A number of factors at several levels affect workplace productivity, with office design and layout definitely having a part to play. However, there are likely to be a few surprises in store if you’re not familiar with the psychological impact that can be caused by physical changes to the working environment. Here are a few scenarios that may help you to understand why this is so.
Influences on productivity
Naturally, personal motivation plays a big part in productivity as an employee who is engaged, likes being in the workplace and wants to do well, is likely to be more productive than someone who is disinterested or bored at work. Then there is the quality of employee training.
It’s common sense that someone who feels inadequately equipped to do his or her job is also likely to perform inadequately, so prioritizing top-notch training is vital.
Systems promoting positive teamwork, employee rewards, and incentives are known to encourage workers to do better more consistently, so employers who introduce these can find that general morale in the workplace increases as a result. After all, a happy employee is more likely to be a productive employee.
Architects designing homes aim for a layout that is fit for purpose. For example, to make sense of plumbing requirements the rooms that need water or waste disposal tend to be arranged in a logical order, so that kitchen, bathroom, and laundry facilities are close to each other, perhaps in a linear order, if not grouped together. The same is true of custom-designed offices.
Designers frequently seek to open up spaces so workers don’t feel unduly confined or ignored. As you might imagine, there is a delicate balance required to achieve good communication within office spaces – clumsy open-plan designs can result in an environment that is distracting due to interruptions and noise while other options can be isolating. Obviously, both these extremes tend to lower employee mood, thereby adversely affecting productivity.
How do we know what works best?
A well-known series of experiments in a factory in Hawthorne, just outside Chicago, in the late 1920s and early 1930s made an enormous impact on how productivity at work came to be viewed.
One of the areas tested was the effect of increasing the amount of lighting available to a group of workers, while a second (control) group experienced no change. The productivity of workers in the group that experienced better lighting increased much more than the productivity of the control group.
The experiments introduced other changes to the workplace, for example in terms of working hours and the number of rest breaks employees could have, and continued to find improved productivity as a result of changes in areas that employees felt were important. It seemed that the idea that management cared about what made workers more comfortable enhanced productivity and made employees feel more valued.
Aside from considering the quality of lighting in office spaces, then, wise employers are those who listen to any concerns about design and layout expressed by their workers, for instance, uncomfortable internal office temperature, clumsy desk layout, and dull wall colors.
It’s no surprise that natural daylight lifts the spirits and literally brightens the workplace, however, as with controlling open spaces, too much light, and heat can be as much of a disadvantage as too little. One useful option is to fit wooden shutters as these allow you to control the amount of daylight entering the office space and offer some additional protection in terms of noise pollution and security issues.
Once you have daylight control in the office space, you also have some control of heat, although if over warm or over cold temperatures become a major issue you may need to rethink your heating and cooling systems.
So, shutters are a solution regarding light and heat, plus they are stylish no matter how old or young a building your office occupies. Remember also that wall colors may need a bit of attention if office spaces have become dull and uninteresting, however, and doing a little research about the effects of color on individuals will give you lots to think about.
For example, warmer colors such as red, yellow and orange are stimulating and often used in company meeting rooms and work areas where it’s important that new ideas are generated. Much cooler colors such as green, purple and blue are associated with contemplation and calmness, which makes them useful in employee rest areas and also in lobbies and waiting areas for clients and guests.