Your employees are key to your company's innovation, but is your office designed for their wellbeing?
Many office designers have believed less is more over the last several years. Now, some researchers are finding that the concept of clean office space and the sedentary lifestyle fostered by most offices may actually be hurting your employee's productivity.
Before you invest in an office redesign full of ergonomic chairs, take a look at some of the things that are proven to enhance employee productivity and satisfaction. Implementing one or all of these things will help your employees produce their best work and help your company's performance.
Treat Each Space Like a Learning Space
When it comes to designing an office, you may be tempted to think about an open floor plan. However, studies are showing that that's not all it's cracked up to be, with employees showing higher stress levels, conflict, blood pressure, job turnover, and even increased use of sick days.
Recently, office designers have stopped looking at a one-size-fits-all solution and, instead, started designing flexible spaces that fit the types of work that employees are doing.
Tom Heffernan of Gensler Architects speaks about this in an article for Inc. Magazine. He realized that students became more creative when he ditched the traditional lecture hall model. When he saw how the students collaborated in smaller groups, he starting thinking about how to apply his findings to jobs. Heffernan found that this setup fostered mentorship and inspiration, creating a clear space for work/life balance, especially in high-stress jobs.
To do this, he suggests designing each space like it's a learning environment, allowing for connection, comfort, and creativity that will let your employees explore and grow. This can mean everything from moveable walls to creative meeting spaces for your employees to share ideas.
Let Your Employees Decorate
You've no doubt heard of the idea of "the lean office," where workstations are free of any personal touches to prevent distractions. However, there's been a lot of research that shows that allowing employees to decorate their personal space actually makes them more productive.
Economist and author Tim Hartford distilled what makes an office productive on the TED Ideas blog. He breaks down an experiment conducted in 2010 by psychologists Alex Haslam and Craig Knight at the University of Exeter in the UK. Part of the experiment included letting the employees move the furniture and decor in the space. In one office, the experimenters came back in and rearranged all the decor. In the other, they left the decor as-is. They called the office untouched by experimenters the empowered office and found that this office was 30% more productive.
This can come in many forms for a modern office. It could be as simple as letting your employees decorate their personal space however they would like. Or, on a larger scale, having decor they can move and position can take the space to the next level.
Add Some Plants
In a story for the Guardian, Shiv Malik talks about exactly how greenery is being used in office productivity research.
Dr. Chris Knight at the University of Exeter ran a study in 2014 that found that employees in "lean" workspaces with a few added houseplants were 15% more productive. Knight and his team of researchers have traveled around for the past decade showing office managers just how much dashes of green can improve their productivity. They found that one potted plant per square meter improved employee memory retention.
Another study conducted at the University of Oregon found that about 10% of sick days could be attributed to employees not being out in nature. While it may not be easy to add an atrium or a sunroom to your office, you can add an abundance of green with a living wall. Besides adding a touch of green and the benefits of plants to productivity, living walls also add texture and a focal point to your space. Whether it acts as an accent wall in a collaborative space or the perfect spot to use as a backdrop to your next Zoom call, a living wall is the ultimate office decor.
Create an Inviting Space for Breaks
Human beings are not machines, and they need to take breaks in order to do their best work. Office managers can implement time management cycles, but since everyone works differently it's better to focus on creating an inviting space for breaks when first designing the office.
A study by the Draugiem Group used computer software to track employee work habits and found that the employees that took frequent breaks were more productive than the ones who put their heads down and finished task after task. The researchers found that the ideal ratio was 52 minutes of work to a 17-minute break, and that cycle is backed by neuroscience.
However, they also found that not all breaks are created equal. To have a productive break, employees need to completely disconnect from work. This has lead to the idea of a productive break room. It has less to do with mandating a cycle of work and creating a space where employees can actually relax instead of checking social media or returning phone calls and emails.
Decorating the space with plants (see above) is a good start. But you can also create a space for some light exercise and stretching, a library, or a place to chat with friends over coffee and healthy snacks. As a bonus, this will also help build office culture, which employees really want in an office.
Create Opportunities for Movement
Forbes profiled Jack Groppel an exercise physiology PhD who began studying how movement and biology worked together in the 1970s. It was around this time that sports scientists were studying the limits of athletes, and seeing how they performed when vigorous training scheduled were balanced with downtime. In 1987, he began applying the same principles to CEOs.
One of his clients began encouraging 1 to 2-minute breaks of physical activity for every 30 minutes of work and found that 82% of workers said that they felt more energized. Encouraging your employees to move can help counteract the sedentary lifestyle that a lot of office workers experience, and lead to your employees feeling happier overall.
Combine it Together
Want to start designing your office with some of these ideas in mind? Consider adding a Zauben Model Z living wall for healthier and happier workplace. Start shopping for your new habitat here.