A recent study found that nearly half of business owners don’t consider workplace design an important investment, despite there being overwhelming evidence to support the idea that where we work influences how we work. A physically and psychologically comfortable employee will quickly show noticeable improvements in their performance.
In fact, well-designed offices are said to increase productivity by 20% on average. In the healthcare industry, every second counts and workers need to not only produce results quickly but also accurately. If they’re uncomfortable due to their desk layout, ambient temperature, noise or other factors, the quality of their work will quickly diminish.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how you can improve the design of your office, making your employees more motivated, productive, and comfortable.
Certain colours affect our mood and thought patterns in certain ways. For example, green is linked to broad, creative thinking and promotes feelings of growth. Blue is peaceful, calming and often considered one of the most productive colours. White is sleek and modern but may promote distraction.
Red, on the other hand, is emotionally intense and detrimental to analytical thinking. Similarly, brown is widely accepted as unattractive and is also associated with laziness. While going with your brand colours may be the most obvious choice, consider colour psychology and your chosen colour scheme’s effect on your employees’ psyche.
In fact, understanding colour psychology can be extremely useful in many aspects of business. Be sure to read up on it when you have a moment, as there’s a lot more to colour and the way it affects us than what most people know!
While it’s not always easy to change the lighting plan in an office, it’s well worth considering as numerous studies have shown how lighting has a noticeable impact on productivity. Employees who work in offices with high levels of natural light experience a better quality of life and improved sleep patterns, which naturally affects their productivity.
With more natural lighting, you can also incorporate more office plants, which are known to increase productivity and decrease stress. If it’s impossible to incorporate more natural light, consider using full-spectrum bulbs instead of conventional lights. These provide a softer, warmer light that is much closer to natural daylight.
When it comes to workplace satisfaction surveys, noise is almost always the biggest complaint. Clanky keyboards, annoying chewing sounds, outdoor noise pollution, and constant chattering are major distractions that can push some employees to stop working altogether.
The College of Human Ecology linked noise to an increase in stress and illness, and a decrease in morale, productivity and job satisfaction among other negative effects. There are a number of solutions that you can consider for a noisy office. For example, noise-cancelling headphones can be provided for employees who request them.
There are also sound masking systems, which are designed to eliminate unwanted sounds such as chatter by distributing a certain noise that covers it up. These will also protect employee privacy when it comes to their conversations, thus making them feel more comfortable and free to communicate in the office.
Temperature and Air Circulation
An office that is stuffy and too cold or too hot is noticeably detrimental to employee productivity. Ensure that yours has a light, airy feel with good ventilation. This will not only keep everyone focused, but also prevent employees from getting sick and subsequently taking days off.
In fact, it’s estimated that poor air quality alone costs employers in office environments a total of 15 billion US dollars per year due to the decrease in efficiency and increase in days off.
For closed spaces, consider installing air purifiers or filters. Once again, office plants can save the day by further improving air quality and decreasing stress. On a similar note, ensure that there’s minimal clutter, dirt, waste and dust lying around. A clean office is a productive office.
So we’ve run through noise, lighting, colour and temperature, but what about smell? Granted, everyone reacts differently to certain scents, so it’s not always easy to choose one for the whole office. Ideally, you want to have something light and fresh that is used in small quantities and is enjoyed by everyone.
Consider the following scents and their purported effects: Pine is related to increased alertness, while lavender is relaxing and peppermint is uplifting. Citrus is refreshing and wakes you up, whereas cinnamon is linked to improved focus. Consider using natural sources of aromas such as from oils.
If your premises have a cafeteria on site, there are a number of considerations that you should make to ensure that this space also contributes to productivity. For example, having a bunch of high-sugar sweets and chocolates on offer might not be a good idea, as employees will experience a crash in energy at some point.
Stick to products that are refreshing and energizing, such as teas, fruits, nuts and coffee. The cafeteria should ideally feature an open design to prevent congestion. If employees are able to stay in the room when taking a break, incorporate a few fun and attractive pieces such as a colourful couch or some artwork.
In the offices of today, employees spend most of their time sitting, so it’s critical to ensure that each element of their workstation is properly positioned. This will eliminate the constant moving, shifting and readjusting that is detrimental to productivity, allowing workers to focus on the task at hand.
If standing desks are not an option, chairs should be adjusted so that feet sit flat on the floor, shoulders are relaxed, elbows are on the armrests and the spinal curve is supported. A footrest can be used for shorter employees whose feet don’t reach the floor.
Hands should be at elbow level or lower, while the monitor should be at arm’s length with the top of the screen slightly below eye level. Peripherals and other objects such as telephones and papers should be reachable from a sitting position. Raised stands or stacks of paper can be used to increase monitor height and available space.
Another seldom-considered part of workstations that relates to productivity is software. For example, cloud computing can significantly increase the productivity of teams as everything is synced across devices and data redundancy is eliminated. There are also a variety of other benefits that help cloud computing improve productivity.
In most cases, you don’t need to buy a bunch of expensive office products to make a comfortable workstation. A few key adjustments will go a long way in helping your employees become more comfortable, focused and productive.
Closed Cubicles or Open Plan?
It’s difficult to say whether closed cubicles or open plan office designs are better. While open plan layouts were designed to combat the dread and monotony of cubicles, recent workplace satisfaction surveys found that people weren’t as happy in their open plan offices as previous studies suggested, citing a lack of privacy as one of the major concerns.
Increased noise levels and distractions also contributed to the drop in job satisfaction in open plan office environments. Then again, it’s arguable that open plan offices do have their place. This is especially evident in creative environments where it’s better if employees can bounce ideas off each other without having to get up from their desk.
Either way, one thing that is important to consider in both cases is the organization of your employees. Studies show that sitting with like-minded colleagues or those that are taking on the same task results in an increase in productivity and creativity. Being directly accountable for the people around you makes you more likely to stay on top of your goals.
Perhaps a hybrid between the two layouts is a better option. This involves taking an open plan layout and splitting up different departments with folding partitioning walls, allowing relevant teams of employees to still communicate without being distracted by those in different teams.
To make this happen, you’ll need the help of a professional office fit out company. Consider this UK-based Office Fit Out and Refurbishment company for your interior design and refurbishment needs.
Overall Office Design
If you’ve ever watched The Internship, you might be wondering whether ball-pits, slides and beanbags really make a more productive office. If your company is Google or Nintendo, this might be the case. But in most business environments, professionalism is considered extremely important.
So, while playful workspaces have their place in the business world, it’s usually not associated with companies in the healthcare industry. There might be people whose lives rely on the jobs of your employees and taking things seriously throughout each step of the work process might be better than jumping around on trampolines during lunch breaks.
Ultimately, you should tailor the design of your office to what makes your employees comfortable. If they can sit at their desk and remain focused on their work while also being happy and content with their environment, then that’s all that matters. It might not be easy, as everyone has their own preferences, but your efforts will pay off in the long run.