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Is Your Workplace Design Affecting Employees' Productivity?

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24th Nov 2014
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Tess Pajaron investigates the impact of a well-designed workplace on employees' productivity and offers solutions that significantly improve the atmosphere of any working environment.

If you never fully realised the impact of the working environment on an employee's efficiency, professional approach or creativity, it's high time you did. A recent study conducted by the Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment found out that applying small changes, such as good lighting or background noise reduction, can limit absenteeism by 15% and increase employees' productivity by 20%.

But that's not all. The report suggested that a well-designed workplace increases employee satisfaction and motivation, as well as improving staff retention and limiting turnover. Creating a pleasant working environment is in the interest of every employer who wants to boost their employees' creativity and drive innovation, consequently ensuring a company's success in attracting and retaining customers. The study concluded that poor design can negatively impact worker productivity and even lead to a higher level of stress experienced by the employees.

Here's a selection of factors that play a crucial role in workplace design – after optimising each aspect, employers can ensure higher productivity and a more pleasant atmosphere that will benefit everyone in their office.

Lighting

We all intuitively know that lighting is extremely important for our ability to focus. Several research studies have already demonstrated that dim lighting can significantly lower productivity. It's not just about the amount of light, but it's quality as well – installing fluorescent lights at the office is a careless move since some employees might get headaches from a prolonged exposure to such light.

In order to boost employee productivity and create a lively atmosphere at the office, employers should try to provide as much light as possible – daylight works best and environments with large windows significantly assist employees in their daily tasks, allowing them to easily focus on their jobs.

Noise

Background noises aren't problematic to every employee, but after a while the buzzing of heavy equipment will become annoying and distracting to everyone in the office. When constructing their offices, employers should remember to avoid items such as noisy fans or loud ventilation systems.

Temperature

When investigating the impact of office temperature on the quality of work performed by employees, some studies found out that women are more susceptible to temperature changes then men. Both genders will, however, suffer similarly when temperature goes to either cold or hot extremes – our bodies react to such changes with physiological processes that prevent us from feeling engaged or motivated, but render us sleepy and tired.

Employers should take extra care to make sure that office temperature promotes productivity. If the air conditioning crashes during a hot summer or the heating system breaks in winter, managers shouldn't procrastinate and get everything fixed immediately. The truth is that the indirect losses in workers' productivity cost much more than a simple repair, especially in the long run.

Furniture

In order to maximise employee output, employers simply must make sure that the office is comfortable – chairs have soft cushions, equipment doesn’t pose any health or safety hazards and there's enough room between pieces of furniture so that the office doesn't feel cluttered. All this is important for the general atmosphere at the workplace, which literally provides room to breathe and fosters creativity.

Colour Palette

Sometimes just by changing our environment, we can start thinking in a different way and come up with unique ideas. This can be easily translated into the context of a working environment. Employers should consider creating different zones and settings that provide diverse sensory stimulation – some office spaces can be designed for quiet introverts, others – for those who enjoy human contact. In short, offices should be designed to accommodate every kind of employee and cater to their needs.

Tess Pajaron is a community manager at Open Colleges, an online learning provider based in Sydney, Australia. She has a background in business administration and management

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