We've all seen reports of quirky office features, from ball pools and snooker tables to areas carpeted with fake grass and spaces especially for napping, and if you're a contractor who works from home, it's likely that you may have felt a touch of envy.
Businesses often cite boosting staff morale and injecting a little fun into their company culture as their reasons for going for these features, but just how conducive are they to workers' productivity? Could you actually be more productive by designing your own office space at home?
The importance of a separate space
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that more than four million people in the UK currently work primarily from home, with many of these being limited company contractors and freelancers.
This is a lot of people trying to be productive and get through an important workload in the environment where they usually eat, relax and sleep, so having a separate space to work in is important.
If you're lucky enough to have a spare bedroom or a dining room, this provides an ideal home office, but if space is compromised, try creating an area for work that has no distractions from the likes of a TV or games console.
It should also be a spot where you don't spend much of your free time so you can draw a clear line between working from home and relaxing at home at the end of each day. This will help you to work towards sustaining a healthy work-life balance, which is likely to be one of the reasons you decided to work for yourself from home in the first place.
So, how can you make sure that your home office space isn't distracting you and is allowing you to be as productive as possible?
Office design tips for high productivity
If you've ever worked in an office in the past, it's likely that you will have heard the mantra 'tidy desk, tidy mind', which is largely true; too much clutter can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, so it's best to keep things minimal.
However, putting a few personal mementoes around your workspace, such as photos of your kids or of you and your partner on holiday, can help to remind you why you do what you do on those busy days.
In fact, research carried out by psychologist Craig Knight of Haddington Knight found that workers who put up personal photos in their workspace tend to be 15 per cent more productive than those with no mementoes or knick-knacks. His research involved call centre workers and also found that those with free rein to decorate their workspaces however they like are typically 25 per cent more productive.
Speaking to the BBC as part of a feature on the subject, Mr Knight explained: "When we can enrich our space, we're happier. And we work better when we're happier."
Aside from keeping decoration minimal, it's important to bear in mind how much exposure to natural light you'll be getting. If it's possible, try to set yourself up close to a window, as studies have shown that people who are exposed to more natural light tend to be more productive, sleep better and report a better quality of life than those who don't get enough.
These findings were from a 2014 study by US scientists from the University of Illinois and Northwestern Medicine. Lead author of the paper Phyllis Zee commented: "There is increasing evidence that exposure to light during the day, particularly in the morning, is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism."
Other top design tips for a home office space that's conducive to productivity include:
- Opt for a pale, muted colour if decorating the walls. Anything too bright or harsh on the eyes could give you a headache and prove a distraction.
- Invest in a filing system. Whether it's a traditional cabinet or simply a few different coloured folders, keeping on top of your paperwork and accounts is a must for limited company contractors.
- Buy a corkboard. To stop your desk getting too cluttered, make use of the walls for pinning useful documents or reminders to yourself - you'll protect your paintwork by investing in a corkboard.
- Bring the outdoors in. Studies have shown that workers who are near to plants are typically much more productive than others.
- Have access to a landline. If your work-life balance is really precious to you, then you won't want clients ringing up your mobile when you're trying to relax in the evenings. A landline means you can have a separate contact number for all things work.