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Uninspiring Space: Impact on Productivity

Workplaces that are designed well can improve productivity by up to 20%. Aesthetic aspects like art installations and rounded designs and the comfort of the furniture influence workplace productivity. Below is a deep dive of our findings.


  • A Gallup study found that unhappy workers in America result in productivity loss amounting to $550 billion.
  • Half of American workers are not engaged in their jobs and one in five is actively disengaged.
  • According to IPSOS/Steelcase study, only 11% of workers are highly satisfied with their work environment.
  • On the other hand, a study by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois found that 79% of people are satisfied with the appearance of their workplace and 82% are satisfied with the comfort. The study also found that furniture was a key element that affected a person’s experience at their workplace.
  • According to a survey by Management Today, 97% of employees see the quality of their workplace environment as a measure of how much their employer values them.
  • Although most employers take care of “basic elements that most people associate with a pleasant, welcoming, modern workplace”, a quarter of people working in traditional offices do not have any artwork in their workplace.


  • A well-designed office can improve productivity by 20%.
  • Two in three (67%) employers redesigned their workplace in 2016 to attract new workers.
  • On average a worker loses 86 minutes a day owing to sound distractions. A survey by APQC found that 71% of people believe they would be more productive if they had additional space/private space for quiet reflection and individual work. Ninety percent of people would like to have more privacy in their work environment. This is relevant as most employers prefer open-concept offices.
  • 46% of American workers in a traditional office environment think the design and decor in their workplace lack personality.
  • Only a quarter of American workers in a traditional office environment “would be proud to show their office to family and friends”. Those who were embarrassed to show their workplace to friends and family were mostly impacted by the office furniture.
  • The National Association of Professional Organizations found that paper clutter is the major issue for most businesses. The average person spends 4.3 hours every week searching for papers. While the messiness of a desk may be associated with the personality of an individual, providing easily accessible organizers and filing systems can reduce inefficiencies.
  • The American Medical Association estimates that America loses $81 billion in productivity annually, exclusively due to pain.
  • A British Council of Offices found that productivity increased by 23% when uncomfortable office furniture (like chairs and tables) were replaced. Other studies have found that productivity can be increased by 17.5% by simply providing the right chair and training.
  • Those who think that their office furniture is bad are 3 times more likely to feel that their environment hurts productivity and 2 times more likely to find their environment depressing.
  • A study conducted by the University of Exeter, UK found that people who worked in offices that emphasize art worked 15% faster than those who worked in offices that did not have any art installations.
  • Employees who can personalize their work environment are 25% more productive.
  • A University study that showed test subjects pictures of rooms with both straight and rounded furniture found that the curved arrangements were unanimously more pleasing to the subjects. Another study found that curvilinear/ rounded furniture triggered more brain activity than furniture with straight edges.
  • 43% of workers reject job offers owing to an uninspiring office setting.


We were unable to find case studies of companies that have been unsuccessful owing to uninspiring office spaces. As a combination of factors result in the success or failure of a company, it may be unlikely that case studies that exclusively attribute a company’s poor performance to its uninspiring office furniture/decor exist. However, we have included case studies of how companies have managed to improve productivity after making changes to office designs.


Telus is one of the top telecommunication providers in Canada. Telus had grown exponentially in recent years organically as well as inorganically. As a result of the strategic acquisitions, it has had to combine offices and staff from across geographic locations within a city. Scattered offices are not efficient and dilute a sense of identity.
As part of a renewed workplace strategy, Telus relocated its teams in Toronto in a 30-story office tower. The new tower resulted in productivity gains of 5%. Telus hired Steelcase Applied Research and Consulting to study workplace processes and interactions and make layout and design recommendations for their new office.
Telus wanted to keep a small number of standard workplaces and increase efficiency and effectiveness. Keeping a standard number of work units would also help it reconfigure its layout in the future. The four types of work settings used were 120-degree workstations, director workspaces, private offices, and benching workstations. The office was designed keeping in mind the company’s open and collaborative culture. Panel heights were kept low, offices and meeting rooms had glass panels, and there were no obstructions to the line of sight.


Moss & Barnett moved to a new office in Minneapolis which allowed it to renovate its workplace from scratch and design a more efficient space. Most of its existing furniture was 25-50 years old and needed to be replaced. And, the key aspect of the new workplace design was to give their lawyers private work areas and private offices where they could also a conduct small internal meeting. Most of the vendors they consulted pitched for a more open and collaborative workspace as against a private one; however, Henricksen and Gunlocke did not.
They consulted Henricksen and Gunlocke for the renovation and installed its Medley case goods collections in all their private offices. The case goods combined both aesthetics and function and Medley configurations in all private offices included a basic Medley credenza and a desk with a sit-to-stand feature. Offices had two layout options and lawyers could choose from an array of furniture pieces to customize their offices (depending on how much open space they wanted).


Images of uninspiring have been shared in the attached document.


  • "My latest anonymous survey* shows that 58% of HPEs need more private spaces for problem solving, and 54% of HPEs find their office environment “too distracting.”"
  • "Various studies have found a connection between office environment and employee productivity. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your team’s overall productivity about 20%."
  • "67% of employers said they redesigned their office spaces in 2016 to make them more attractive to new workers."
  • "People can’t focus and work 8 hours without breaks. So, having a place where employees can go for a rest, chat with colleagues, and have drinks and snacks is a must in a modern workplace."
  • "Data show that people waste 86 minutes every day because of sound distractions, and interruptions happen about every 11 minutes."
  • "Another survey by APQC found that 71% of employees think they would be more productive with additional space for individual work and quiet reflection."
  • "Executives tend to prefer open office plans that are assumed to improve communication, boost creativity, and make a more positive, less tense office atmosphere. However, some studies show the opposite – people working in open offices often must deal with distractions; they’re unable to focus and work effectively."
  • "In fact, it was found that nearly 90% of workers around the world are unsatisfied with their work environments, primarily due to a lack of privacy. And while most executives prefer open-concept office, as found in a study, 36% of employees prefer more isolated workrooms."
  • "Psychologists have found that art in the workplace can boost productivity, lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate."
  • "While some may prefer paintings or fine art installations, others can find one motivational poster is all they need to work more effectively."
  • "Studies found that employees who can personalize their workspace however they want are up to 25% more productive than those who can’t."
  • "A team led by Dr Craig Knight carried out this study for 12 years. They found that people who worked in offices that emphasise on an artistic decor and installed artwork worked 15% quicker than those who worked in offices without any art installations."
  • "Many studies have found that employees’ productivity can be increased by 17.5% simply by providing them with the right chair and training."
  • "We’ve known about the importance of work environments for some time now. In a 2003 survey by Management Today, 97 percent respondents said they regard their workplace as a symbol of whether or not they are valued by their employer."
  • "According to data compiled from a recent survey of 1,000 Americans who work in traditional office environments (no freelancers, retailers or astronauts), many employers fail to create inspiring, uplifting work environments"
  • "Consider this: 45 percent of the people we surveyed have little to no natural light in their environment and 46 percent say the design and décor in their workplace lends it no personality whatsoever."
  • "Furniture is another key element that affects a person’s experience of their work environment, both in terms of comfort and aesthetics. For the most part, American workers are happy with their office furniture."
  • "Seventy-nine percent are satisfied with its appearance and 82 percent are satisfied with its comfort. But when it’s not right, it’s really not right—the people who reported their furniture situation is “bad” were three times more likely to feel their environment hurts productivity and two times more likely to consider it depressing."
  • "According to the National Association of Professional Organizations, paper clutter is the No. 1 problem for most businesses. Studies show the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing concentration and creative thinking."
  • "Over a fifth (21 per cent) of 18-24 year olds admit that they have rejected a potential employer because of the poor design of the office or lack of amenities available. Another 34 per cent in the same age group would be willing to commute for a maximum of an hour each way to an office that is considered perfect – compared with only 22 per cent of those aged 45 to 54."
  • "According to the research, Britons visit the same workplace five days a week (82 per cent) and work from the same desk in the office (80 per cent), but they are bored and uninspired by their working environments. This has a detrimental effect on their productivity and mental health, and many state that they feel tired (24 per cent) and stressed (20 per cent)."