Increasing employee productivity should begin even before employees walk through the front door of the corporation. In fact, it’s the front door itself that may hold the key to at least a part of the company’s productivity level.
The architecture and design firm, Antinozzi Associates, Stratford, CT, USA, says that corporate culture, at least in part, is determined by the look and feel of the building and its workspaces. The 35-person firm suggests that even modest changes can produce major improvements in productivity.
A simple switch from brightly painted walls to softer tones, for example, can have a significant impact – just as switching from a fixed chair to one that swivels.“ One of the most important architectural factors in designing a work space is color. We scour through countless color options to chose the best for a particular office – colors that will help achieve the specific result needed at the individual company,” said Principal and Vice President, George Perham. “It has been proven through psychological research that people have clear, specific responses to different colors. ” “We generally try to steer corporate clients towards warmer colors for offices, helping make the offices more comfortable for employees, versus bright colors that can be too distracting,” he said. Color is not alone in the firm’s “palette of productivity techniques.”
Antinozzi Associates relies on a mixture of many ingredients to provide a work-friendly atmosphere. Choice of furniture, specialized lighting, and even air quality all are among many critical components of architecture and design that may boost productivity.
“We concentrate on how each element of the architecture and design will make workers feel as they arrive at the building and then as they go about the work day,” Perham said. “We try to avoid stiff chairs or harsh indoor lighting, for example, because they can quickly create fatigue for workers stuck inside each day. We try to innovate with new ways to bring the outdoors inside, especially with outside-style lighting and use of windows.”
“We have incorporated this idea with how we locate individual offices within the layout of a building,” he said. “In years past, the more senior the executive, the more likely the person’s office would be located on an exterior wall with a big window. Today we believe that creative departments are more properly placed on the perimeter of the building while the senior executive offices should be centered at the core.”
“Of course, that doesn’t mean the senior executives go without windows,” he added. “It just means we have to be creative in how the floors are laid out so, perhaps, an executive office can have windows that allow a clear view right through to an exterior window.”
Perham also says the firm’s team of architects and designers aim to increase productivity using elements of design often not even visible to the workers. For instance, heating and air conditioning are not just to maintain a temperature conducive to the work atmosphere but are to improve air movement and interchange that also canhelp maintain proper productivity.
When Antinozzi designed a space for IBM, the firm’s objective was to create a workspace that was fun and inviting yet didn’t distract. “White noise,” a low, nearly inaudible hum, is used to effectively muffle office chatter and create a feeling of privacy even in large open office areas where conversations would otherwise be overwhelmingly distracting.
“The best offices are created when the client company understands that allocating resources to make employees comfortable is really an investment in improved productivity,” said Paul Antinozzi, president of the nearly 50-year-old firm. Another focus of office design is the community space. These are not the traditional the water cooler corners or antiseptic lunchrooms of corporate offices of years past. Rather, today’s community space is more likely a large open area perhaps with overstuffed sofas or even beanbag chairs, all designed to foster employee interaction and present opportunities for an interchange of ideas.
The use of these collaborative environments is typified by a recent Antinozzi design project for Ryan Partnership; a marketing firm based in Wilton, CT, USA.
“Ryan Partnership had its employees and overall productivity in mind when it set out to create a visually stimulating workplace that would foster creativity throughout the company,” said Perham. This project has become an example of effective use of novel materials in the creation of an eclectic, open space. The office will include a two-story atrium, large waterfall, the source of this office’s “white noise”, and a collaborative area that uses shiny steel paint cans as beams – beams that become magnet walls for posting ideas. Walls are curved white boards and glass-covered milk crates are used for room sectioning.
The Ryan Partnership project is scheduled to be complete on soon, but Antinozzi has several more projects in the works where productivity will be a significant factor in their creative process for innovative space and architecture.