you are able to think more creatively and work better.


Lights are also an important part of your office space. We know this instinctively because we also have a very strong preference for a specific kind of lighting when working. Most people will also prefer natural light over artificial light - not to mention we tend to work better in natural light than in artificial light.

This goes back to what we said about the connection we instinctively need with nature, but the takeaway in this case is that natural light is good so office space should be designed to make the most of it.

That means you should probably have a few large windows that let in a lot of natural light and reduce the need for artificial lighting during daytime hours. This will encourage productivity and let your employees feel more refreshed.

But that's not all there is to it! You should also be looking at what kind of lights you have in your office space. For example, warm lights that have a lower color temperature result in lower stress levels and better performance, so you should be opting for warmer lights for your artificial lights as well.

On top of that, you also want to provide your employees with individual lamps to provide task lighting that's customizable to their needs. Task lighting is useful when it comes to work that involves a lot of focus and concentration. Something like Flexispot's Table Lamp can help with that and keep employees productive by letting them engage with their work deeply.

Personal Touches

No one likes a very distant office space. If you feel like a stranger at your desk, you're a lot less likely to be engaged with your work, and wouldn't enjoy your time at work either. A personalized workspace helps build an emotional connection to the place as well as the work and thus lets you work a lot better. Allowing employees to personalize their space can help encourage a more positive attitude and thus better productivity.

However, you do want to make sure this is done in moderation. Too many personal touches can get distracting - to others if not to yourself - and sometimes they may also end up creating clutter that keeps you from working productively, even though the entire point of personalization is to improve productivity.

But looking at the bigger picture, there is no one size fits all for office design, so giving employees the flexibility to design their own personal space how they feel works best for them can improve output. As long as they don't end up disrupting others' work, you shouldn't feel the need to interfere in how they choose to work.