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Every business wants a productive team. In an ideal situation, employees will come into the office, dedicate a chunk of uninterrupted time to important tasks, and leave feeling like they’ve had a productive day. For many, however, this simply isn’t a reality.

Indeed, there are plenty of employees out there who face a constant battle with the distracting environments they work in. Phones ring constantly. Conversations take place in the open. Noises bounce off the poorly soundproofed corridor walls.

Sound familiar? Well, the good news is there an antidote to this problem, as written about in the seminal book Deep Work by American author Cal Newport. In this blog, we look at Deep Work in more focus and offer suggestions on what can be done improve productivity.

What is Deep Work?

‘Deep work’ is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. According to Newport, employees (or “knowledge workers”) can achieve more if their environment and approach to work is adapted to facilitate deep work. Simply put, if an employee can focus, then they will produce better work in less time.

So, what can businesses do to help employees focus in an increasingly distracted world? Let’s find out…

Tips on How to Facilitate Deep Work

Invest in Quiet Zones – The J.K. Rowling Effect

In the winter of 2007, author J.K. Rowling was struggling to finish The Deathly Hallows, the last book in the Harry Potter series. “As I was finishing The Deathly Hallows, there came a day where the window cleaner came, the kids were at home and the dogs were barking,” Rowling said in an interview.

With immense pressure on her shoulders to tie up the series and satisfy the millions of expectant fans, she needed to find a place where she could work deeply. The solution? Rowling checked into a suite at the luxurious Balmoral Hotel in downtown Edinburgh, where she worked without distraction. The rest, as they say, is history.

The point, however, is not simply that Rowling found a quiet space, but that the change in environment and money spent increased the “perceived importance of the task” and, in turn, delivered “an injection motivation and energy”. Therefore, a company that can invest in an area dedicated to quiet work – say, a zone with acoustic pods or a well-designed soundproofed room – can have a similar effect on its employees.

Encourage Deep Collaboration – The Whiteboard Effect

Deep work isn’t just about working alone. For some businesses and institutions, collaborative deep work is integral to their success, particularly in academic and creative circles that require a “back-and-forth” flow of ideas.

In Deep Work, Cal Newport uses the working relationship between experimentalist Walter Brattain and quantum theorist John Bardeen as an example. Working together in a small lab, the distraction-free environment helped to “push innovation”, resulting in a series of breakthroughs that led to the first working sold-state transistor.

The question that some will be asking is, “why can’t collaboration take part in the open?” It can, of course, with Newport using Facebook’s first office as an example of a space that was specifically designed for “serendipitous encounters”. The problem, however, is that if employees are always out in the open, they are open to interruptions and distractions.

For a true state of collaborative deep work, it’s best to create a dedicated space where two or more employees can share new ideas. This could be an abovementioned pod or a meeting room with a digital booking system and collaborative office furniture. For the latter, don’t forget to introduce a whiteboard for the ultimate “whiteboard effect”.

For a cool idea, check out the flippable table/whiteboard hybrid in our recent blog: Clerkenwell Design Week 2022 Trends and Highlights

Ensure Employees Give Activity a Rest

Further to the idea of carrying out deep work, Newport explores the role downtime plays in improving employee focus. Referencing an fascinating survey, Newport writes that taking a walk though nature can improve your ability to concentrate, which he links to the attention restoration theory (ART).

According to the art restoration theory, walking through nature frees you from having to “direct your attention”, which allows your brain to recharge the energy needed to work deeply. The good news is that attention restoration doesn’t specifically apply to walking in a forest: the core mechanism of the idea is that you can restore your ability to focus on tasks by giving activity a rest.

Therefore, facilitating attention restoration can simply mean introducing a breakout lounge where employees can get some much-needed downtime. For an interesting design twist, consider opting for a biophilia theme to replicate the great outdoors.

Related content: 20 Breakout Area Ideas for Your Workspace

“The Eudaimonia Machine” – Exploring the Ultimate Deep Work Office

During the writing of the book, Newport spoke to architecture professor David Dewane about the creation of the “Eudaimonia Machine”, a workspace designed for the sole purpose of deep work. Inspired by the Greek concept of eudaimonia (a state in which you’re achieving your true human potential), the design is made up of five rooms:

  • The Gallery – The first room you enter is the gallery, which displays examples of work produced by deep work. This inspires users of the machine and creates a “culture of healthy stress”.
  • The Salon – The salon is a place where employees can debate and work through ideas that they will develop deeper in the machine. The area also offers good coffee, couches and Wi-Fi.
  • The Library – The library stores a permanent record of all work produced in the machine. It also contains related books and copiers and scanners for information gathering.
  • The Office – This space contains a standard conference room with a whiteboard and desks. It is for low intensity work required for an employee’s project.
  • The Machine – The final room in the space, the machine is a collection of deep work chambers. Each chamber is six by ten feet and protected by soundproof walls – an ideal setup for tasks that require optimum focus.

While this kind of setup will be off limits for many businesses, the design does offer inspiration for those who can’t afford to overhaul their office interior design. For example, some agile offices offer chamber-style rooms where employees can block out some time for deep work, in addition to various other work “zones” designed for specific tasks. One example is London sports data company Hudl, which you can see here.

Thank You for Reading

If you’re a business owner or key decision maker, it is advisable to take a moment to look around your office space and ask yourself the question: could we do more to help employees focus? If you feel like you’re not doing enough, consider making changes to your space or introducing new elements.

It is also worth noting that employees themselves can change their approach to aid their concentration, which Cal Newport covers in Deep Work. That is beyond the scope of this blog, but if employees can adapt their approach to tasks while working in a space that facilitates deep work, then the results can be fantastic.

Are You in Need of an Interior Design Company?

If this blog has inspired you to update your workspace, then Rap Interiors can help. With a team of experienced office interior designers, we can consult you on every aspect of your workspace to ensure your employees are working to their full potential. From your breakout area design to furniture selection and much more, we’ve got you covered! Add to that the fact we can manage the install, and you can see why we’ve earned a reputation as one of the leading office fit out companies in the UK.

To arrange a consultation, please call our friendly client care team on 0333 600 1234 or fill out the form below.

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