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Ever had those days where you can’t get in the zone? Even with all your might and mental focus, you can’t seem to get anything done. On the contrary, you have probably experienced the days where nothing can stop you from pumping out work. While there are several factors that can play into both of these experiences, one factor that is often overlooked is your environment. Some people have no problem working in a crowded coffee shop; some people need to be in a secluded, well lit area; some people can work on the road, on a plane—even while driving a car (not recommended). The moral of the story is, each person and employee is different when it comes to their working preferences. Let’s examine some of the biggest factors playing into your work environment’s effect on your productivity.


Cubicles vs. Open Office

In the last 5 years or so, large corporations, small businesses, and start-ups have made transitions in their workspace designs. The days of the cubicles have severely died down with roughly 70% of office areas resembling open working environments. A major reason for this has been the costs associated with cubicles when compared to an open work space. Compared to open benching-system workstations, cubicles can be twice as expensive or more! Outside of the numbers, open work environments are thought to increase collaboration and open the space to greater light, a factor strongly linked to work productivity.


Over the last several years, multiple studies were conducted and hundreds of employee surveys were taken to gauge the effects of this transition to an open office environment. The results are actually staggering. In almost all of the studies done, employees were found to be significantly less productive, more distracted, and more likely to be less comfortable in their work environments. The employee surveys done matched this data with up to 75% of respondents claiming they felt less productive and less satisfied with their workstation. Maybe the old heads who established corporate America had it figured out… cubicles really are an effective design to create productive work environments. Unfortunately, with the hard costs providing significant savings, we are uncertain if we will see this trend reverse any time soon.


Finding Your Preference

It’s important to know where you work best, or alternatively, where you are the least productive when working. You may be fine operating in a crowded or open workstation environment, you may need to be isolated, or your work environment may not be a factor strongly affecting your productivity. When you have honed in on your workstation preference, be sure to voice this to your employer in a professional manner. Almost all offices have “break out” rooms or private conference rooms which you should be able to utilize if you are more of an isolated worker. If you are a trendy start-up employee, your options are probably even better! Lastly, if you are a small business owner or a full blown entrepreneur, you can decide when and where you work. The bottomline is, play to your strengths and put yourself in a work environment where you will be the most productive.


On the flip side of the coin, it’s important to consider your coworkers’ working preferences. When working in a closely-knit team setting or even in an open workspace, you can affect your coworkers’ productivity if you are constantly creating distractions, prompting trivial interactions, or being the guy who always talks as loud as he can on the phone. Ask your coworkers if your habits or conversations are distracting them or, when in doubt, keep to yourself until you are prompted, you social butterfly.


Working Remotely or On The Go

You’re taking calls in the car instead of listening to music, finishing a slide deck on the plane instead of watching that free blockbuster, or on vacation cranking out a proposal… or maybe you’re not. While working remotely has been praised as one of the highest valued employee options in the last several years, it can also be an extremely detrimental one to productivity. Why is this? We’ll name a couple:

  • Your boss isn’t hovering over you or pressing you to get work done all the time
  • Your distractions can be much more prevalent than working in an office
  • There can be less structure to guide you in your daily work responsibilities


Yes, these reasons can plague your work productivity, however, they are manageable. This also returns to understanding your work preferences and capabilities. If you are an independent, multitasking, go-getter then this shouldn’t be a problem for you. In fact, working remotely can drastically increase productivity.


Remember all of those surveys that were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of open workspace environments? Well, around the same time, several studies and surveys were being conducted on remote working and remote employees. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from these surveys:

  • Remote employees are happier… You would probably work much better if you were happier with your working environment.
  • Remote employees spend less time commuting, stuck in traffic, etc. which allows for more time to work.
  • Remote work opportunities provide the employee with flexibility to work when they are the most focused whether that is early morning or late night. It also allows for unmonitored work breaks to destress if need be.
  • Remote employees create powerful, distraction-free workspaces that are dedicated to helping them get in the zone.
  • Data has suggested that remote workers have less vacation days off of work as well as less sick days. More work days equals greater productivity.


Working remotely can greatly increase your productivity, but as our good friend Spiderman once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Add a little structure to your remote-working schedule, set bold goals, and be your own monitor to make sure you utilize remote working appropriately.


What To Do As An Employer

So you’re an employer about to set up shop and are considering the best work environment to create for your team. Or maybe you are considering switching your current work area to better suit your business or cut costs. While saving money for any business is crucial, it should not be the only factor when making your decision. Your goal as an employer should be to understand your employees and their work preferences. If you are establishing a new workspace, consider some of the research on work environments and worker productivity. If you are switching to an open floor plan for your office, be sure to create some secluded or isolated rooms for those employees who operate better in such environments. If you allow your employees to work remotely, track them based on work output; give them the flexibility and freedom a remote work environment naturally entails but don’t be afraid to lay down the law if you see bad habits or unproductive ones forming.

Ultimately, as mentioned, if you are able to understand your employees’ work environment preferences then you will be able to get more production from them. When in doubt, create balance in your office for all types of workers.


Employee BONUS Section

If you are in the process of creating a new office for your business, check out some of the best offices around the world that could illuminate the possibilities for your new workspace!


Your Biggest Takeaways

Your environment plays a huge role in your work productivity. Find or create a workspace that puts you in a good mental headspace and allows you to work optimally. For those working in an office environment, be sure to explain to your boss or manager your work preferences. For those already working in a remote position, be sure to manage your time and schedule properly. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck working late because you aren’t managing your work environment to best suit your needs!