Designing for Focus Work

If you’re like most workers, you’re driven to get work done—but also easily distracted. Whether external or internal, distractions are a reality for everyone—and that’s the challenge of space design: We are unique individuals. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

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3 Culprits that Sabotage Focus Work

The top three culprits that sabotage focus work are distractions, interference, and interruptions. They come in the form of external influences, like people or activities around you, or internal stressors, like hunger and fatigue. All of these can disrupt your brain’s ability to focus.

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Distractions:

When unexpected, off-task information captures our attention.

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INTERFERENCE:

When off-task information gets confused with task information.

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INTERRUPTIONS:

When a distraction or interference pulls us off a task entirely to start a new task.

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Workspace Design for Insulated Focus

In the built environment, workspace features that communicate where specific activities take place are essential. We call this legibility—and certain characteristics of the floorplate contribute to it. Defining the spaces where focus work occurs helps people manage visual and auditory distractions, interference and interruptions so they can perform their best.

Speech Privacy

Appropriate Solutions

Science tells us there is no one size fits all solution: Building a workplace strategy to include insulating focus work starts with organizational culture to understand what people value. Then, carefully consider the overall arrangement and adjacency of the various activity zones—from quiet to active—in the floorplate.

Organizational & Team Culture Implications

Culture is the personality of an organization, comprised of values, assumptions, and artifacts. It is embodied in space design because the space communicates what is valued.

Building a workplace strategy to include insulating focus work starts with culture. It involves identifying and addressing how cultural norms, the overall built environment, and supportive technology all influence each other.

1. Organizational Culture
2. Norms

3. Legible Spaces
4. Technology

Effects of distractions within the workplace
interactive focus and distraction

Workspace Design Implications

Based on our acoustics research, noise levels for an organization are the top consideration in designing spaces. Floorplate, adjacency features and workspace characteristics should communicate where specific work activities can take place, effectively managing auditory and visual distractions and interference. Carefully consider overall arrangement and adjacency of the various activity zones—from quiet to active—in the floorplate.

1. Quiet Zones 
2. Active Zones
3. Workstyles
4. Unassigned  Private Spaces
5. Confidential Speech

6. Absorptive Materials 
7. Visual Barriers
8. Visual Orientation
9. User Control
10. Recharge Spaces

We can help your clients stay focused and happy.

Download our Interactive Design Guide to help you create spaces where people can focus.


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Additional Resources



Sample
Why We Can’t Focus at Work

Get more in-depth information about focus work efforts and strategies for managing distractions from these resources.

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