Looked around your office lately? Familiarity can blind us to the obvious so you probably didn’t notice anything in particular. Try looking at it from an employee’s point of view. How do you think it makes them feel? It’s no surprise that surveys report a direct link between the quality of the working environment and the effectiveness of the people who work in it. So is yours the sort of environment that would likely motivate and inspire your employees to work productively?
Take a walk around keeping these three fundamental principles of productive workplace design in mind and check how your premises rate.
Principle 1: the workspace should promote health and well-being
Daylight is invariably cited by employees as a crucial factor for a good working environment. It is widely accepted that one way of improving the health and morale of workers is by providing good internal lighting and access to natural daylight. Good lighting has even been linked to reductions in absenteeism. Don’t block off windows with equipment or make them inaccessible by building office spaces around them all. Use ceiling mounted lights with a luminosity level that achieves adequate illumination without glare or reflection to reduce eyestrain. Accent lights can be used to help create moods and highlight and define different areas of the office. Cleverly combining natural light and illumination can recreate that ‘feel good’ factor of a sunny day and spur employee productivity.
There’s nothing like physical pain to distract people from their work. Poor ergonomics is the root cause of most back pain, migraines, sore fingers, wrists and stiff necks. Ergonomic seating and adjustable work surfaces mean workers are more comfortable for longer periods and require fewer breaks. Properly set up computer workstations minimise discomfort and the likelihood of developing repetitive stress injuries.
Principle 2: the workplace should be a pleasant place to work in
Office decoration provides the backdrop to work activity. It can inspire or depress us. Drab colours are dispiriting. Office walls can be painted in schemes that make the environment cheerful and fresh. You can develop a colour scheme that reflects your brand and does a little promoting or you might select a scheme that reflects the spirit of your business. If you work in a traditionally conservative industry such as financial or legal services, you’re better off choosing a neutral colour. If your business employs more creative types such as designers or artists, then prefer more energising colours. Colour also has the ability to make a space appear larger or smaller and the occupant feel more or less claustrophobic.
Bare walls and an unrelieved vista of office equipment can make a workplace feel sterile and unlived-in. Photos, prints, or paintings on the walls and a few plants warm up your workspace and make it feel more comfortable and human. Maintain the same style of furniture throughout the office. Mismatched tables and chairs give the impression of having been thrown together and look rather cheap.
Physically, temperature can make or break our ability to concentrate and get on with a task. Decent temperature control and ventilation systems that keep employees comfortable also keep them productive.
Principle 3: workplace layout should support work activity
Office design can be used to enhance moods, speed up task completion and encourage interaction between employees. Employees become frustrated and annoyed when their office isn’t designed to support them in carrying out their job efficiently.
Efficient layout of workspaces allows for better and more efficient workflow. If someone has to get up from their seat to reach for a file or access information, more time and effort are expended. Multiply these tasks dozens if not hundreds of times a day and the time wasted not only distresses the employee, it really cuts into productive work time.
Tools and equipment should be close by to those who use them and employee’s workplaces located close to others in the same work group. To arrive at the most suitable arrangement you need to have analysed just how groups relate to and interact with one another and how work flows from one group to another.
While the Cube has become the symbol of modern office layout it has drawbacks for certain kinds of work where the task demands visual privacy and freedom from the distractions of nearby noise and conversation. If the office is open, there should be places for sensitive conversations. Match workspace arrangement to the needs of the person using it. For example, an architect may require a private office for client meetings, software engineers work best in an open group environment where they can share ideas and issues whereas salespeople might be happy with just a hot-desk on those occasions when they come into the office.
An employee’s workplace is responsible for 24 per cent of their job satisfaction level. Poor workplace design is directly linked to increases in stress level and lower performance among employees. Creating a professional, functional and comfortable space will keep your people happy and productive.
Davies McLennon are Stockport Accountants