Productivity is the lifeblood of American business and the most important aspect of capitalism. The more productive we are, the more productivity we supply to our employers, which directly affects the bottom line and our level of success.
But ever since workers started reporting to an office for eight hours a day with fluorescent lights, cheap office furniture and co-workers who insist on reheating fish in the kitchen, productivity has taken a hit in many different workplaces. Whether due to distraction, discomfort or disengagement, employees and employers have been forced to adapt to workspaces that don’t always breed productivity.
As a small business owner, what can you do to ensure that your employees are not only comfortable where they work, but are productive while they’re there? Below are eight tips for creating a more productive office space—both physical and psychological—to aid you in increasing productivity.
5 Physical Changes You Can Make
1. Regulate Temperature
The most common environmental complaint for workers is the temperature. Obviously, everyone’s biology is different, so there will always be employees who are perpetually hot or cold no matter what the thermostat is set to. When renting office space, ask the landlord about the office’s HVAC system, including placement of vents, location of temperature controls and the ability for you or your employees to control the office temperature.
Also take note of the placement and location of windows. The temperature could be fine in the morning, but the temperature in some parts of the office could rise by 10 or 15 degrees in the afternoon if the windows face west, and thus receive the brunt of the afternoon sun.
If you are already in an office space and are hearing complaints about the temperature, appoint an employee to liaise with the building management and staff regarding environmental concerns. Make sure reasonable complaints are able to be voiced, and make an effort to address each one. Investigate the feasibility of installing heat-blocking blinds or curtains to mitigate temperature increases, or rearrange workspaces so that employees are not placed directly under air conditioning vents or unbearably sunny spots.
2. Focus on Natural Lighting
If at all possible, every employee should have access to some natural light. Eight hours spent under fluorescent lighting isn’t healthy for anyone. New lighting options include compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs that more closely mimic natural light, so investigate the different options available and the cost to implement. If possible, give employees the option to light their workspaces or offices with indirect light, through lamps or other lighting fixtures. Overhead lighting can aggravate workers, whereas indirect lighting is considered more soothing.
3. Add a Splash of Color
It’s amazing what a little paint can do for productivity. Psychologists have spent decades analyzing the effects of different colors on people and their productivity, much of which has been validated over the years. When first analyzing the color types that might be best for your office keep these four primary colors in mind:
- Red. Associated with power; connotes strength, warmth, energy and stimulation. It can also bring to mind aggression and defiance.
- Blue. Associated with intellect; connotes communication, trust, efficiency and serenity. It can also bring to mind a lack of emotion, unfriendliness and coldness.
- Yellow. Associated with emotion; connotes optimism, confidence, extroversion and creativity. It can also bring to mind anxiety, irrationality and fear.
- Green. Associated with balance; connotes harmony, balance, rest and peace. It can also bring to mind boredom and blandness.
While it might not be prudent to paint your entire office red, adding variety to white walls can help stimulate your employees’ productivity. If you rent your space, check with the landlord first regarding any restrictions on painting or redecorating. Also consider colorful accents to help brighten the space.
4. Bring the Outdoors Indoors
You don’t need to work in a rainforest, but two studies in the past five years have illustrated how beneficial the presence of plants in an office is to employee productivity. Plants also provide the added benefit of helping to filter the air and remove mold and bacteria. It has also been confirmed that adding plants to your office environment—even if you have plenty of windows that look out onto the world—can further increase productivity.
5. Focus on Physical Comfort
Your employees will spend an inordinate amount of time every day sitting at a desk, in a desk chair and staring at a computer screen. Making sure that each of these is designed for comfort is essential to keeping employees happy, healthy and productive.
Poorly designed office furniture can lead to an increase in workers’ compensation claims for everything from carpal tunnel syndrome to slipped discs. And health issues really do kill productivity. While it may not be necessary to purchase every employee a $1,000 office chair, investigate options that are designed for comfort and health. In recent years, the benefit of standing desks has become common knowledge and might be an even better option for you and your workspace. Just make sure your employees still have the option to sit too.
3 Psychological Changes You Can Make
1. Encourage Flexibility
The nature of business today often means that employees do not need to be in an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. With the prevalence of high-speed internet, employees can do work from just about anywhere. So don’t stress out if an employee arrives to the office 15 minutes late. Make sure that employees understand your expected office hours, but don’t sacrifice rigid office hours for an employee’s quality of work.
It’s also important to note that many studies have been conducted regarding the amount of time employees waste during the work day. Even 30 minutes a day can add up quickly to more than 10 hours of wasted time per month. Oftentimes, offering flexibility can help to curb these wasted minutes.
2. Restore Privacy
While there was a huge migration to open workspaces in the mid-1990s fueled by an effort to stress collaboration, research over the past decade has shown that open workspaces are actually counterproductive. Based on the type of office space you have, it might not be feasible to give every employee his or her own office. What is important, however, is having workspaces and areas that allow employees to focus. Dedicated areas minimize distractions, even those where co-workers are talking about last night’s Game of Thrones episode.
3. Clear the Clutter
As a small business owner, it’s possible to find yourself outgrowing your office space pretty quickly. This can lead to a mess around the office, with extra equipment or supplies littering common areas. Some employees might even be forced to share workspaces with inventory. Do your best to keep clutter to a minimum. If necessary, rent out a storage unit until you can afford to rent a larger space or your current lease is up. Most people don’t feel productive in a crowded environment whether it’s overrun with people or stuff.
Employee productivity is very important to the success of your small business. When you’re working with a smaller group of employees, making sure everyone is performing at their optimum level allows you to get the most out of your investment in their time and talents.