How to Boost Productivity With Workplace Design


Research shows that the way your office is designed can have a big impact on how productive your employees are. In fact, one study found that something as simple as changing your light bulbs could increase work output by as much as 19.4%!

However, it’s not just work output that good office design impacts. Creating an engaging, comfortable space has been shown repeatedly to increase happiness as well.

In this regard, how it is lit and climate-controlled make the biggest difference specifically. Here’s how to set up your lighting (and thermostat) to optimize both for your team based on science! 

How Lighting and Thermostat Settings Affect Employees

Generally speaking, bright, warm environments promote greater productivity and happiness and cooler, darker environments have the opposite effect. That’s because light and temperature are directly tied to our circadian rhythm, which determines when we’re alert and when we’re sleepy:

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But there are limits – environments that are too warm and too bright have been shown to have the same effect as a dark and cold environment. So finding the right balance is key. 

Here’s what science says is the range you should be targeting for both.

How to Design Lighting for Optimal Productivity

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For lighting, there are three things you should consider:

  1. Light Source. Studies show that employees with access to daylight work harder and sleep better at night.
  2. Light Color Temperature. Research has proven that cooler light (daylight and overcast color temps) enhance brain function and creativity.
  3. Light Quality. Light that is too bright or direct reduces your team’s ability to get things done, as they’re constantly having to shield their eyes.’

How to Set Your Thermostat for Productivity and Happiness

For temperature, on the other hand, getting it right is considerably simpler. 

The best temp depends on your gender (thermostat gender wars anyone?)… but the optimal temperature for both women and men is 75ºF according to the Marshall School of Business:

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How much can temperature affect productivity and happiness?

One study found setting the thermostat 9ºF warmer (from 68ºF to 77ºF) reduced mistakes by 44% and saved an estimated 10% in labor costs.

Maybe even more importantly, several multi-regional studies have concluded that the optimal temperature for human happiness is within the same range as productivity… 72ºF!

So although setting the thermostat is simple, don’t underestimate it’s importance.

Why Workplace Flexibility Is Crucial

Though all of everyone’s circadian rhythm is affected by light and temperature, the way each person is affected is different according to their chronotype. For example, one person may be more productive and alert early in the morning, whereas another may be more alert after 7 pm.

So one thing you can do to help your employees be more successful (and happy!) is to allow them to work when they are most productive.

If one person is more productive in the afternoon/evening but not in the morning but another is the opposite, allow them to set their own schedule with a flexible work arrangement.

This helps them work when they can do their best work and not have to force it when they simply don’t have the gas in the tank. There are limitations to this of course, but anything you can do to let your team work when they’re most alert will go a long way!


Designing a workplace that is comfortable is more than a “nice thing to have”… it’s essential to ensure your team does great work for you and loves coming into the office every day. Don’t underestimate its importance!


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