Making efforts to provide a pleasant working environment for employees should be at the top of every business leader’s priorities. It can affect turnover rates, productivity and, ultimately, profits. Listed below are some of the factors that should be considered when planning your office design for maximum results.
Bring a bit of nature indoors
The benefits of live plants in the office are well documented; from improved air quality to noise reduction, introducing houseplants into your working environment will enhance your working day.
Along with aiding good health and increasing productivity, simply having something ‘green’ to look at, even for a couple of seconds, can help to calm and reduce stress.
Offices with a scattering of live plants, well cared for, are a far more attractive proposition for employees, both present and future.
In an article published by The Guardian it was reported that:
“Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University and his fellow psychologists, who have been studying the issue for 10 years, concluded that employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces are filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers.”
Similarly, in an article published by The Daily Mail it was reported:
“…simply enriching a previously spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15 per cent”
With plants available from as little as a few pounds (or free if you or an employee has green fingers), there’s no reason not to introduce plants into the office space.
That view and the natural light it brings
Being in nature, or even being able to view a natural scene, can reduce anger, fear and stress, as well as increase positivity and happiness.
Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better, it also improves your physical wellbeing, reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and stress.
According to research conducted by Stamatakis and Mitchell, it may even reduce mortality.
Sitting next to or just near a window while in the office is extremely beneficial to both employees and employers alike.
A sunny day is equivalent to 100,000 lux (the measure of brightness), while indoor lighting only provides around 300 lux. The average person needs exposure to 1,000 lux to enjoy the full benefits light offers.
Without enough light our body clocks can’t function correctly, which in turn can affect our sleep. Not getting enough sleep affects our alertness, health and general productivity.
Even if we do burn the candle at both ends, the right amount of light could combat the effects of a poor night’s sleep.
A 2013 study from the Netherlands found that people who were exposed to more daylight during the week reported feeling more energetic and less tired, regardless of how long they slept the night before.
If you’re feeling tired or lethargic at work, and don’t have the luxury of a window, then offer to get the morning coffee round and take a walk to the local coffee shop.
You’ll not only benefit from the natural outdoor light, but you’ll also gain a few ‘brownie points’ with your colleagues.
Natural light is also great for reducing stress. In a worldwide study undertaken to record the impact of daylight in healthcare buildings, it was found that exposure to bright morning light was shown to reduce agitation among elderly patients with dementia.
When elderly patients with dementia were exposed to 2,500 lux for two hours in the morning, for two 10-day periods, their agitation levels reduced. Patients were significantly more agitated on non-treatment days.
A natural well-lit environment can even reduce the amount of time a patient spends in hospital:
“A significant relationship appears to exist between indoor daylight environments and a patient’s average length of stay (ALOS) in a hospital. 25% of the comparison sets showed that, in the brighter orientations, as in rooms located in the SE area, the ALOS by patients was shorter than that in the NW area by 16%-41%. Further, no dataset showed a shorter patient ALOS in the NW area than in the SE.”
Ensuring that your office is a naturally well-lit environment for employees to spend their day in is not only beneficial to their health, but their productivity too – which in turn pays dividends for business.
Employees who are happier and in a positive frame of mind will achieve higher productivity rates than those who are demotivated or unhappy.
Ensuring that employees are working in a pleasant space will affect their mood, positivity and effectiveness, where their day’s work is concerned.
People believe that working by daylight results in less stress and discomfort than working by electric light, and that working by electric lighting is detrimental to health, particularly in the long term (although there is no evidence to suggest that artificial light has any long-term health effects).
Some casual space
We spend a great deal of our life in the office (although this will reduce as SaaS, and other technologies that allow us to work from anywhere, increase in popularity) and feeling comfortable is a priority when it comes to productivity, good health and mental wellbeing.
According to Judith Heerwagen, a former scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory:
“A building can positively affect ability by providing comfortable ambient conditions, by enabling individual control and adjustment of conditions, and by reducing health and safety risks. Negative impacts on ability to do work are associated with conditions that are uncomfortable, distracting, hazardous or noxious.”
Providing spaces within which colleagues can collaborate in comfort, and in a less formal way, helps to build relationships in a more friendly environment and produce results that benefit the company.
A relaxed approach to office design has been utilised by companies such as Google for a number of years and many brands are now following suit. These include:
Break out areas are a necessity if you want to encourage discussion, interactivity and collaboration.
By providing a less formal area in which colleagues can discuss ideas, you effectively remove the formal barriers of traditional meetings and conference rooms.
Communal areas that employees can easily walk into and start to interact with colleagues also encourages inter-departmental relationships, which will improve company culture and cohesiveness.
Everyone needs space
In order to achieve uninterrupted focus and concentration, we all need to be alone sometimes to simply get things done. Providing the opportunity for employees to seclude themselves, in order to work distraction free, is important when it comes to general productivity and affording workers the ability to work to a deadline.
Open plan offices may seem like a great idea to encourage interaction and collaboration between employees, but they also serve as places that can breed distraction.
In a study by Knoll, although there were advantages of an open plan office style, including:
- Most appreciate the sense of community that an open work environment can support
- Open spaces allow for better communication and exchange of information among co-workers
- It is easier to ask each others questions in an open environment
- Some employees prefer being among other people, not wanting to feel “closed in” or “all alone”
- The open work environment allows some to know what’s “going on” in the office – being “in the know”
It was also found that there are a number of advantages to having private spaces for employees to work in, these included:
- 90 percent of participants reported that privacy is the number one benefit of a closed space/work environment
- The idea of having walls around you, keeping roving eyes from drifting over to your work and “your space”, makes some feel more secure
- Another key benefit of working in a closed space is the reduction in noise
- For some, an enclosed space also translates into a larger amount of floor space, which is seen as a perk
Adding something fun or just a little less ‘corporate’ to the working environment can work wonders for morale and motivation.
It doesn’t need to be anything as grand as a helta skelta, like this company have installed in their offices in Southampton, it could be something as simple as an Xbox to play at lunchtime or a ‘Slush Puppy’ machine.
Anything that injects a bit of fun into the working day will improve positivity and happiness among the workforce, and allow individuals to take a break from their hard work when needed.
Having fun has many benefits not only for the individual, but also their employer. These include:
1. Improved interaction between colleagues: When we’re relaxed and having fun we communicate more freely and easily with one another. As well as breaking down interdepartmental barriers, having fun at work also allows employees to work together and share ideas.
2. Reduced employee turnover: Happy employees are less likely to seek alternative employment. Workers who enjoy their job and are engaged with their employer are 87% less likely to leave and only 12% leave because of their salary – Source officevibe
3. Increased productivity: Employees that have fun at work, and enjoy their time in the office, will also enjoy what they do and be more productive. By making the working environment a nice, fun place to spend time, you’ll encourage inspiration and provide the motivation necessary for individuals to perform well and achieve their goals.
4. Reduced stress: Having an office where it’s OK to let off steam and have a good time can prevent employees getting stressed and suffering from its symptoms.
Reducing stress improves wellness, productivity and retention, great for the employee, but also the employer.
5. Improved brand advocacy: We all like dealing with people that are happy and enthusiastic about the brand that they work for. Advocates within a business will be more knowledgeable, willing to learn about their role and aligned with company’s vision.
This translates into free marketing and brand messaging on social media, as well as more effective sales and support staff.
6.Improved creativity: People have great ideas while their mind is busy enjoying the moment (not performing repetitive or boring tasks). Having fun encourages creativity and ideas for driving the business forward with new initiatives and campaigns.
Our brain works most effectively when freed up, especially while having fun.
Clever office hacks (tidy)
There’s always room for some non-traditional ways of resolving a day-to-day problem or irritation. Work hacks are a great way to improve your daily grind, but are often quite fun and a good talking point.
Whether it’s a clever way to tidy cables or an improvised standing desk, coming up with an ingenious way of achieving something is both satisfying and inspiring to others. Some great examples of office hacks are:
There’s also other hacks, such as using the sticky end of a post it note to clean between the keys on your keyboard or placing books under your monitor to improve your posture.
Making use of hacks and improving those little things that could otherwise cause annoyance will improve morale, productivity and interaction between employees.
Think about decor
Your brand’s colour requirements may vary. Your chosen colour scheme needs to match the employees that will be using that office and will differ depending on whether they’re creatives or clerical staff.
As an example, light pastel colours, such a soft blues, yellows and greens are relaxing and aid stress relief. In a more creative office, colours such as bright reds and blues can be more effective.
Decorations, such as wall imagery, should also match the mindset of the employees using that space.
Creative employees would have bold and visually stunning imagery that inspires, while financial workers may have something that illustrates the importance of integrity.
“An independent research firm conducted a research on US workplace environment (Gensler, 2006). In March 2006, a survey was conducted by taking a sample size of 2013. The research was related to; workplace designs, work satisfaction, and productivity. 89 percent of the respondents rated design, from important to very important. Almost 90 percent of senior officials revealed that effective workplace design is important for the increase in employees’ productivity. The final outcome of the survey suggested that businesses can enhance their productivity by improving their workplace designs. A rough estimation was made by executives, which showed that almost 22 percent increase can be achieved in the company’s performance if their offices are well designed.” – Source ScientificJournals.org
Several years ago, NASA funded an extensive review of literature on colour to determine which colours and colour combinations would create the most seemingly spacious, pleasant and productive environment for the habitation module.
Three ‘offices’ were created using different colours: one white, one red and the third a light blue-green pastel colour.
The purpose was to determine the effects of these three colour schemes on mood, speed in performance of clerical tasks and accuracy on proofreading clerical tasks administered to office workers. The effects of the colour schemes were examined for 90 workers, taking into account individual differences in environmental sensitivity (high screeners vs. low screeners).
The results concluded that “creating a one-size-fits-all ideal interior environment for individuals with differing characteristics may be impossible. Alternatively, interiors could be designed with maximum flexibility to allow for variations within the same general space, according to each individual’s characteristics.”
It’s important, therefore, that consideration be given to the type of employee working in the office you’re redecorating in order to select the best colour.
A very simplified explanation of each colour is:
- Blue – Mentally stimulating
- Yellow – Optimistic, creative
- Red – Physically productive
- Green – Balanced, calming and reassuring
For a more detailed tutorial regarding productivity and colour, here’s an excellent article.
Ability to work elsewhere when required
We all need to work in our own environment from time to time. As we become more connected with the world and are able to do more with our time we need flexibility from our employers to take care of our personal responsibilities.
Working from home or just away from the office is sometimes unavoidable and having the confidence to remain productive in a remote location is key to success.
Providing all of the tools required for an employee to remain productive is key if staff are to be productive when working remotely. Taking advantage of apps and SaaS delivered solutions will help a brand remain agile and responsive to the modern working culture, as well as keeping employees happy and engaged.
The advantages of working from home (according to employees) include:
- Environmentally friendly
- More time with family
- Less stressful environment
- Quieter atmosphere
- Eliminate long commute
- Less distractions
- More productive
- Avoid traffic
- Save petrol (and its costs)
- Work/home balance
From the employer’s point of view the advantages include:
- Improved happiness and engagement
- Higher productivity
- Reduced stress
- Improved employer brand
- Improved talent attraction
- Employees save costs associated with commuting/child care, etc.
- Employees can be working from strategic locations (near key accounts, etc.)
- Employees can utilise their own devices to improve productivity