How Designing for Movement and Engagement Can Elevate Workplace Performance
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  • How Designing for Movement and Engagement Can Elevate Workplace Performance

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min read

Patrick Isitt
Content Manager
Content specialist in office design and build.
  • The physical office environment plays a pivotal role in shaping employee experiences. As businesses continue to adapt to the need for greater flexibility, the traditional, sedentary workplace model is being reimagined. In its place? A dynamic, movement-oriented workspace that prioritises connection and employee engagement.

  • By integrating movement into office design, businesses can unlock a powerful tool for building high-performing workplaces. Unsurprisingly, there’s a clear correlation between movement and productivity, and even the simple act of walking helps us think. But, it’s not just about staying physically active; it’s about fostering an environment that encourages spontaneous meetings, vibrant collaborations, and a deeper connection among colleagues. This engagement is crucial, as it drives innovation and efficiency, creating a workspace that is not only more lively but also more productive.

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  • What does encouraging movement through workplace design mean?

    Encouraging movement is an increasingly popular office design trend. The key idea behind this concept is to avoid ‘nesting’ by bringing employees through the workplace environment. This allows them to explore the office differently, utilising new pockets of space and having chance meetings with colleagues around them.

    Encouraging employees to step away from their usual workspaces helps them concentrate on specific tasks without the distractions and frequent context switching that can occur at their desks. This mobility contributes to a social and collaborative workspace and enhances productivity and the quality of these interactions, making time spent in the office more meaningful and purpose-driven.

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  • “Movement is a key consideration when it comes to workplace design, and I think we often provide too much within a good proximity of desks. What we’re trying to do instead is bring people through the environment so that they can explore the office differently every day, get to know each other and do the things that you just can’t do at home.”

    Dominic Dugan, Creative Director

  • What are the benefits of encouraging movement in the workplace?

    The benefits of incorporating movement into daily work routines extend beyond the obvious health perks. Studies have shown that brief, regular movement breaks significantly improve focus and problem-solving abilities, enabling employees to tackle complex tasks with heightened efficiency and creativity.

    Movement within the workplace also naturally encourages more frequent and organic interactions among teams. These informal exchanges are vital for fostering a collaborative culture and can lead to new ideas and solutions that formal meetings might not bring about, while the sense of belonging it fosters can also improve talent attraction and retention.

  • The High-Performance Workplace Guide

    Learn more about encouraging movement and other ways to create a high-performing workplace.

    Find Out More
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  • How can workplace design encourage movement?

    There are a number of key ways that workplaces can encourage movement through design. From structural changes like additional staircases to more subtle design choices that improve the user’s journey through a space, it is essentially a task of breaking down the habits that often lead to a sedentary workplace.

  • 1. Promoting agility

    Choice is one of the most important things employees now seek when it comes to the workplace, and businesses can meet that demand by promoting agility with their office design. Every company has a unique spectrum across which different teams and individuals will work, with various tasks requiring different settings. Adaptable workspaces give employees autonomy over how and where they work within the office, whether it’s soft seating for a quick, informal check-in or a quiet corner for focused work.

    By creating an agile workspace, you can encourage movement through the office as employees interact with the wider space to use different setups. This agility can be promoted through the use of modular furniture, as well as areas that can easily be reconfigured. It’s ultimately about providing greater choice for people with reliable spaces away from their desks—which reduces ‘nesting’.

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  • 2. Desk layouts and seating plans

    Strategically positioning various departments or teams throughout the office can foster cross-disciplinary interactions and prevent individuals from feeling secluded in one area. When effectively implemented, this concept of transitioning between different zones or floors provides employees with a more dynamic experience when they’re in the office. For businesses adopting a hybrid work model where employees work from home on certain days, facilitating these interactions while in the office has become increasingly important.

    If proximity is crucial, an alternative is to create touchdown points in the transitional space. This could mean breaking up desking areas with soft seating or collaboration space, which also functions as a visual divider between the two teams. This still encourages movement by giving people a space to interact away from desks, while also removing distractions for those who are sat close by.

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  • 3. Placement of core spaces and amenities

    As mentioned in the introduction, workplace design often provides employees with all the necessary amenities and resources within close proximity. When a business is split across multiple floors, this will typically mean providing a teapoint or kitchen, social and/or collaboration spaces, and retreat spaces on each floor. However, this will often restrict interactions between departments and floors, with employees sticking to the areas around where they will spend the majority of the day.

    The placement of these core spaces and amenities can be thought about in a way that encourages greater movement throughout the office, while also still providing necessities to teams on each floor. For example, Photobox’s HQ in London features small teapoints on each floor but hosts a large kitchen and social area on the ground floor to encourage employees to travel around the space. An additional staircase was also added to the design, to improve the connectivity between the floors.

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  • 4. Enhancing circulation areas

    Circulation areas, or routes, are the pathways that people follow as they move from one place to another within the workplace. These can include hallways, corridors, aisles between workstations, and connections between different areas. Effective design of these circulation routes can significantly influence how much employees move throughout their day, as well as how they interact with one another.

    Designing to enhance circulation areas in practice could take shape through varied pathway options, placing facilities in different areas, or providing a clear perimeter to maximise surrounding views and natural light. This can be achieved through the configuration of furniture, or in some instances removing built partitions to create a route around the space.

    Matillion’s office in Manchester is a great example of this concept. Every journey through and interaction in their space is intended to be unique, reflective of a walk through a natural landscape, while desking was configured around the perimeter of the offices to consider the views of Eden—Europe’s largest living wall.

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  • At the core of innovative workplace design lies a simple truth: movement drives engagement, and engagement drives performance. By focusing on movement-driven design, you enable your teams to perform at their best, leveraging the natural benefits of activity to fuel creativity and efficiency while also fostering a culture of belonging through meaningful interactions.

  • The High-Performance Workplace Guide

    This guide provides businesses with 8 tips for creating a high-performance workplace environment.

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