The best way to improve your team’s productivity may have nothing to do with motivational exercises or training activities. Productivity research studies show that office furniture and design have a profound impact on employee health, productivity, and performance. 


A successful office leverages furniture and design to uphold both form and function by:

  • Creating a layout that encourages focus, collaboration, and strong communication

  • Investing in ergonomically sound furniture to sustain employee health and productivity

  • Reducing noise to minimize distractions and maintain strong performance


Let’s take a tour of how office furniture and design affect productivity.

Ergonomics Play a Key Role in Employee Health and Productivity

Aches, pains, and eye strain may be slowing you down more than you realize. Ergonomics can affect vision, musculoskeletal health, energy levels, productivity, and even overall company performance. 


Musculoskeletal disorders are responsible for 1/3 of work injuries or illnesses, many of which are due to poor ergonomics. Neck, back, and upper-extremity issues make up 27% of all workers’ compensation claims in Washington State, with 36% of the claims resulting in “4 or more lost work days and more than 43% of all costs.” And a small study of Iranian workers found that neck, lower back, or thigh pain resulted in fatigue and correlated with decreased concentration and productivity. 


Sitting for long periods isn’t doing you any favors either—it’s been linked to cardiovascular conditions, spinal issues, obesity, and even cancer. 

Ergonomically Sound Workstations Save Millions in Healthcare Costs and Lost Productivity

Luckily, maintaining good ergonomics is easier than you think. A workstation that keeps your body supported, aligned, and periodically moving throughout the day can alleviate everything from carpal tunnel to fatigue to blood clots. 


A review of 250 ergonomic studies by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries found that ergonomic workstations reduced lost workdays by 75% and reduced workers’ compensation costs by 68%.


The above review highlighted a landmark rollout of redesigned workstations for Blue Cross corporate employees, which saved the company a whopping $1 million in insurance claims. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island followed suit a few years later and had equally impressive results: It reduced workers comp costs by 89% in a single year.


Here are some quick pointers for setting up an ergonomically sound workstation. 

  • Protect your well-being with ergonomic furniture and accessories: Switch to an adjustable-height desk so you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day (experts say this is ideal for longevity and productivity). For maximum comfort while sitting, consider investing in a chair with a headrest or lumbar support. And don’t forget smaller items like wrist supports, under-desk mats, monitor stands, or eye-friendly lighting—which can alleviate many common work-related ailments.

  • Maintain healthy alignment to reduce musculoskeletal strain: Keep your back straight, pull your shoulders slightly back, and align your ears over your shoulders to maintain good posture. When working at a desk, your forearms should be at desk height and parallel to the desk, ideally with elbows at a 90–100 degree angle. When seated, your feet should firmly touch the floor, and your knees should be bent at 90 degrees. 

  • Avoid neck and eye strain by correctly positioning your monitor: When using a single monitor, it should be 18–28” away, directly in front of your face at eye level. When using a dual monitor setup, place the primary monitor 18–28” away, directly in front of your face, and place the second monitor on the side with the dominant eye. The inner edges of the monitors should be touching so they form a concave position around you. 

Office Layouts Can Affect Communication and Collaboration

Investing in ergonomically sound furniture is a strong play for productivity—but where you place that furniture also affects performance.


The ideal workplace offers space for both uninterrupted individual work and vigorous collaboration. The rising popularity of open offices in recent years has led many to believe they foster unparalleled communication—but the jury’s still out on whether the open office fosters good communication. A study of 2 Fortune 500 companies published in Harvard Business Review found that “face-to-face interactions dropped by roughly 70% after the firms transitioned to open offices, while electronic interactions increased to compensate.” Less talking and more Slacking is probably not the productivity boost you’re hoping for, huh?  


Encourage collaboration by inviting employees to gather in dedicated communal spaces where they can chat freely or work through projects together. Provide employees with everything they may need to brainstorm or share ideas: a few couches or chairs grouped together, a whiteboard and markers, a projector screen, and an activity table


Balance these communal spaces by offering dedicated quiet areas where employees can focus without interruption when it’s time to execute individually. House these workstations in low-traffic areas and equip them with acoustic panels to maximize peace and quiet. You can also create a more intimate feel and lessen noise travel or visual distractions by incorporating decorative elements like screened panels or tall plants. 

Background Noise Is a Productivity Killer

One of the simplest threats to productivity is distraction. Namely, noise. The open floor plans and sprawling spaces that are popular in many modern offices bring a downside: Sound travels more easily. 


All the nonstop buzz can be draining for employees (especially for introverts). This lessens productivity and efficiency—and can increase frustration for employees whose focus is interrupted. 


Thoughtful office design can help. Creating designated areas for collaboration or individual focus is a good start, but don’t stop there: Incorporate design elements that can reduce sound travel. Acoustic panels, small dividers, decorative screens, tapestries, rugs, and even plants can dampen noise. Or consider installing thick glass walls, which will cut down on sound travel while still visually extending the space. 

Position Your Furniture—and Your Team—for Better Productivity

If you want your team to be successful, you’ve got to give them a leg up—sometimes literally. Thoughtful furniture and design can improve the health, productivity, and overall performance of your team. Get started by connecting with our free office design services team or browsing our complete collection of office decor



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