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Every employer knows they are not going to please all of the employees all of the time, but getting the office environment right is one of the biggest things you can do for productivity.Work is changing, but perhaps not as much as we might think. Open-plan offices have been thought to be the way of the future since the 1950s. Only 53 percent of offices are open plan today, however. Traditional offices and cubicles still account for 38 percent of office layouts.

Which is the right layout? If you ask employees, almost half say the floor plan has no effect on their productivity. The other half is split. Most of them (39 percent) feel their office’s floor plan increases their productivity, but the rest think it reduces their productivity. That might seem an easy choice: 87 percent of your employees have no problem with the way you are doing things.

But it still leaves you with 13 percent who believe they are under-performing. And what if that 13 percent is disproportionately made up of your most valuable team members?

Working with the 13 percent

If you see a lot of headphones in your office, you should consider looking at distractions. Average headphone usage doubles to nearly 40 percent when employees feel they are frequently interrupted. Finding a way to allow more uninterrupted work might help those who feel the office layout slows them down.

Individual comfort can also be tackled without turning the floor plan upside down. A pleasing 50 percent of employees report feeling extremely comfortable at their desk. But 13 percent are at the opposite end of the spectrum. There might be an overlap in your office between workers who feel unproductive and workers who are uncomfortable. For the price of a new chair or an ergonomic keyboard, you could see significant returns.

Set them free

An idea that would have seemed radical even to the pioneers of the open floor plan is freeing people from the office environment altogether. If the office layout is hurting productivity, why work there at all? Only 14 percent of employees do not think they are at least as productive working at home.

Mobile computing, cloud document storage, and fast Internet have made the office redundant if you want it to be.

You can sweat the layout of the office, trying to tweak it to please everyone. On the other hand, you can put that investment into tools that give employees the choice to find the most productive spot for them. That is a decision that could well increase your own productivity by freeing you up to attack other issues.