It has long been known that working conditions have a direct influence on the quality of work. It’s the reason so many companies are investing in positive office designs. But, according to a recent survey, most UK employers are missing the point and failing to create office environments that boost productivity.
The study reveals that just 43% of workers surveyed believe that their office environment enhances their productivity, while 20% believe that it actually prevents them from being as productive as they wish to be.
The report also stated that, despite 76% admitting they have suffered from workplace stress, only 32% described the office environment they work in as supporting their wellbeing, while a narrow majority of 59% say their employers could do more to make their working environment healthier.
What is more, despite 91% agreeing that the environment they work affects their productivity directly, a staggering 81% believe that the working environment is not a priority for the companies they work for.
How Office Environment Affects Productivity
An employee’s productivity is affected by many different aspects, but the working environment is one of the most significant amongst them. But how exactly does the environment have such an influence?
The key aspects relate to the quality of lighting, office temperature, the noise levels in the space, the layout of the floor space, and even ergonomics, or the degree of comfort that employees enjoy.
- Spatial Layout
This is the main influencer of employee productivity. Dim light can slow the creative process, create a general sense of negativity, contributing to low morale, and seriously dent motivation amongst staff. In offices that have the correct balance of natural and artificial light, employees can actually feel energized. According to a study by the World Green Building Council, employees who work in natural daylight are 18% more productive.
As examined in a previous post, the temperature in a workplace can impact on workers and how well they work. Basically, if the temperature is too high, employees feel uncomfortable, distracted, have lower concentration levels and tend to get quite irritated very easily. Temperatures also affect men and women in different ways, with women more sensitive to low temperatures. The recommended level is 22 C (71.5F), but it is important to get agreement on the actual figure from those who’ll have to work in it. Why? A study in the UK revealed that about 2% of office hours are spent arguing over the office temperature, costing the economy an estimated £13 billion per year.
This relates to the physical effects that the chosen office furniture can have on employees. With so many hours spent sitting at a desk, poor designs can create a host of problems, from stiff necks to migraines. Obviously, discomfort takes its toll, but according to one piece of research, some 60% of employees at an insurance company believed the ergonomic designs in their new office contributed to an improvement in productivity.
All busy office environments will have some noise, whether it is the tap-tap-tapping of keyboards, the whirr of photocopiers or the chatter that comes from colleagues engaging with each other. All of these are signs of a healthy workplace, but there is a limit to the noise that is tolerable. Research using data gathered from 10,000 office workers in 14 countries showed that 86 minutes are lost every day due to noise distractions in an open-plan office.
Cluttered office environments are the bane of more than cleaning contractors. Employees can be adversely affected if there is not much room around them, so the spatial arrangement of office furniture is influential. Disorganised areas are known to increase stress. In 2009, a study highlighted the negative impact suffered, stating that the arrangement of furniture “has a considerable effect on the employees’ productivity”. By creating more space, this problem can be countered, increasing employee productivity by an estimated 30%. It is recommended that office layout adjustments should include:
- Flow Zones, where traffic can flow without creating jams around desks.
- Pods of Desks, where colleagues actually face each other to create team-centric working relationships.
- Allow for Individualization by permitting staff to personalize their work space, whether that involves displaying favourite table plants or painting desks a preferred colour.