Office Design for Organizational Effectiveness

March 1, 2003
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Offices and office-like work areas can contribute to a healing environment | BY ellen bruce keable

Office work is a relatively large component of what takes place in healthcare settings. In addition to administrative offices, many office-type settings for input and retrieval of electronic and paper-based medical and financial information, telephone communication, and face-to-face meetings are found in and near patient- care areas.

Knowing how office design affects work effectiveness is useful for all healthcare activities dependent on information and interaction. For the past 30 years, BOSTI Associates has developed office design strategies for clients based on research about their values, business goals, work activities, technology use, and future directions of change. These project-by-project data provide some common findings about office-type spaces that transcend individual projects, organizations, and industries.

How does office design affect healthcare organizational effectiveness? How can the concept of a healing environment be extended to all facility users by creating a healthier and more satisfying place to work? What are the most important office design features to consider? This article shares BOSTI's research findings and their design implications, with insights from healthcare designers concerning workplace design in their projects.

Office Design's Impact

BOSTI's research shows that office design has substantial effects on job performance, teamwork, job satisfaction, and other business-specific outcomes. In healthcare, these effects can be related to such goals as improving information accuracy, coordination of services, efficiency, and employee retention and recruitment. Behavior change, such as team-based care and enhanced communication between administrative and clinical functions, can be greatly influenced by design.

BOSTI's project data since 1994 have included questionnaire responses from more than 13,000 office-based employees and managers in multiple industries and job classifications, representing a total population of 45,000 people across these projects. Quantitative analysis of these data shows that office design directly accounts for, on average, about 5% of the total effects that all factors have on individual performance by office-based employees, with even stronger effects on team performance (11%) and job satisfaction (24%)core goals for improvement in most organizations1 (Figure 1).

Average effects of the workplace. Katherine Meacham, BOSTI Associates



A Healing Environment for All

“A holistic perspective to facility design is to align its core business mission, products, competencies, culture with the facility,” notes Bob Osgood, senior vice-president and director, strategy and planning, VOA Associates. “We start with asking: How does the facility seek to enhance, serve, what this organization is about? How can the environment support the most important aspects of your business?”

Renee Petersen, director of business development for Daniel P. Coffey and Associates, cites the impact of a healing-environment philosophy on focusing facility design to meet people's needs. Promoting healing, reducing stress, and supporting care delivery involve all staff, as well as patients and their families. Factors such as teamwork in patient-focused care, mobile information technology, cost accountability, and concerns for employee retention affect how, where, and with what tools work is done.

For administrative and office-based staff, a healing environment includes the office spaces. “If you believe in wellness, it needs to be reflected in the workplace, too,” says Rebel Roberts, president, VOA Associates. According to Roberts, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, “walked the walk” in its facilities with attention to sustainable and nontoxic materials, lighting, ergonomic support for technology use and physical comfort, accessibility to food, and common areas for informal interaction within and between groups. “Just as healing environments are concerned with serving the whole person, so should workplaces be concerned with serving the whole population,” Roberts adds.

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