Richard Heinrich looks at how you can increase morale and productivity by making small, simple changes to your office environments.
According to research into workplace wellness and productivity, the most important factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus in their physical environment.
While it may not often be possible to make major office design changes, there are many quick and simple improvements you can make to your office that will help improve focus, productivity and morale. Here are five small changes that can make a big difference.
1. Clean up the clutter
We all have that one colleague whose workspace is a complete disaster – papers everywhere, old coffee mugs all over the place, and leftover lunch plates sprouting curious new lifeforms.
It’s more than just a little irritating, though. A dirty, untidy and disorganised workspace presents a negative professional image (in a recent survey, 57 per cent of co-workers admitted they judged their colleagues by the cleanliness of their desk), and can have a significant impact on both office morale and productivity.
So, build regular tidying into your office culture. Desks should be limited to the bare essentials and not used as a storage space – use shelves or drawers instead. Schedule five minutes at the end of each day to quickly tidy, and 15 minutes at the end of each week.
2. Introduce plants
A bare office, devoid of pictures, souvenirs, and plants may be 'the most toxic space you can put a human into' according to psychologists cited in a paper by researchers at the University of Exeter, who also suggested that the addition of indoor plants could significantly improve productivity.
That study found that when plants were introduced into offices — enough so that every employee could see at least one — employee performance on memory retention and other basic tests improved substantially.
So, allow staff to have plants on their desks and introduce some larger indoor plants to your office. Gardeningknowhow.com suggests Spider plants, rubber plants, and peace lilies for their low maintenance requirements and effectiveness at removing indoor pollutants, like dust.
3. Provide healthy snacks
So you want happy, healthy, and productive employees? Then provide them with healthy bites to eat. According to one US study, almost two-thirds of employees regularly leave the office on coffee and snack runs at least once a day, equating to 2.4 billion hours of lost productivity.
This is easily solved by providing plentiful, healthy snacks in the staff kitchen. For relatively little expense, you’ll benefit from employees who feel motivated and cared for, improved informal internal communication (as people gravitate around the snack area), and healthier and less sluggish team members.
Steer away from pastries and doughnuts, which are loaded with refined sugars. Not only are they unhealthy, but employees riding a sugar high followed by a sugar slump are no good for productivity. Try fruits (apples and bananas, filled with valuable nutrients and only reasonable amounts of natural sugar, are good choices), low-sugar granola bars and low-salt popcorn.
4. Face the music
The person at the desk beside you is chattering away on the phone. Across the office, someone is loudly slamming the jammed photocopier. A decibel-defying conference call is happening a couple of doors down. At this rate, headphones look like an enticing prospect – but you might worry that they will prove a different kind of distraction.
In fact, listening to music can increase productivity. Research by Dr. Teresa Lesiuk at the University of Miami found that 'those who listen to music complete their tasks more quickly and come up with better ideas than those who don’t because the music improves their mood'.
But not all music is equal when it comes to improving focus. Loud, erratic, or highly lyrical music might distract you from your work. The primary concentration-boosting benefits of listening to music at work come from instrumental or classical soundtracks – check out instrumental playlists on streaming services for inspiration.
5. Let there be light!
Office lighting, though rarely thought of as having much effect on productivity, can be enormously important. There are dozens of problems that can be attributed to poor lighting, from migraines and eye strain to a reduced ability to concentrate. Plus artificial light confuses our body’s natural sense of day and night, making us less able to sleep well at night (and therefore more tired during the day).
Abundant natural light is the best solution. But that’s not always an option, particularly when office space is at a premium. So, in circumstances where you can’t open up your windows, focus on providing indirect, very bright lighting. Choose LED light bulbs that are at least 800 lumens, and have them face upwards toward the ceiling. Ideally, provide individual desks with direct light sources for focused work, such as reading, too.
This article was previously published on the One Legal website, and is reproduced with kind permission.
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