7 workspace characteristics that impact productivity

Thought Leadership on Workspace Solutions presented by Benhar Office Interiors.

It happens in every kind of work setting: We leave a meeting and think, “Now I can get some real work done.” And yet the interaction we have with others, whether spontaneous or planned, is, in fact real work.

Our work interactions and productivity are impacted directly by our workspace. Productivity is good for business, and a space that is poorly planned can actually be very detrimental to business. A well planned workspace that inspires productivity and interaction has a number of benefits, including (but not limited to) employee engagement and company success.

While successful workspaces share characteristics, there is not a formula or template for the perfect interactive space. One size, one shape, one approach does not fit all. The key, facilities experts say, is to provide a variety of spaces for interaction and allow workers to choose for themselves. In an ideal world, all organizations could do that. The reality is that most organizations have limitations and must make tradeoffs.

Here are 7 workspace characteristics that impact productivity:


Temperature and lighting that we can control and access to natural light are all critical to comfort, as is furniture that supports us and our work. Ideally, the space is neither too big nor too small for the number gathered. This small change can increase productivity in the workspace tremendously.

Pro tip: Provide furniture that team members can rearrange themselves.


We’ll run five miles at home to get exercise, but at work we’ll walk only about 90 feet to talk to someone. Anything beyond that makes us question whether it’s worth the effort.

Pro tip: Supplement workspaces with readily accessible, private, soundproof work areas in close proximity.

Control of exposure/privacy

We don’t always need privacy, but we need to know it’s an option for those times we do. People are as important as place in managing distractions; workplace protocols help people understand acceptable voice volume in various locations.

Pro Tip: Provide residents of open work spaces with ways to signal when they are unavailable.

Cultural Consistency

Culture is a significant predictor of the nature of interactions. Meeting spaces in close proximity to executive offices can be perceived as off limits, unless managers make an effort to change that perception. And employees need to know they are using it in ways the company’s corporate culture says are okay, whether that’s just for work or also for informal social gatherings.

Pro Tip: One way to put employees at ease and create productive interactions is for senior management to set about modeling the collaborative behavior they hope to encourage.

Work Tools

Obviously, everything that can be, should be wireless. Also, the basics like whiteboards, flip charts and easy power access allow people to work faster in more locations.

Pro tip: Choose lightweight modular furniture on casters or glides, it is easier to reconfigure for specific needs.


One of the simplest ways to increase productivity is through intentional adjacencies. Ask, “The company would benefit most by having which two groups interact more?” And then put those groups near each other.

Pro tip: Employees that benefit from working together also benefit from seeing each other. Visual access contributes greatly to work flow.

Traffic Patterns

Traffic patterns that create flow around shared resources and work areas can encourage productive interactions. Give people a reasonable number of ways to get from Point A to Point B (too many is just as detrimental as too few) and remember that frequent and sharp turns along the way force people to focus on navigating rather than connecting.

Pro tip: Plan these spaces with intention and use the spaces to add color and texture. This can also reinforce corporate or departmental identity.

Again, there is no “silver bullet” or exact science to achieving a successful space. Each kind of space has benefits and constraints. Understanding what they are can help you make informed choices about how your organization can best use space to foster productivity and prosperity.

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