Most and Least Productive Office Design Trends for 2016

By Byrion Smith (Flickr: Google, London, UK) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons has a slideshow of the 7 Office Design Trends for 2016 and we wanted to take a closer look at each of the trends to find out which are the most productive. By productive we mean whether the office design will provide a good working environment for software developers.

Developers need a quiet space for concentrating and a collaborative area for team work.

The 7 office design trends that Inc. Magazine has picked are:

  1. bigger kitchens
  2. unconventional meeting spaces
  3. even more glass walls
  4. amphitheatres as conference rooms
  5. health-conscious spaces
  6. baked-in ergonomic designs
  7. green space indoors

The most productive trends are: baked-in ergonomic designs, unconventional meeting spaces, and green space indoors. The least productive trends are: even more glass walls and amphitheatres as conference rooms.

Baked-in Ergonomic Designs Mean Less Health Problems

The company Steelcase designs comfortable chair/desk/cubicle combinations. What we like is that there is a focus on ergonomics at all. Ergonomics of chair and desk design are routinely ignored and developers simply adapt to whatever their environment is. Steelcase makes it simple for a company to buy a perfectly ergonomic space without much hassle.

Improved ergonomics steadily increases productivity; it is common to find developers complain about back strain or arm and wrist injuries. Standing desks were one attempt at improving ergonomics and baked-in ergonomic designs are another attempt.

We hope more office designs incorporate ergonomics by default in 2016.

Unconventional Meeting Spaces Mean More Focus

What we love about unconventional meeting spaces is that they are yet another spot where work can be done in silence. Most developers work in open offices which can be hectic and filled with noise, making it hard to concentrate. Unused meeting and conference rooms become hideouts to really get on a roll and get into the flow and get lots of work done.

Unconventional meeting spaces like greenhouse-inspired rooms or private booths not only are a good space to work in, they usually look nicer, are more comfortable, and have a nice atmosphere for pair programming or small team collaboration.

Green Space Indoors Are Beautiful

If you have ever worked outside on a patio with a small netbook or laptop or on a tablet, you know the joys of seeing greenery around you. There is something inherently appealing about seeing flowers, trees and grass and being surrounded by nature. Unfortunately, we have to work indoors almost all of the time.

Green spaces indoors give us something more exciting to look at and beautify our work environments. They increase productivity by making the workplace more green. Most workplaces stick to a bland grey or white for their walls; green spaces indoors break up that monotony.

Unproductive Trends

Even more glass walls are the most unproductive trend. They can lead to the atmosphere of a panopticon, where there is little or no privacy. Aside from the lack of privacy is the distraction level. With constant movement in your vision it can make it very difficult to concentrate.

In meetings this effect is even worse; the people on the outside of the meeting may be distracted by the appearance of what is happening at the meeting. The people in the meeting can be distracted by the passing coworkers or clients on the outside of the meeting, it can also have a chilling effect. There are some meetings that need to be private (such as employment hiring/firing, workplace problems, etc.) and glass walls can discourage them from taking place.

Amphitheatres as conference rooms are great for monthly or quaterly townhall meetings. In general, for the day-to-day, they are not good for productivity, especially when combined with an open office. It is distracting to everyone who isn’t invited into the meeting to hear every word that’s spoken in the meeting.

No Better, No Worse

Bigger kitchens and health-conscious spaces are not about productivity. Usually they do not benefit many programmers because they are too busy coding to use the spaces. In other cases, programmers are far more interested in getting home to hack on their own projects or to spend time with family.

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