So … what can you do to help people perform better? As the Vice President of Sales, Architecture and Design at a workplace furniture company, I’ve found that the following elements can help improve focus and productivity:
1. Give people autonomy over how they work. The amount of concentration people need for focused work can vary. Some of the factors include how skilled a person is at the task and whether they and the task can tolerate disruptions. Some workers may need quiet places away from distractions, while others may not—even for the same task.
2. Create quiet zones or spaces. You can make these with partitions to block visual distractions and with sound-masking products to cover speech and absorb noise. Quiet zones should be set away from areas with a lot of activity, like cafés, lobby areas, or other social zones. Instead, they should be positioned near an intermediary zone. I have seen companies provide a library-like space where talking on the phone is not allowed. The design of these spaces can give a clear indication that they’re intended for focused work with minimal distractions.
3. Offer a choice of workspaces. Give people different kinds of spaces where they can do specific kinds of work. Make sure there are enough rooms—whether they’re private spaces or unassigned offices. You can also create quiet zones in an open area for people to do heads-down work. It’s important to provide the correct ratio of these quite rooms, as they are frequently in high demand.
4. Provide time flexibility. In his new book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, author Daniel Pink explores how biorhythms impact focus and energy levels throughout the day. People hit their peak periods at different times of the day. And they need to be able to take breaks, whether it’s by daydreaming or getting out of their seat to move around or step outside.
5. Allow for some individual control. Lastly, give people some say over how they adjust to their surroundings. This can range from letting them wear headphones to using slide panels that can block access or act as a social cue that says, “I’m busy right now.” It beats the option of putting a handwritten piece of paper on the back of a chair that says, “Do not disturb.” Yes, I have seen people do this. full article