Environmental psychology is a relatively new field that has been discovering the incredibly important influence our surroundings have on our mental states, health, and work output. The following will explore several key components of improving a workplace environment, with special emphasis placed on boosting productivity. Of course, every workplace is different, and this means you should always take into consideration the safety requirements of the work being conducted before you make alterations to the space the work is done within.
It turns out that not all light is created equal. The sun provides people with light that is perfectly attuned to their circadian rhythms, helping to keep them alert and hormonally balanced while they work. Beyond this, sunlight contains the oh-so-magical vitamin D, meaning it can help ensure people’s immune systems stay strong and healthy. Vitamin D has also been shown to contribute to a positive mood.
Given all this information, it’s key that you do everything you can to maximize natural light within your workspace. This means having big windows without obstructions blocking the light from entering the space. You might also want to place mirrors on the wall opposite windows to help maximize the light that you have.
Studies have even shown that people who work in areas with small windows or no windows are far more likely to get depressed than those that don’t. Depression can wreak havoc on someone’s productivity and even lead to missed days at work or people leaving their position as they no longer feel motivated or connected to the work they’re doing.
You might already be noticing a pattern here; a lot of the things that improve a working environment involve learning from the natural world. This makes complete sense when you think about it. Humans evolved in a particular environment, and now, many of us spend little or no time in that environment at all. Despite this, our eyes and bodily systems still respond really well to these environments.
More plants in your office works to improve productivity in several different ways. Foremost, plants clean the air of toxins which can cause brain fog and slow down thinking; this can mean fewer mistakes made and higher levels of concentration among your employees, resulting in more attention to detail. Plants also fill the air with oxygen. Oxygen-rich air improves memory, concentration, mood, and energy levels. All of these things have been sown to have a positive effect on productivity and creativity.
Beyond this, studies have shown that having plants nearby boosts mood, lowers anxiety, and improves allergy symptoms. This combination has been shown to increase workplace satisfaction. Satisfied employees do better work and tend to stick around longer, saving you the losses associated with training a new employee and giving them the time they need to build up experience within a given position.
Yet another natural point worth thinking about is the impact that moving water has on the psyche. Moving water has been shown to reduce stress levels, improve life expectancy, lower anxiety, and promote a happier mood. There’s a reason humans are naturally drawn to moving water, like the seaside and waterfalls.
While it will be very difficult to incorporate the seaside into your office space, moving water can be included in your design features. There are wall fountains for the commercial space that come in all different design styles and sizes. The gentle trickling sound of water moving is thought to be a component of why it’s so soothing.
Employees who have less stress are less likely to experience burnout, feel the need to quit, or suffer from chronic illnesses taking them away from the office and making it harder for them to work while they’re in the office. Stress has been shown to worsen almost every medical condition we know about, even going as far as to slow down wound healing. Any features that can help reduce stress should be taken seriously.
Whenever you’re selecting a large swath of colour (rugs, paint, sofas, etc.), take the time to research the psychological impact of that colour. Orange boosts creativity. Grey lowers mood. Red pumps people up. With this information in mind, you can better select a colour that suits the tone of the work being done in your space.
It’s not uncommon for workplaces to have television screens. It’s also not uncommon for these screens to be playing the news all day. This is utterly terrible for workplace productivity.
No matter who your employees are, there’s going to be somewhere between five and thirty news stories each week that strike a chord with them. When those stories are up on the screen, staff will have a hard time not watching them.
Beyond this, the news is trapped in the same content grind that many businesses are trapped in, meaning they tend to show only the most emotionally-charged things as these are what keep people watching and earning them advertising revenue (they get paid for the number of people watching, you know that right?). This means that the news focuses a lot of energy and effort on creating content that demands an emotional response, cultivating reports that stir up feelings like anger, guilt, and hopelessness. If your staff are feeling these emotions while they’re working, you can bet that their productivity is going to slow down.
As well, given the divisive nature of many current topics on the news, it’s possible having the news playing in the background could lead to workplace disagreements among your staff members. You might think you know everyone’s politics, but you almost certainly don’t. You very likely work with several people who are your political opposites.
Back To The Wall
When setting up office furniture, many people focus on making the best use of the space. What’s also important to think about is whether staff have their back to the wall or to an open space while they’re sitting at their desk. This might seem like a small thing, but it can have massive impacts.
When a person’s back is open, meaning anyone or anything can sneak up on them, their focus levels go down. This is because humans evolved in dangerous environments with things like bears and snakes. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that a snake will sneak up on your staff in the office, but the human body doesn’t know that. All it knows is that part of its senses needs to be focused on that big empty space behind them so that it notices any sounds or hints of trouble. People are able to relax and concentrate fully on their tasks with their backs against a wall.
The above information should have clarified a few key things you can do to improve your workplace environment and boost productivity. It’s also always worth asking your staff what hinders their daily productivity.