Minimal changes to workplace design, such as lighting and furniture, can help your business function better and keep employees happier. Though we rarely think about it, the physical environment has a tremendous impact on how well we work. In fact, one study found that it’s the most important factor in determining productivity. Workers in better physical spaces are 20% more productive.
While you might not be able to make major changes, small changes can have a big impact. Here are some of the ways you can make the workplace a better place to work:
1. Emphasize comfort
The most significant way you can help employees is to make them as comfortable as possible. One area that many workplaces struggle with is providing adequate light. Bad lighting has been found to cause fatigue, eye strain, and even depression. Consider using more natural lighting whenever possible or replacing fluorescent bulbs. Views of the outside also have a positive effect on productivity, according to the Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory.
You should also provide employees with adequate workspaces. One of the biggest problems is uncomfortable chairs and desks. Offer adjustable chairs that allow employees to be a good distance from the computer screen (24 to 36 inches) with the top of the monitor at or below eye level. Feet should be able to rest on the floor and the chair should be slightly reclined to reduce pressure on the spine.
2. Allow for personalized control
One of the biggest gripes employees have is the workplace’s temperature. Forbes reported that 33% of workers said this was their highest concern. If you can, offer employees temperature control over their workspace. If that’s not possible, provide employees with fans or space heaters to regulate their workspace’s temperature.
Deloitte’s new Amsterdam office, The Edge, provides employees with apps that match up employee schedules and available spaces with their preferences for light and temperature. This is intended to reduce tension between employees over keeping their workspaces comfortable.
3. Encourage activity and collaboration
Recent studies have demonstrated that face-to-face interactions are the most important communication tool for employees. That’s why workplace design is seeking to make these “collisions” between employees occur more often. One Norwegian company found that most of these happened over coffee, but since each department had its own coffee machine, they only interacted with each other. The solution? Consolidate the location of coffee machines so that people in sales would be more likely to talk to marketing and R&D.
Samsung has created vast outdoor spaces to encourage employees to have more informal discussions. Facebook is building a mile-long room for its thousands of employees. This is where business leaders believe that the most creative ideas happen — not sitting in front of a computer screen.
These corporations have plenty of resources to embark on the large-scale projects like those mentioned. But even small changes can have a big impact on creative thinking, collaboration, and employee satisfaction.