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Six Things Employees Hate About Office Design…and Why You Should Care

Let's start with the "why you should care" part.

The 2013 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report found that a measly 29 percent of US and Canadian employees were engaged. That means that the lion’s share of the workforce, 71 percent to be exact, are disengaged.

Disengaged employees are generally disinterested or otherwise uncommitted to doing good business. They go through the days doing their work but without the gusto and zeal of a more satisfied crew.

While the set-up of a workplace certainly isn’t the only (or primary) source of disengagement, it can play a major part. Not only can a poorly designed workplace dampen the productivity of your employees, it could actually induce employees to find employment elsewhere, says a study by UK-based Friendship Works.

While you'll need to consider a lot more than just employee preference when office space planning, starting with your workers in mind is a wise decision. They are, after all, your most valuable resource.

So what are some common things we've heard from employees? Here are 6 things employees hate about office design...

1. There are too many distractions


As collaboration has become king in many workplaces, business leaders have opted to swap divided office environments for open-concept models where employees are next to or near co-workers nearly constantly. While this can have its benefits, it has its disadvantages as well. One of the most notable, and business impacting, disadvantages is the prevalence of distractions. A Basex Research study found that 93 percent of all US employees surveyed said they're "often distracted" at work.

Similarly problematic, in overly open spaces workers often feel unable to make private phone calls or even engage in meaningful conversations with other co-workers as a prying ear could well be lurking just a partition away.


To avoid creating a rife-with-distractions workplace, ditch your plans to transform your office into an open box and engage in more strategic planning that incorporates private spaces as well.

2. I feel isolated


Before you start sectioning up your office and creating isolated islands for quiet contemplation, remember that many workers complain that they feel isolated at work. When the walls are high and plentiful, workers feel less capable of engaging with each other, which translates to decreased performance, found a Wharton School of Business study of over 600 workers.

Paradoxically, just as a workplace can be too open, it can be too divided. It’s exceedingly difficult to build a strong and unified team if your team members are partitioned off from each other and largely out of touch for seven hours out of every eight-hour day.

Even if your workers don’t verbally complain about this, adopting a strictly divided set up could be hindering creativity and hurting camaraderie.


Avoid this issue by ensuring that there is communal space in your hybrid office plan, structuring your job assignments to explicitly provide occasion for staff to use the space for collaboration often.

Also, encourage un-scheduled communication between employees, which can both build trust and promote the development of authentic friendships. Create an open space in which staff members can prepare food and eat lunch, enjoy a break, or just catch up from time to time.

3. There's no workspace privacy


Whether working on a sensitive project or using their lunch hours to check their personal bank accounts, employees want privacy when using their computers. This lack of privacy has becoming an increasingly major issue as more and more companies have moved away from private offices in favor of open concepts.


If open concept works for your business, you can still solve this problem without abandoning the design scheme. Make privacy screens available to each employee's computer. Screens of this type that slide over your screen obscure the view of anyone who isn't looking at the computer head on.

4. These chairs are so uncomfortable


Your employees shouldn't have to climb to management levels to be rewarded with a comfortable chair. Particularly for positions in which employees spend most of the day sitting, selecting the right chair can do much for improving their productivity, making this move as good for your bottom line as it is for your employees. A study publishing the Journal of Public Affairs and Administration Management found that comfortable, ergonomic furniture increased employee productivity substantially.


When purchasing your office chairs, look for seats that provide good lumbar support to stave off those back pains that could drive workers to distraction. Also, seek chairs that are adjustable so your workers can customize the height, incline and movement to their liking.

5. We don't have footrests

Haven’t you heard your employees complain about this? Yeah, probably not. Employees don’t complain about this not because they are so gosh darn comfortable in their workspaces, but instead because they never even knew that workplace footrests were a thing.


Surprise and delight your employees with a little extra touch or two. Outfit your workspaces with foot rests or--even cooler--foot hammocks. This thoughtful addition will prove particularly helpful to your short-in-stature workers, as it will likely help them sit with better posture, reducing the end of the day aches and pains.

6. It's boring in here

Being greeted by a bland and boring workplace full of neutral tones and functional-yet-frill-free furnishings certainly isn't like to help to inspire happiness in employees. Color theorists argue that the hues you select to bathe your walls and furnishings in could have a major impact on levels of employee satisfaction.


Dedicate attention to the aesthetics of your workplace. Don't be scared to add pops of color to the space as these little elements of interest can enhance employee engagement.

Whenever possible, bring the outside in by showcasing large windows and adding greenery to the space.

Does it make a difference whether your workers are happy in your office environment? Sometimes. Some workers will work just as hard when they're unhappy as when they are delighted. Though revamping your workplace may have a positive impact on employee productivity, this is far from the only reason you should dedicate attention to your space. Let your altruistic desire to keep your workers happy guide your workplace design and make modifications with their interests in mind.

With so many factors in play, redesigning a commercial space can be a daunting task. Instead of going it alone, seek help from a pro. Contact a consultant from Connecting Elements by calling 877.779.3409 or emailing us info@connectingelements.com.

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