How Office Layout can Affect Thinking

Photo by: Campaign Monitor

Functional Fixedness is a great term, which rolls off the tongue and refers to the cognitive bias where people get into the habit of using the same objects in the same way. This causes people to develop a difficulty with ‘thinking outside the box’ when it comes to creative endeavours and problem solving.

For example, if someone wanted to bang a nail into the wall but couldn’t find a hammer, it may not occur to the person with functional fixedness to try and use a large wrench to do the job instead.

Therefore, in an office environment, where tasks and seating arrangements are usually set and unchanging, you can see how this type of cognitive bias can start to influence work performance.

This post will outline some ways in which businesses and employees can alter their office layout to facilitate different modes of thinking, and hopefully break functional fixedness cycles in their employees.

Sitting in a Circle

Many of us will remember ‘circle time’ in primary school, where the class sits on the carpet to have a discussion or hear a story. Well, studies have shown that sitting in a circle in this way can enhance group cohesion and get everyone in your team on the same page. Arranging desks in a circle for meetings is a good place to start.

The study also found that sitting in rows (also like how many of us sat in primary school) facilitates an individualist mind set, which is good for offices where concentration is required, for example, in a call room setting.

Personalising your Desk

Bringing in some photos and personal items from home can make your desk area feel like more of a comfortable place to be. Meredith Wells, a researcher from the University of Eastern Kentucky, examined people’s relationship with their work desks and found that those who decorated their area with family photos and other items reported higher levels of job satisfaction. Companies who encouraged this also had a lower turnover of staff.

Rethink Open Plan

Open plan layouts are common in many offices and there are clear benefits to being able to communicate with your co-workers as and when you need to; by walking over to their desks, rather than calling or sending an email.

However, a number of studies have shown that open plan office layouts also have their pitfalls. A study from Queensland University of Technology found that these environments can lead to higher levels of stress, office conflict and higher staff turnover, with noise levels being at the heart of the problems.

The study found that noise creates distraction, which lowers productivity and in turn raises levels of stress in employees. Researchers, in this instance, recommend the traditional office layout of small, closed-off areas, as this can help to combat these effects.

Luckily, shaking up your office layout in an affordable way is easy with Applied Workplace’s Fastline demountable office partitioning and walls, allowing for ultra-swift installation and removal.

Add some Colour

Colour can do a lot to enhance people’s moods. Splashes of colour on one or two walls in an office are enough to transform the feel of the place and create a team-centred atmosphere.

For example, a bright orange wall with an inspiring quote, written in large text, can greet employees as they walk in every morning and ‘set the tone’ for the rest of the day, with its positive message encouraging everyone to try their best.

Colours have also been found to stimulate the mind and prevent eyestrain, fatigue and headaches, with different colours having different effects on moods. Blue, stimulates higher thought processes, for example, and works well with greens and purples for a focus-intensive atmosphere. Yellow, red and orange on the other hand, also stimulate creativity and communication.

If you have any more thoughts on how employers can enhance the mood and productivity levels in their offices with decoration and layout, please share your ideas in the comments section below.