When it comes to improving productivity in the workplace, there isn’t one simple “one size fits all” solution. Just how productive a person is shaped by many different factors, ranging from personal motivation to the space they’re working in.
If you’re looking for ways to boost productivity in your office, making some changes to your office design is an excellent starting point. When a person is working in a space that prevents them from doing their job effectively, even highly motivated people will have a hard time being as productive as they’d like to be.
When you want to improve workplace productivity, lighting is one of the best places to start. If people aren’t able to clearly see what they’re working on, they’re going to have a very hard time being as productive as they want to be. Poor office lighting can also negatively impact people in a multitude of other ways, such as by causing headaches, eye strain, and drowsiness. Even if a person gets eight hours of sleep each night, they can start to feel drained after spending time in a dim office.
Natural light helps boost productivity while simultaneously benefitting employee wellness. In a 2018 survey by Future Workplace, natural light was found to be the most desirable office feature, outranking things like on-site fitness centers, childcare, and cafés. Much research has been done into the benefits of natural light in the workplace and multiple studies have linked access to natural light higher rates of productivity. Exposure to natural light can also help reduce seasonal affective disorder, boost vitamin D, reduce stress, and help regulate sleeping patterns, as well as improving a person’s mood in general.
Even if your office has lots of access to natural light, don’t fall into the trap of neglecting artificial light. Overhead lighting and task lighting is still important to have on cloudy days and during the winter months when daylight is limited.
Rethink Your Layout
Office layouts take a lot of careful planning to make them as efficient as possible. Even if a person only loses a couple of minutes each day because of inefficiencies in a layout, all that lost time can start to add up very quickly. As you plan your office layout, think about the ways people do their jobs. Do certain people/teams work together often? What sorts of things do people need access to to be able to do their jobs? If you need more ideas, talk to your employees to find out if they have any suggestions. With how much time they spend working in the office, they’ll have a strong understanding of what’s working and what isn’t.
The Open Office Debate
Whether or not open offices really improve productivity has been very strongly debated and heavily researched, but what if your company could really benefit from the flexibility open offices offer? For companies that are rapidly growing and changing, having a flexible office plan makes it very easy to rearrange as needed. Does that mean you have to sacrifice productivity for flexibility? Not necessarily.
Steelcase suggests that open offices can work, but the key is creating different zones around the office that support different needs, such as collaboration zones, quiet zones, private zones, and zones for fun. Every person has their own unique working style and the type of environment that works best for can change depending on what’s being worked on. By including different types of zones around the office, people have the flexibility to work however they will be most productive. According to a study by Gensler, innovators reported having more choice over when and where they worked in the office.
Keep the Noise Down
One of the biggest reasons why so many people are frustrated by open-plan offices is because the noise from outside conversations, phone calls, and meetings can be very distracting to people who need to concentrate. Background noise isn’t just frustrating to deal with, it can significantly reduce productivity. In a 2015 study by Think Money, over 3 in 10 workers cited noise as being their main source of distraction in the workplace and a 2016 report by the World Green Building Council found that noise distractions can result in a 66% drop in staff performance.
Whether you have an open office or not, keeping noise levels under control is an important way to improve productivity. If putting up walls and doors isn’t an option for your office, things as simple as carpeting and upholstered furniture can go a long way in helping to prevent sound from carrying. Acoustic ceiling tiles, baffles, and sound masking systems are other great ways to deal with excessive noise.
Consider Your Color
If you want to improve productivity in your office, color isn’t something that might immediately come to mind. However, research into color psychology has found that some types of colors can help make people more productive than others. According to Redbooth, blue helps support concentration, while yellow is good for boosting creativity and green has a calming effect without straining the eyes. If you want to encourage more physical movement during the day, red has a very energizing effect on people.
Another often-overlooked way to improve productivity is by bringing plants into the office. Not only do they help beautify a space, making your office more attractive to new applicants and current employees, some studies have also linked plants to reduced stress, improved creative thinking, and increased levels of productivity. In a 2015 report by Human Spaces, people who worked in offices with natural elements such as plants had a 15% higher wellbeing score, a 6% higher productivity score, and were 15% more creative than those who worked in offices without those natural elements. A separate study by the University of Exeter found that workplaces with plants could improve creativity by 45% and productivity by 38%.
As an added bonus, plants can also help absorb noise, giving you another way to keep noise under control in your office.
Redesigning an office doesn’t necessarily have to mean moving into a new space or taking on a major renovation. Simply taking some smaller-scale changes can help you make the most of the space you already have and set the stage for improved productivity.
Angela Petteys is a Michigan-based writer who spends her time writing about a wide variety of topics, ranging from film to small businesses and design.