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Privacy, traffic flow, acoustics, lighting - these are among the factors that determine how productive an office staff can be, says John Dixon, president of the Mitchell-Dixon office supply firm in Greensboro.

With the number of white collar workers growing, executives increasingly realize that productivity in the office can be as important to profits as that on the assembly line, Dixon said.It is such things as privacy and traffic flow that designers look at in preparing office layout plans, he said.

``For instance, we know from our customers, when you separate people from the traffic flow in an office, the staff is more productive,' he said. ``When you have people going past desks on the way to the coffee pot or water fountain, it is only natural for them to stop and have conversations.'

With the office panel systems available today, workers can be separated from the traffic flow to minimize disruptions, he said.

``You can't have 100 private offices per floor but you can have 100 private work spaces,' Dixon said.

A good designer, he said, also will try to position office workers close to the tools they work with. ``You don't want a secretary having to walk all the way across the office to get reference materials out of a file, so you try to put the files near her work area,' he explained.

Acoustics and eye strain are two often-overlooked elements that can be damaging to productivity, Dixon said.

``Fatigue is a factor in productivity and both noise and eye strain can cause fatigue,' he said. ``If you have an area where there is a lot of talking, such as a telemarketing department, or a lot of typing, acoustical ceilings and carpet on the floor will cut down on the noise. There also are new acoustical panels on the market. If you have tile on the floor, noise is going to bounce all over the place.'

Dixon said the biggest single complaint heard in offices these days, especially now that the computer is so dominant, has to do with glare.

Dixon also has found that workers are more aware of ergonomics than ever before.

``It used to be everybody wanted the traditional cushy type seating,' he said. ``Now more ergonomic seating is being designed.'

Safety is another factor that good office designers take into consideration. Desks and other equipment are placed close enough to electrical outlets that extension cords are not needed. Work stations are place so that workers get the benefit of, but not bad colds from, the office's heating and cooling systems.

``Good designers are familiar with all the building codes, what you can and can't do,' he said. ``They are not just pillow tossers.'

Mitchell-Dixon's Business Interiors Division does office design for smaller projects but it usually works with independent designers on larger projects.

``You don't have to go to Atlanta, Chicago or New York to get design and space planning done,' Dixon said. ``There's a wealth of design expertise in this community.'

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