Can an office environment really affect productivity? – The answer is YES! [UPDATED]

Julia Gifford 20.08.2012
A workspace designed to boost productivity by optimizing the office environment

There’s one thing we know for certain – office environment matters. If you’re redecorating or relocating your office, spend some time thinking about your furniture, décor and other interior accessories. Studies show that office environment has a great impact on employees’ productivity and work efficiency.

You may not think much about how office space affects productivity, but the way an office is set up, from individual desks to the office’s lighting, affects how people perform. So, if you’re dealing with sluggish staff or simply want your team to get more done during a work day, here are some discoveries to remember.

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1: Multiple screens can boost productivity by up to 50%

A study by VIBE found that multiple computer screens increase productivity and work efficiency by 9 to 50 percent, especially with tasks such as cutting and pasting. The researchers concluded that multiple screens made it easier for users to switch from one task to another, and that helped employees do their job more efficiently.

2: Outdated tech makes employees waste 4 weeks a year

A study by Sharp found that each person wastes 167 hours a year on slow and outdated tech, which is 4 weeks every year. That’s more than people spend on annual holidays! 64% of the respondents also admitted they would be more productive in their office environment if the office had newer technology, which is another reason to consider investing in up-to-date office tech.

3: Desk organizers can save you up to 4.3 hours per week

One study found that the average person wastes up to 4.3 hours per week searching for papers, leading to frustration, increased stress, and lost focus. A similar study by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute also found that a cluttered desk hinders the brain’s ability to process information – the mess on your desk steals your attention from work. Probably, the cheapest way to increase your team’s efficiency – help them become more organized. 

A desk organizer filled with colorful stationery

4: Ergonomic office chairs can boost employees’ productivity by 17.5%

The average office worker spends 8 hours per day sitting. Having the correct chair helps employees avoid back pain and other injuries, which are calculated to cost companies over $34,600 per 100 employees every year. Meanwhile, having a comfortable and ergonomic chair helps workers stay focused on tasks, instead of getting distracted by the feeling of discomfort: studies have found that employees’ productivity can be increased by 17.7% simply by providing them with the right chair and training.

5: Well-ventilated workplaces increase productivity by 61%

Comfortable, well-ventilated workplaces have a great impact on workers’ performance and the office environment in general. A study by teams from Harvard and Syracuse Universities discovered that, when employees worked in well-ventilated offices, their productivity increased by 61% and performed nearly 27% better on cognitive tasks.

6: Natural light boost concentration skills by 15%

An experiment conducted by the Lighting Research Center found that natural daylight boosts employee concentration skills. It was discovered that people working in windowed offices spend 15% more time on work-related tasks than those without windows.

Lessons learned? Convenience and comfort matters

Studies on employees’ productivity shows how important it is to make sure the office is comfortable. That not only includes comfy seats and enough lighting, but also refers easy and convenient tools. Every discomfort employees face during their workday steals their focus from the tasks they should be doing. If you don’t believe that, try using employee productivity monitoring software to measure the productivity levels yourself and see how they change after implementing some office workspace improvements.

Meanwhile, if you’re already convinced and ready to make the improvements, the studies we mentioned highlight the three main areas to focus on when it comes to workplace productivity: tools, furniture, and the quality of indoor environment.

Provide your employees with up-to-date office tech and tools

This may sound expensive, but then again – look how much time people waste using outdated tools. Computers that are slow and hang up are extremely frustrating! Besides, sitting and waiting for the computer to recover is the worst time waste of all. Tools should help people get things done, instead of being something employees must devote all their attention to.

Invest in qualitative office furniture for your staff

Desks that are comfortable to sit at, ergonomic office chairs, and computers are the minimum. However, if you want to reduce the time wasted during the workday, you’ll need more than that. By simply providing employees with organizers, such as filing cabinets and folders, you can help your team become more organized and save the time people waste shuffling papers.

Choose an office space with windows

Lighting in an office is debatable, as some suggest little lighting keeps individuals focused, while others argue that well-lit spaces increase productivity. However, one thing most researchers agrees on is that there is a strong correlation between natural light and employee efficiency. Therefore when looking for a new office, pay attention if the new place has enough natural light. If the place needs extra lighting, try to avoid overhead lamps, which are found to cause headache, fatigue, and eye strain. Studies have found a strong correlation between natural light and employee efficiency.

An office environment with a window that provides a view of the city

Final words on how office space affects productivity

Sometimes, the changes in the office environment don’t need to be great and radical to make the difference. Sometimes, they do. However, before you invest in anything, think about simple changes, such as placement of lighting or rearrange employees’ desks. You’ll be surprised how can one extra desk light or a new chair improve your worker’s performance.

Then, once you’ve done the changes in the office, take time and observe. Use time tracking software to see if the productivity and work quality of your employees improves. And listen to each team member to find out those little things and hacks that help them become more efficient.

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