The working environment… where 99% success isn’t enough
In her book Create a Thriving Workspace, Anetta Pizag states that humans are sensitive creatures.1 Even if 99% of the workplace environmental conditions are right, just one ‘tiny’ thing can cause us to lose our train of thought. Her examples include a single noise, a flickering light, an unpleasant odour, or the uncomfortable feeling that someone is watching.
With such a high expectation, how can employers create a workplace environment that optimises productivity? Australian office fit-out company, Evoke Projects, looks at the most common distraction issues and offers some tips on overcoming them.
Research shows that the top four office design factors affecting productivity and workspace satisfaction are lighting, access to natural light, ventilation and the acoustic environment.2
Let there be light
In a recent study by UK stationery giant Staples, 80% of office workers said that having good lighting in their workspace is important to them.3 When planning an office fit-out, ensure there is both ambient and task lighting to suit the main function of each office zone. Apart from the obvious physical benefits of being able to see clearly, light has a psychological benefit. Daylight reduces the likelihood of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition that causes depression in office workers who do not get enough natural light during their day.
The importance of lighting is recognised within the WELL Building Standard which recommends that the office design promotes exposure to daylight and views by limiting the distance workstations can be from a window or atrium.4 Lighting distractions to avoid include glare, reflection and Pizag’s flickering light example!
Clear the air
People regard good ventilation as including both temperature and air quality. Temperature is a never-ending battleground in the office. Some people run hot, while others feel the cold. If we turn to scientists for the optimum temperature, the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory found the ideal temperature to increase productivity in the workplace is 21 degrees. Even a 1 degree change either way had an adverse effect on productivity.5
The temperature at any particular desk will vary, often because of windows and air vents. Extra thermostats are the answer. If you can reassess the number and position during a new office fit-out, well-placed thermostats can help ensure a better working environment for all.
Of course, if your office fit-out does not have air-conditioning, or you have employees working outside or in non-temperature controlled warehouses, heat stress can also be an actual health risk.
Air quality has many facets. Printers, photocopiers and building materials used during an office fit-out or office refurbishment might emit chemicals. The International WELL Building Institute tells us that even distant sources of pollution can have a huge impact on the more than 15,000 litres of air we breathe every day.6
We also create our own office pollution. A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found that levels of carbon dioxide in crowded rooms, such as conference or meeting rooms, have an adverse effect on the cognitive performance and decision-making ability of those in the room.7
During your next office fit-out or refurbishment, assess your air filtration system, install opening windows if possible and add some pot plants. Consider an office design that has a separate printing room. Add an exhaust hood so that air is expelled rather than re-circulated, and buy low emission printers and copiers when it’s time for replacement machines. When choosing furniture and materials, look for products that minimise volatile organic compound content limits, formaldehyde emission levels and the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Does your office design make the right noises?
Noise can have a big impact on concentration and productivity. The first step is to look at the office design and how people and teams interact. Employees who spend a lot of time on the phone are best seated away from those who need to concentrate on data. Acoustic partition screens are good sound absorbers. As we return to work in the midst of COVID-19, partitions will also provide a physical barrier for better social distancing in the workplace.
Modular office partitions come in a variety of heights, colours and materials – make them a striking feature of your office design!
Social and psychological factors
In addition to the physical environment, the social and psychological environment is important, albeit to a lesser degree. A study indicated 62% of people ranked physical environment as crucial to their satisfaction, with social factors at 22% and psychological factors at 17%.8
Photo reference: Evoke’s project on Level 2 of Henry Kendall Nexus Smart Hub
Providing breakout spaces for communal interaction will improve the social environment. However, as we get back to more usual work patterns, the office design will need to be revisited so that employees feel safe. Evoke Projects can advise you how alternative office designs will provide safe social spaces with a small office refurbishment.
Psychological improvements can be made through job and career development, management appreciation and empowerment. Giving people more choice and flexibility about when and where they work is both psychologically empowering and will fit with our new COVID-safe world. Employee talent will invariably move towards companies that have a well-planned office fit-out with activity based zones and a greater emphasis on physical distancing.
Humans are sensitive, but employers who care about the workplace environment will always attract the best talent. And our COVID-safe world will make the true carers shine, in more ways than one. Please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692 for office design, office refurbishments and office fit-outs that minimise distractions and maximise productivity.
Citation: Edem MJ, Akpan EU, Pepple NM (2017) Impact of Workplace Environment on Health Workers. Occup Med Health Aff 5:261. Doi: 10.4172/2329-6879.1000261
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Citation: George Kafui Agbozo, Isaac Sakyi Owusu, Mabel A. Hoedoafia, Yaw Boateng Atakorah. The Effect of Work Environment on Job Satisfaction: Evidence from the Banking Sector in Ghana. Journal of Human Resource Management. Vol. 5, No. 1, 2017, pp. 12-18. doi: 10.11648/j.jhrm.20170501.12