Office makeovers linked to boosted profits and productivity

Hip office fit-outs featuring foosball tables and slides have often been the subject of ridicule, but a survey of over 200 business leaders in New Zealand has found evidence that workplace re-designs work. 

The layout of the workplace has often been the subject of intense scrutiny – fair enough, considering we spend one third of our lives hanging out there.

But while funky fit-outs are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, there hasn’t been much concrete evidence linking them to beneficial outcomes for a business.

A survey was conducted by Spaceworks Design Group and Perceptive Research of over 200 business leaders across a variety of industries in New Zealand, including IT, the accounting, architecture, HR, banking, Government and transport industries.

All respondents surveyed held senior management, CEO, general manager or managing director positions and had to have at least 10 staff on their pay roll.

The survey results found re-fitting an office to be better designed can have many benefits, though only one fifth of those surveyed measured ROI (Return On Investment) when they’d carried out a re-fit.

Companies surveyed that had invested in a full workplace re-design and tracked ROI saw an average profit increase of 24 percent in the last year.

Spaceworks CEO Lizzi Whaley says the survey found an office re-design can have a massive impact on a company’s bottom line.

Most business leaders surveyed (80 percent) agreed that the physical working environment had an impact on employee happiness and job satisfaction.

“One of the things that’s so significant about a great looking fit-out is that it reduces staff churn and staff retention is a lot better,” Whaley says.  

If less staff are leaving, that eliminates the need to spend lots of money on recruitment, she says.

For staff that do stick around, she says a re-fitted workplace can make them more happy and in turn, more productive.

“There is a direct correlation between staff productivity and happiness. If you’re happy and able to do your job to the best of your ability, then you’re generally more productive.”

Almost all (90 percent) of respondents who’d undertaken a workplace re-design in the last two years rated their employees’ productivity at their job as excellent or good, while only 60 percent of those who hadn’t undertaken a re-design ranked it that highly.

Respondents also rated a well-designed working environment as more influential at increasing productivity than people within the business and collaborating with co-workers.

The survey found natural light and good air flow are key features of an office to get employees working to the best of their abilities.


Conus Entertainment's office

Whaley says one of the most interesting findings from the survey was features often viewed as “gimmicky” in a workplace – such as a foosball table – were often mentioned as very beneficial by employees.

“I thought, ‘How wonderfully cliché’, but a huge amount of feedback came back about how people find it useful to step away have a thrash at a game like foosball. They come back and feel much more focused and revitalised - that’s what the people actually want,” Whaley says.

However, she said employers should be wary of introducing games that require a long amount of time to play, such as a pool table.

“It’s more about something that gives you a short burst of energy,” she says.

Her advice to businesses looking to undertake a re-fit is to not be afraid.

“It’s very easy to scale something back once you’ve done it but the amount of productivity that can be gained from an office design is huge. Sometimes if you don’t go far enough you lose an opportunity,” she says.

“It’s better to be bold than to be scared – and that doesn’t need to be expensive.”