Design Matters

How Workplace Environments Significantly Impact your Employees Happiness and Productivity

On average, a full-time employee spends 33% of Monday-Friday in an office or workspace. Work is essentially our second home, therefore, the office should be an inviting and comfortable place that facilitates collaboration and transparency amongst employees as well as creativity, lower stress-levels and overall health and happiness. Exeter University’s School of Psychology surveyed 2,000 employees from different companies to research how employee health and happiness at work is directly tied to their environment. Employees that had some control over the design of their workspace were happier and healthier, and more impressively, were 32% more productive than employees who had no control over office design. We’re going to explore how different elements of design improve employee productivity and happiness as well as how you gather constructive feedback from your employees before undergoing an office redesign.

Art’s importance in the workplace is often underappreciated. To show this, the Business Committee for the Arts and the International Association for Professional Art Advisors surveyed 800 employees from 32 companies. The survey was diverse, ranging from food distributors to law firms. It found that art in the workplace helped reduce stress-levels (78% agree), increase creativity (64% agree) and encourage expression of opinion (77% agree) amongst employees. The Cass Business School conducted a similar survey that showed 92% of the women polled believe art affects their general wellbeing (71% of men). Digging a little deeper, 80% of men agreed art affects their work ethic/motivation and 47% believe art has a moderate to big effect on their creativity (54% of women).

Office lighting is known to have a dramatic influence on employee mood and productivity. A study by the American Society of Interior Design found that 68% of employees disapproved of the lighting in their offices; the lighting was either too dim or too bright. When lighting is insufficient the eye is forced to work harder and creates greater strain on the eyes. This leads to headaches, light headedness, drowsiness and lack of focus. The main reason employers do not invest in better lighting is because the upfront cost is high, however, there is plenty of data that shows the long-term savings of better lighting can be incredible. A lighting system in a Reno, Nevada U.S. Post Office was used as guinea pig to test out the theory that better lighting improves productivity and happiness. The lighting was made more ‘worker friendly’ (i.e. not too dim or too bright) and the change led to energy savings of about $50,000 per year. If that doesn’t impress you, let’s look at the change in employee productivity. Mail sorters became the most productive sorters in the western half of country, machine operators had the lowest error rate and increased productivity was expected to raise annual revenue by about $500,000.

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Workspaces are business tools and companies that understand this have enjoyed a range of benefits. In 2016, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) published case studies that showed how companies need to ask the right questions before doing an office redesign. It is crucial to understand how your employees work best as well as knowing your brand, culture and how you want outsiders to perceive your company. From here, you can build an environment tailor made to the needs of your employees and company. HBR identified the 7 key attributes of workspaces: location, enclosure, exposure, technology, temporality, perspective and size.

HBR also identified 8 questions executives and company leaders should ask themselves to achieve the best redesign possible.

  1. Who are our employees, and who will they be in the next 5 years?

  2. Who else uses our space (visitors, clients, community members, etc.) and why?

  3. How do we want clients, prospective hires, or other visitors to perceive us when they enter our space?

  4. To what extent do we value flexibility and choice over how work gets done?

  5. Are certain modes of working seen as a privilege only available to a select few?

  6. What current workplace behaviors would we like to change?

  7. What are the most satisfying attributes of the existing workplace that sustain productivity?

  8. If people aren’t regularly coming to the office, do we understand why not?     

Hopefully this data has inspired you to consider if your workplace environment is facilitating employee productivity and if there are large or small improvements that can be made. There is a lot of great data showing the importance of workplace design and its positive effects. Below are the articles used to write this post as well as other articles covering this topic. Thanks for reading!

Author: Lucy Sears, Chief Copywriter & Editor, Get Fresh Industries