21st Jan 2020

How Workplace Behaviour is Influenced by Design: B is for Behaviour

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B is for behaviour in our A-Z of workplace wellbeing. And there’s no question about it, workplace behaviour is influenced by the design of the space you’re working in.

Before we start, let us point out that we’re not discussing new knowledge here. In fact, the link between the built environment and behaviour has long been recognised. Winston Churchill noted the influence of buildings on our behaviours right back in 1924 when he stated: “we make our buildings and afterwards they make us”.

We spend a large portion of our lives at work. So let’s discuss how a well-designed office space can influence workplace behaviour.

The influence of office design on workplace behaviour

Your business is embodied in your workplace design. It represents your culture, goals, work ethic and so much more. So from where we’re standing, it’s bound to have an influence on the way your team behaves. Right?

But don’t just take it from us. Furniture design and workplace research giant, Steelcase, claims it’s undeniable that design affects the brain, and industry experts WorkDesign Magazine agree.

WorkDesign claims that architecture has ‘actual cognitive consequences’. But it also acknowledges it’s not only the physical layout of the building that influences behaviour, but it’s also about the interior design.

Research has also found different designs influence different behaviours. An obvious example would be removing every door in your office; this would completely change the actions of people using the space as their privacy would be taken away.

A space for leaders to support their teams

According to Sara Armbruster, the Vice President of Research and New Business Innovation at Steelcase, a well-designed physical workspace has the potential to create better leaders and therefore help those around them to succeed.

How? Well, Sara claims that as a leader your office shapes your identity by enabling you to lead in certain ways.

As we know, offices are evolving to promote engagement, productivity and wellbeing for teams. But Sara notes there’s rarely as much consideration about how spaces need to evolve for leadership alongside this.

Leaders are being encouraged to be more transparent instead of leading from behind closed doors, so of course, they need a physical space that allows them to facilitate this.

One design route Sara suggests is moving leadership offices to a central location where it’s easy for management to bump into other people. And for other people to bump into them, because collaboration should go both ways ‘up and down the ladder’.

This allows leaders to be more physically present which can have a powerful, positive impact. It encourages openness, and the motivation to work hard as a team whatever your job title.

It also has the added bonus of allowing leaders to identify changes that need to be made, and support initiatives to move the business forward in a positive way.

Of course, this isn’t a solution for all organisations, but it’s just one example of how office design really can influence attitudes and behaviour.

Meet the needs of your team

It sounds obvious, but simply providing the tools your team needs to do their jobs well will inspire positive workplace behaviours and attitudes.

It means everyone can work to the best of their ability and reduces the likelihood of negative behaviours related to feelings like stress or frustration.

A great example of this type of behaviour-lead design is the creation of agile working environments. Many businesses are moving towards a more agile style of working to embrace maximum flexibility and minimal restraints. Becoming more agile as a business can inspire teams in many ways and change behaviour for the better.

You can read more in our ‘A is for Agile’ blog.

Transform your own workspace

According to Steelcase, nearly 60% of us are working in private office spaces that aren’t fit for purpose. If your business is ready to arrive in the age of agile working and collaboration, our experienced design team is here to help. Book your free workplace assessment below.


Rob Day

Chairman & Founder