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Productivity is something that is usually talked about at the level of an individual. Most of the advice on productivity in centered what an individuals by themselves can do to become more efficient.
More recently, an increasing number of organizations are beginning to realize that there are several work environmental factors that impact productivity. These are factors that an individual would mostly not be able to control by himself or herself. However, these are elements that an organization can certainly influence, and thereby increase the productivity of all it’s employees.
Here are 4 work environmental factors that impact productivity and how you can control them.
Studies have indicated that offices that have better scenery are more conducive to productivity. That’s one reason why Uber’s new headquarters in San Francisco has been designed to provide great views of the city and the bay. You might not be able to move your office to a more scenic location, but there’s plenty that you can do to make it more ‘scenic’.
One simple way is to keep plenty of posters of scenic locations like beaches, mountains or forests. You could have wallpapers of beautiful locations in your cafeteria or boardroom.
Another way is to keep desktop wallpapers and screensavers. You could also install a chrome extension like Momentum which displays a new beautiful location everyday whenever you open a new tab.
You could also keep plenty of plants in the office. Plants always have a calming effect on the mind. In addition, they keep oxygen levels high which is always a concern in air-conditioned buildings.
Light has a huge impact on our lives, not just our productivity. Low exposure to light can lead to diminished energy levels, low morale or even depression – something that is common during winter. Most offices have sufficient light for you to see, but not enough for what is needed for you to feel energized. The intensity of light on a sunny day can be over 50,000 lux (a measure of light intensity), while in a well lit office, it’s only around 500 lux.
So how can you ensure that your people get more access to light? Try to opt for an office that has wall-wall windows. If you can’t move, avoid drawing the blinds. You can install mirrors on your walls that will help reflect sunlight and make the office brighter.
Additionally you should encourage people to step out more. A few best practices are to step out during lunch, take a quick stroll around the block once or twice a day, and spend more time outdoors before and after work. Encourage them to at least go for a walk if not a run in the morning and walk to office.
Surveys indicate that Americans sit for a total of more than seven hours a day – at their desks, at home and while commuting. Studies have indicated that sitting for too long can actually be as harmful to health as smoking and even contribute to heart disease.
However, there is a more immediate impact – sitting at a desk for too long can also cause back pain and headaches for several people. Most people just shrug it off as being ‘part of work’ but this causes a big dent in productivity. In the long term anything that is bad for your employees’ health adds to your insurance costs – which has a quantifiable impact on your bottom line.
Several companies are now investing in getting ergonomically designed chairs for their people. Many are hiring ergonomics consultants to redesign their offices. You could also get a number of standing desks that people could work on at intervals. Another great way to ensure that your employees stay healthy is to give them a Fitbit. You can program it to buzz every hour and remind you to get up and take 250 steps!
Sound is one of the most obvious factors that damage productivity, and yet, it’s one of the most ignored. Offices are usually very noisy places. People talking loudly, phones ringing, the ping of push notifications, someone suddenly bursting out in laughter, a boss angrily reprimanding his team member and the list goes on.
All these sounds are very damaging for concentration. Many of us like to believe that they have the ability to block these out, but in reality, a single beep from a text message is all it takes to interrupt your concentration.
Productivity experts like Cal Newport, Neen James and Peter Banerjea believe that a lack of focus and concentration is of the top impediments to productivity. A study from the University of Sydney revealed that sound flooring is the biggest frustration of employees
Here are a few ways to deal with noise in the office:
- Implement a silent phone rule and ask the top leadership to lead by example. If your leadership backs this up, everyone else will follow.
- If you have an open office architecture, try to redesign it by installing partitions. Open offices do encourage collaboration, but they also encourage a lot of unnecessary chatter.
- Ask people to have discussions in meeting rooms, rather than at their desks.
- Install vinyl flooring or carpets if you have wooden or concrete floors. They absorb sound and make offices quieter.
- And of course there is the tried and tested way of handing out noise cancelling headphones to your employees!
- Keep plenty of plants – they are very effective at absorbing sound.
A few years back, if an employee complained about insufficient lighting, too much noise or an uncomfortable chair, leadership would usually frown and consider these as excuses. However, that is no longer the case.
Organizations now realize that these work environmental factors have a huge impact on productivity, and a tangible impact on the bottom line. Human Resources professionals are now taking the lead in transforming their workplaces to be more productive and healthy.
What other tips do you have for creating more productive workplaces? Let us know in the comments below.