To a hard-working employee, the office can feel like a second home. It’s where people spend 40 hours a week, so it’s important to create an office space that makes employees feel comfortable. And while we don’t often think about it, office space is important; in fact, a workplace layout that isn’t accommodating or well-designed can greatly lower productivity.
Have you examined your office’s layout? Or asked employees if they enjoy working in the space you’ve created? If there are problems with your office space itself, employee incentive programs may not be entirely effective. Perhaps all you really need is to change how your office space and employee desks or work spaces are designed. Because once you learn how office space affects productivity, you’ll uncover a way to boost employee morale that’s so simple it’ll seem obvious in hindsight.
How Office Space Affects Productivity
Is your workforce’s productivity lagging? If so, take a look around the office. You should see a welcoming space that gives each employee a private working area with multiple lighting options, comfortable furniture, and pleasant colors. If the office throws people together in a single impersonal, shared work area or is rendered in drab, windowless colors, you may have a problem that could affect employee performance.
So what do employees want from their physical work space? It’s a simple answer, and one we can all relate to: privacy. But the problem is, many offices are designed with open space plans, such as coworking spaces or bullpens. And while these open layouts were designed with good intentions, they have been ineffective in practice and unpopular with employees.
The Problem with Open Work Spaces
When they were first introduced, business owners thought open space layouts would increase employee collaboration. They thought gaining the ability to watch employee activity would increase productivity by pushing employees to stay on-task. Business owners reasoned that an employee could plug a device into any work station, or pick up and move anywhere to work with different co-workers, at any time. However, in practice, that is not how open space plans have played out.
Open or shared work spaces are socially awkward and make people uncomfortable for many reasons. No one wants to feel like they are staring at the person sitting across from them, or feel like they themselves are being watched. In an open work space without optical barriers, this may happen, even if it’s by accident. People want privacy for reasons that may seem minor; for instance, they might feel embarrassed if they’re seen scratching their nose or biting their nails. And in order for people to be highly productive, they can’t waste time constantly feeling self-conscious. Having a comfortable office space is a key aspect of establishing a good work culture and promoting employee satisfaction.
We all have an invisible personal space around us, and when people are seated too closely, it can cause anxiety. Can you imagine what open or shared work spaces feel like for those who have social or other anxiety disorders? It’s a wonder employees can get any work done at all.
Members of upper management have their own offices for a reason: they value their privacy, too. And if workspace privacy is something Vice Presidents and CEOs want, why wouldn’t your entry-level employees want it as well? The open space plan experiment has shown that employees want to have a space of their own to work in. No one wants to play musical chairs with their seating arrangements, and people feel good in a space that they can make their own. That’s why people add personal effects that make their desks more homey, including pictures of family, plants, or a favorite coffee mug. You can’t do that if you’re changing desks every day.
How to Make Your Office Space More Comfortable and Productive
Luckily, there are ways to solve these problems. First of all, it’s time to stop trying to make open, shared work spaces happen. Give your employees as much privacy as your office space allows. If that means bringing back cubicle walls or dividers, do it. Sure, there are objections to cubicles, too: some people hate the way they look, and they have become a symbol of conformity in movies and on TV. They are, however, helpful, cost-effective ways to define the space around a work desk.
An enclosed work space eliminates visual distractions and can help dampen sound waves, making it easier to concentrate. And while it’s not as great as having your own private office, it gives employees the sense that they have their own space they can control where they can let their guard down and get into the mental work zone. It helps them feel dignified and valued. It also improves workplace communication by reducing the number of forced, obligatory interactions. And isn’t feeling comfortable, valued, and motivated in the workplace necessary before any real productivity can happen?
There are a few other tips that can help make your office space more productive. For one, make sure there’s good lighting. Businesses have chosen fluorescent lighting because it’s cheap, but it can make the environment mentally stressful and increase eye strain. Try adding accent lighting that employees can dim or control. It gives people greater autonomy and helps them adjust the environment to their preferences. Also consider lighting temperature; blue light gives people an awake, daylight feeling but can be too harsh in abundance. Warmer lighting may reduce stress by helping people feel more relaxed.
Speaking of daylight, having windows in your office works wonders. Not only is natural light good for us, but employees actually concentrate better when they can look out a window for a momentary distraction. These moments when we let our minds wander can inspire creativity and relieve stress. Also, make sure your office has a comfortable air temperature. Productivity is best when the work place is kept around 71-72 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also add air purifiers that improve air quality and help reduce allergens or airborne illnesses.
Finally, improve the look and feel of your office space. Avoid drab colors, like depressing grey or dingy eggshell. Keep walls, ceilings and floors clean and fresh-looking. Also avoid covering walls in garish or unpleasant colors, such as pea green or rusty orange. Instead, try to have a neutral environment accented by bright, cheerful colors; such as through wall art, filing cabinets, or other details. And make sure office furniture is comfortable. Ergonomic desks, keyboards and chairs can keep your employees feeling well, which is important during an eight-hour work day.
A happy workforce is a productive workforce. If you suspect your office’s space plan is decreasing employee satisfaction, draw up a new layout and make some changes. A comfortable work space is an incentive, and employee incentives build trust between employers and employees that translates into improved products and stellar customer service.
By knowing how office space affects productivity, you can make a few simple changes that increase revenue in the long run. So don’t be afraid to try a new workspace layout. You’ll be amazed at how giving employees a little privacy and ownership over their desks raises their productivity while enhancing the value of your brand.
Inproma believes the workplace should be a pleasant, comfortable environment that motivates everyone to do their best work. If you’re looking for ways to improve your workplace and incentivize your employees, our custom employee incentive programs can help. Let’s talk.