How the Physical Environment of the Workplace Affects Your Work

Office layout affects morale.
i Jupiterimages/ Images

While you might think an office is just an office, a workspace has its own personality, just like a home. An open and inviting environment that is well-designed can positively influence the way you feel and behave in the workplace, while a cold, sterile, closed environment can bring you down on a regular basis. Likewise, the way an office is designed can improve or impede communication among you and your colleagues, and that has a direct impact on productivity.

Physical Design

    An open workplace environment that has few walls and features workstations that allow you and your colleagues to see and interact with one another can create a cohesive feeling and facilitate communication. Cubicles and offices, while providing more privacy, and in some cases, enhanced productivity, may leave colleagues feeling physically disconnected from one another. Progressive work environments often incorporate open workspaces with minimal physical barriers that both balance freedom from distraction and encourage interaction among staffers.


    Employees who continually work behind closed doors may develop a feeling of isolation. This can happen in office environments where confidentiality and privacy are vital to conducting business, such as banking, counseling or health-care records. While workers may have more focus in this type of setting, limited interaction also can affect the emotions and mood of the people who work there.

Office Layout

    Offices that have centrally located shared machinery and group together department members in close proximity to one another increase productivity because interaction is easy. Employees who are spread out through an office and have to make lengthy trips to get to resources or to talk to department colleagues can decrease productivity and lead to frustration.


    Asking employees to work in an “on display” environment can lead to a lack of privacy. For example, business offices that are open to a retail environment or feature glass partitions can give the people who use them the feeling of being in a fish bowl. Employees may find it hard to focus and tune out visual and audio distractions. Likewise, work stations that have walk-through traffic can also pose problems, as staffers must deal with continual interruptions.

Light and Air

    Offices that use natural lighting and facilitate fresh air flow often have more productive employees than office environments that don’t. Employees who can look out or open windows feel less claustrophobic than those who are situated in windowless environments with heavy fluorescent lighting. Seeing the sky and feeling a breeze now and then can reduce stress and anxiety.

the nest