Workplace Behavior, Design and Creating Interaction from Distraction

September 10, 2016  |  by

Watches buzz, new emails ping and co-workers text each other at desks a few dozen feet apart. Wherever we are, inadvertent exposure to noise is a constant distraction that competes for our attention. At the same time, office architecture favors open desking and glass walls to make better use of space and encourage collaboration. Clients constantly ask us how their offices can help foster more productive work and less disruption.

We’ve heard that some companies develop a code of “noise” etiquette which becomes part of the employee handbook. Other organizations arrange their space with areas of sound refuge and separate collaboration zones from quiet work zones. The bigger questions in managing distraction are whether the space should be modified to support behavior, or whether behavior should be modified to support the space. And even whether disruption by coworkers is undesirable.

From furniture industry leaders to behavioral consultants, many experts have developed metrics with which to quantify productivity and employee satisfaction.  It seems that random office chit chat is really about unplanned interactions that improve performance. New data being generated reveals that re-engineering space for interactions over efficiency can increase sales and new-product launches. So all those distractions are not necessarily to be avoided-if companies can change their spaces to reflect how people work, performance improvement will follow.

Herman Miller is one manufacturer who has developed a family of furniture products under the umbrellas “Living Office Design” and “Public Office Landscape”. This office system supports casual work and provides comfort at the desk, in circulation spaces, and in group areas- to encourage serendipitous encounters -all within a coordinating furniture family.

Another major system manufacturer, Haworth, put out an interesting article with recommendations to encourage workplace interactions worth the read.

Belgian brand BuzziSpace is an industry leader in creative, acoustic furniture designed to encourage social interaction while mitigating the impact for adjacent workers.  Buzzihive, Buzzibooth and BuzziHood are a few of their very innovative products created by furniture designer Alain Gilles that integrate technology and acoustic privacy with a new, hip design aesthetic.

The takeaway here-interaction is a good thing to be encouraged in the workplace but to be separated from distraction, which is a bad thing. There are lots of new product offerings, and whitepapers, to support your effort for a functional, attractive office that mobilizes and maximizes your workforce.