Several studies in recent years have confirmed what most employees already know: Work environment has a significant impact on employees’ productivity, motivation, and overall job satisfaction.
So, how does your work environment affect employee productivity? Creating a positive and healthy working environment can substantially increase employee productivity. There are three basic components which come together to create a productive work environment. The first is the physical workspace itself, office layout, lighting, and temperature. The second is workplace ambiance. It includes things like noise levels, privacy and space. The third is workplace culture, and it includes employee recognition and autonomy.
1. Physical Workspace
Of all the components that make up a work environment, the physical workplace has arguably the most dramatic effect upon employees. Fortunately, it’s also the easiest component to control.
- Lighting -
The right lighting can make a vast difference in an office space. Many workers, especially in an office setting, are already staring at screens for most of their workday. Hours of screen time combined with poor lighting can lead to headaches, fatigue, low productivity and depressed mood. To improve motivation and productivity, ensure that lighting is bright, without being harsh or glaring. Aim to allow as much natural light as possible into the workspace. In the alternative, try light bulbs that mimic daylight. Task lighting at individual workspaces causes considerably less eye strain than overhead lighting. Finally, repair or replace any lights that flicker or hum.
- Cleanliness -
Being in a dirty, dingy environment dampens mood and decreases motivation, and can cause resentment among employees. Proper ventilation and adequate fresh air are also critical to employee well-being. Beyond job satisfaction, a dirty office also jeopardizes employees’ physical health. Germs spread more quickly in a poorly ventilated space, leading to more employees taking sick days. Built-up allergens like dust and mold can also cause health problems for employees. Hire a cleaning crew for regular maintenance and occasional deep cleaning. Keep air ducts clean and replace air filters regularly. Eliminate any plumbing leaks or damp conditions; if you believe your workspace may have a mold problem, hire a professional mold remediation company as soon as possible. Clean out the office refrigerator, if applicable, and ensure that trash is emptied often.
- Temperature -
Workplace temperature is a commonly cited productivity killer. Encourage employees to use fans or heaters at their individual workspaces to customize their work temperature. Note: If every employee in your office is using a fan or a space heater, your office temperature may be too hot or too cold.
- Adequate Resources -
Employees need to be able to quickly access the tools and supplies they need to perform their work; hunting these things down is distracting, interrupts work, and leads to frustration. Ensure that there are enough tools or supplies on site so that every employee can access them quickly and easily. In addition, be sure that employees have sufficient access to necessary technology: if the phone lines are always busy or bandwidth is strained, it’s time for an upgrade.
Workplace ambiance has strong ties to the physical workspace; however, it also depends to a degree upon the people working in that space.
- Noise Level -
Workplace noise levels make a huge difference in an employee’s level of motivation and productivity. Too much noise is distracting to anyone. Even with headsets, if a lot of people are talking on the phone at once in an open space, each will have to speak loudly to be hard above the ruckus which just intensifies the problem. Phone conversations are the most common source of excessive noise in an office environment, but depending on the workspace, excess noise can come from tools, equipment, monitors, even televisions or radios.
Consider installing a few soundproofed “phone booth” areas from which employees can make calls. Don’t overlook the benefits of acoustical tile: Upgrading your workspace’s ceiling tiles, wall coverings or floor coverings can also make a tremendous difference in workplace acoustics and reduce overall noise levels by eliminating echoes and absorbing sound waves.
Different people have different noise tolerance levels while working: Some prefer total silence, while others find total silence unnerving; still others are more productive while listening to music. Encourage employees to use earplugs or headphones to adjust the noise level to their personal liking.
- Personal Space -
It’s difficult to be productive in a cramped or cluttered workspace. Too many people working nearby is a major source of distraction, not to mention a fire hazard and breeding ground for germs. Cluttered workspaces cause employee stress and lead to wasted time and lost items.
To the extent possible, ensure that each employee has adequate space to be productive and to maintain some degree of privacy and autonomy. If you’ve outgrown your workspace, it may be time to move to a larger facility.
Workplace culture is the most difficult aspect of the work environment to control or change. Taking the suggestions from the previous sections should help by creating a more positive and productive workspace and therefore increasing employee motivation and mood. Every workplace is different, but studies have shown that workplaces with motivated employees have some things in common.
- Team Atmosphere -
Employees who feel that they have “work buddies” or positive relationships in the workplace tend to be more motivated and more satisfied with their jobs. Encourage positive interactions between employees. Engage in team building activities and make time to celebrate things like birthdays or holidays.
Set up the office in a way that encourages employee interaction and mingling, such as a communal snack room or coffee break area. To increase the mood-boosting benefits, situate these areas near a window or other source of natural light, add paint or artwork featuring bright, bold colors, and add a live plant (just don’t forget to water it).
Employees tend to feel the least motivated in workplaces where supervisors take an overly authoritarian or demanding approach. Encourage supervisors to adopt a teamwork-based attitude and consider replacing anyone who seems to consistently raise the office stress level.
- Employee Recognition -
Employees who are recognized for a job well done do a good job more consistently. Likewise, employees are least motivated in workplace cultures in which supervisors focus more on negative consequences of mistakes than on positive rewards for success. Make sure that employees have some objective, transparent way of tracking progress, and be sure that any recognition or reward system is implemented in a consistent and transparent way.
- Autonomy and Work-Life Balance -
Studies consistently show that micro-managing is detrimental to morale and to productivity. Employees who don’t feel trusted at work are unlikely to feel motivated to work harder. Employees who are given more flexibility with regard to scheduling and task management have a more positive work-life balance and report a higher job satisfaction.
Motivation, desire and satisfaction are highly personal emotions subject to influence from several sources in and outside of the workplace. However, creating a positive and healthy working environment has showed potential to substantially increase employee motivation.
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