• 12 November 2014

Creating a more productive workplace by changing your office space

Keeping employee motivation and morale high can seem like an intangible goal; one that’s meant to improve company performance but always seems just out of grasp. Of course there’s no way to guarantee your employees are happy, however there have been various pieces of research that have attempted to quantify this and here’s what they found:

Personalisation helps with productivity              

A study by the University of Exeter a few years ago yielded some interesting results - it found that when workers were given the chance to arrange their own office space it had a range of positive effects. It found that employees were:

  • happier in the workplace;
  • healthier;
  • felt more physically comfortable in the workspace;
  • identified more with employers;
  • felt more positive about their jobs; and
  • up to 32% more productive as a result.

One of the researchers, Professor Alex Haslam, commented on the study’s results:

“Not only does office design determine whether people’s backs ache, it has the potential to affect how much they accomplish, how much initiative they take, and their overall professional satisfaction. Further research that we and others have carried out also highlights strong links between a lack of control over workspace and sickness in the office.”

A key aspect of these findings is the variation between what individuals found to be a working environment they were comfortable with – it wasn’t specific features of the environment that made the difference, but the employee’s control of and associations with the environment. This study illustrates the importance of employees being a part of the workspace and feeling free to express themselves is said space.

So whilst in this article we will go on to discuss studies which give helpful generalisation, it’s important to keep in mind that while they may work for the majority, they may not help your workplace – it depends on how your employees feel about it. Never lose sight of the fact the environment you’re creating should be based around their needs and the general consensus of the office.

Air quality and temperature

You may not realise, it but if the air quality in your office isn’t great, it could be adversely affecting employee performance. It’s been asserted that the removal of air pollutants can improve performance by between 4% and 16%, in tasks such as typing and solving mathematical problems.

EOC, who specialise in air conditioning in Kings Lynn, found some interesting results from their case studies (from clients such as Specsavers). They found that proper air conditioning can help make employees more comfortable and in some cases even help to improve staff performance.

Separate pieces of research by Men’s Health and Cornell University, both confirm the same notion, that temperature can impact productivity and performance in the workplace. More specifically that cooler temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, made employees 44% more accurate at typing and their typing output increase by 150%.

So while they may seem like minor concerns, changing the temperature and air quality in a workspace can really make a difference.

The power of plants, nature and parks

Plants have long been known to be a friend of the office worker – they have been proven to offer a range of benefits. They have cognitive restorative qualities that help individuals recover faster from demanding tasks and also reduce stress levels. They even lower office pollution levels (which as we learnt above are bad for productivity). Windows with a view, either of nature or intricate architecture have been linked to similarly restorative qualities. And if none of these scenic options are easily available, you can always visit a park quickly – it has been shown to have similar effects to plants and windows with pleasing views.

In fact, another study from the University of Exeter expands on the previous work finding that office plants especially if designed by employees can have great advantages. The results demonstrated that when employees are allowed to make design decisions in their workspace enhanced by plants, it has the potential to increase creativity by 45%, wellbeing by 47% and productivity by 38%

Research also shows that how comfortable somebody feels in the workplace is important to productivity and that more influential than physical attributes of an office is the behavioural environment created. You can have all the trees and air purifiers you want, but if an employee doesn’t feel comfortable with your workplace culture, then productivity levels are still likely to suffer. It’s important to involve staff in an open and inclusive way when creating their workspace, both in a physical and interpersonal sense.

So while these tips can be helpful, there are a lot of factors that can help boost employee productivity and they should be considered in the context of the entire working environment.